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May 31, 2011

Truth and Rumors: Nicklaus tells Tiger to get healthy

Jack Nicklaus recently got a phone call from Tiger Woods, in which the former number one player in the world said he wouldn't be able to compete in this year's Memorial Tournament. Although he's still the biggest draw in golf, and this is now the third time in the last six years that Tiger won't play in Jack's tourney, The Golden Bear evidently wasn't too disappointed by the news. Instead, he gave Tiger some advice:

"What I told him is the same thing I've told him numerous times before," Nicklaus said. "I said, 'Tiger, nobody wants their records broken. But I don't want you not to be healthy and not be able to play and give it your best shot.' "I said, 'I wish you well. I hope you get healthy, I hope you go play, I hope you do well, and if you break my records, that's fine, I want to be there to congratulate you.'"

Regarding his ongoing health problems, Tiger indicated that he intends to strengthen his leg as soon as he's able and is aiming for a return at the U.S. Open at Congressional, though he won't make any guarantees.

"I'd much rather take it slow and see how I progress, take it on a week-to-week basis," Woods said. "That's kind of where I'm at right now, and it's hard to look at it beyond that. I've had four surgeries on (the knee). I'm sure down the road (playing on) it may be more difficult, but hopefully I'll be in a cart by then on the senior tour. Between now and then, I should be pretty good."

Els calls Poulter's Wentworth criticism, 'Craziness'

The controversy over Ernie Els' redesign of the famed Wentworth West course continued this weekend as Ian Poulter told the press the course was "unfair," and not "fun." As Wentworth is the venue for one of the European Tour's biggest events, The BMW PGA Championship, the remarks got quite a bit of notice and The Big Easy was none too pleased, saying the comments were "damaging," to the event. He also said he took the criticism personally:

"It's difficult not to, especially when it's coming out of left field. A guy double-bogeys the last hole [because] he doesn't hit the right shot, and then he blames the golf course for his bad shots," he said."I don't take that lightly. We'll have a word when it's suitable, when he's calmed down a little bit. He's done a lot of damage to the flagship event. He's a Ryder Cup player, and to come out with things like that is uncalled for. He should think twice when he does that."

Els went on to point out that the top two players in the world, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald finished at the top of the leaderboard, dispelling the idea that the course was somehow unfair. In regard to whether or not there would be further refinements to the course, Els made it clear he was still a bit miffed at Poulter's comments:

"We'll take stock," he said when asked if there would be any further changes. "But instead of [players] getting on a stage and talking to the world, come up with constructive criticism and we will listen. I'm not going to take this craziness. It's uncalled for."

15 things Tiger must do to break Jack's record

We're all wondering these days if Tiger will ever again be a significant factor on the PGA Tour, let alone break Jack Nicklaus' majors record. Between his personal travails and recurring injuries, it's tough to see how he could realistically challenge The Golden Bear's mark, but Jim Mancari of The Bleacher Report evidently thinks he can and came up with 15 keys for Tiger's comeback. Here they are, with my personal thoughts as well.

1. DON'T PANIC - Agreed. Tiger is still relatively young as golfers go, and as an elite athlete and borderline golf savant, there's no reason to do anything rash yet.

2. OVERLOOK GOLF'S YOUTH MOVEMENT - Agreed, though it won't be easy. Gone are the days when Tiger could out-distance or intimidate the likes of Tom Kite, David Love III, or even Sergio Garcia. Today's young guns are talented and nonplussed by Tiger's aura.

3. FEWER RISKY SHOTS - Agreed, though that won't be easy, either. I've always felt that Tiger could dominate in any era with any equipment, due to his talent, work ethic and competitive toughness. It's time for him to embrace the fact that he can't hit superman shots at will anymore. It would be smart for him to try to rely a bit more on finesse.

4. USE CAUTION WITH THE DRIVER - Agreed. Until he gets his driver swing back he should go to the 3-wood more often. He's still long enough to get away with it and it would help his confidence.

5. KEEP MEDIA INTERACTION TO A MINIMUM - An understandable idea, but hard to agree with. Tiger needs to be more available, not less. He's the biggest draw in the game and has to do what he can to stay in contact with the fans.

6. GET HEALTHY - 'nough said.

7. TRUST HIS SWING - Agreed. Tiger needs to find a way to stop thinking so technically about his swing and just play golf. This is easy to say and probably a lot harder for him to do, but it's an obvious must.

8. MAKE SOME PUTTS - When Tiger was dominating the game, most casual fans were thrilled by his powerful driving and amazing stinger, but it was his outrageous short game that did most of the damage. He needs to get it back if he's ever going to win more majors.

9. ALTER HIS OVERALL GAME - This is a bit redundant after pointing out that he needs to play fewer risky shots and use caution with his driver, but it's still a valid point. Tiger will need to tighten up his approach shots and wedge game if he wants to beat Jack.

10. GET AS MUCH PRACTICE AS POSSIBLE, WITHOUT OVERDOING IT - A tough one for sure. Ben Hogan played and practiced less after his car accident, but he was in much worse shape than Tiger. As a player who has thrived on work, Tiger's going to have a hard time taking it easy while still playing his best.

11. FORGET ABOUT HIS CLOUDED PAST - Agreed, though it's hard to believe at this point that Tiger's marital transgressions are affecting his golf game.

12. LOSE THE NEGATIVE ATTITUDE - This is tricky because many ultra-competitive people have a hard time toning down the intensity and still being successful. I don't mind when Tiger curses or throws clubs, as long as he's playing well and winning.

13. REGAIN CONFIDENCE - Yes, this would be a good thing.

14. WIN A MAJOR SOON - Seems obvious, but it is important. If he can't end his drought in the next year or so, it's possible he might never be able to do it.

15 - MAKE A STRONG SHOWING AT THE U.S. OPEN - Not so important to me. He's still wearing a boot on his injured leg and there's no reason to push it now. As badly as the sport needs him back, I'd rather see Tiger skip the Open and get himself 100 percent healthy.

Tweet of the Day:

IMG_0686_bigger @stewartcink: Well it sounds like today's the day the Thrashers officially announce the move to Winnipeg. Long distance relationships rarely work out.

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