Tiger Woods has leading role in golf’s soap opera

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SHEBOYGAN, WIS. (AP) - Along the humps and hollows of Whistling Straits, against the magnificent backdrop of Lake Michigan, the stage is set for golf’s final major championship of the year, the PGA.

This year, that could stand for Players Gone Amok.

Tiger Woods is getting grilled like never before, but not about his marriage, his personal life or that fire hydrant his car ran over last Thanksgiving. It’s about his golf, of all things, and it’s not pretty.

Phil Mickelson revealed he’s recovering from a painful bout of arthritis and has become a vegetarian. Lefty is now eating greens in regulation, along with hitting them.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin and Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray nearly hit each other.

Woods, the No. 1 player for a record 270 weeks in a row, hasn’t come close to winning a tournament this year and reached a new low last week at Firestone when he posted the worst score of his career (18-over 298) and finished 30 shots behind the winner.

For a guy who has won 14 majors _ that’s one more than his next four rivals combined _ the drama at the PGA Championship is not whether Woods can win, but whether he can make the cut. And if he doesn’t, whether he will be picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“Life in general the last nine months has been very difficult,” Woods said. “But just like my dad always said, ‘Just keep living.’ That’s something I’ve taken to heart quite a bit. And there were quite a few times that I’ve definitely said that to myself.”

Then came the shockers from Mickelson.

Before taking questions Tuesday, he revealed that he has been battling a form of arthritis since the week before the U.S. Open in June and made a special trip to the Mayo Clinic but now is taking medication and headed for a recovery.

The other surprise is his diet.

Mickelson, an investor in the popular restaurant chain “Five Guys, Burgers and Fries,” has become a vegetarian. Make that “Five Guys, Bulgar and Fennel.”

“Can you believe that?” he said. “It’s not really me, but it has been.”

Then there’s Sergio Garcia, the talented young Spaniard who was 19 when he nearly beat Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship.

He had his heart broken by Greg Norman’s daughter last year and has been in a funk ever since. It reached a point last week that he said he was taking a two-month break after the final major, even though that means skipping a chance to play in the Ryder Cup.

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