PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem this morning refuted allegations that the Tour had somehow pressured a gimpy Tiger Woods into entering the Players Championship. Speaking with CNBC’s Darren Rovell, Finchem said:
It's always important for Tiger to be part of the Tour, because he's Tiger Woods. But the idea that we would pressure him to play is ludicrous. We don't pressure any player to play the tournament. In this case, the suggestion is somehow he was hurt and we got him to play anyway. Tiger doesn't enter a tournament unless he thinks he can win. I was on the range with him Tuesday, I watched him hit balls. He practiced that day, he practiced Wednesday hard, and he tweaked it yesterday. So nonissue.
The beginning of the end for Tiger? Opinions, analyses and conjecture about the ramifications of Woods’s WD—and his seemingly irreparable left knee—have lit up the web. The general sentiment: Tiger’s in deep, deep trouble:
Bob Prichard, a sports biomechanics expert and the president of the Somax Performance Institute in suburban San Francisco: “His swing is measurably worse in every way and is putting extra strain of his left knee. More than ever, he is pushing his hip toward the target, outside his left foot, and the stress is going into his left knee, actually pushing the femur down on to the tibial plate.”
Ernie Els: "We all play with little lingering injuries, we've all got our things. But a left knee and left Achilles, that's tough to deal with, especially if you want to play at a [high] level. … For the long haul, yeah, it's got to be a worry."
Mark O’Meara: "I saw [swing coach] Sean Foley out there, and I asked him, and he's like, 'You know, his leg is not good.' I mean, he can hit balls, but he's having a hard time walking. It's a hard game to play if he can't walk."
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who said on the air: "It's unlikely he'll be back for the U.S. Open. I really do think we're about to see the beginning of Tiger shuffling off of this Tour."
Then there was this bombshell:
“Anybody else wondering if Tiger's prolonged winless streak is due more to the fact that his old swing coach has been fired or the fact that his old blood doctor has been indicted?” That query was posed by The Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Binachi in a provocative column that suggests Woods might not be healing as quickly as he once did because he no longer has the services of Anthony Galea. (Galea, you’ll recall, is the Canadian doctor who on several occasions in 2009 treated Woods’s balky knee with a blood-spinning technique and who has since been accused of illegally distributing human growth hormone.)
Even though Woods has denied ever taking PEDs, many professional golfers are skeptical. Sports Illustrated polled 71 PGA Tour players last year and nearly a quarter of them said they believed Woods was dirty.
Is it fair to accuse Woods of once being a juicer? No it's not. But in this day and age when nearly every major sport has been touched by a drug scandal, it's certainly fair to wonder. Why shouldn't we? Especially with the way Tiger's body -- once the most invincible and physically fit in all of golf -- is breaking down like an '84 Chevette.
You don't have to be a biochemist to know that one of the major benefits of HGH is that it helps the body quickly recover from the stress placed upon it by the repetitive nature of massive, torque-producing athletic maneuvers. That's why baseball pitchers take it and why golfers would benefit from it, too. Golf swings and baseball windups, when done repetitively, place an enormous amount of strain on all of those moving body parts.
Bianchi signs off with this zinger:
With his fading golf game, his prolonged losing streak, his deteriorating body and his uncomfortable ties to the Canadian drug doctor, it makes you wonder.
Did it really always come naturally to Tiger? Sabbo still tight-lipped on O'Hair-gate Speculation continues to swirl over Rory Sabbatini’s alleged clash with Sean O’Hair in New Orleans a couple weeks ago. But clearly it hasn’t distracted Sabbo, who continued his impressive form with a 67 Thursday at Sawgrass:
"You know what, people need to stop listening to the knitting circle because amazingly you get things lost in translation," Sabbatini said. "So, you know, I've got to focus on my job and not worry about all the hear-sayers. I let them concoct their stories."
Sabbatini said he has an ability to ignore what is around him while he's playing but it's clear he doesn't want to further suspension discussion.
"I don't know what to say," he said. "I just focus on my job and get my job done." Tweet(s) of the Day Graeme McDowell after shooting a 5-under 67 in Round 1 of the Players on Thursday: