Truth & Rumors: Tiger's game is wet, The Players ain't so major and Cuba's getting freer

Tiger's game is in the weeds...and the waterAfter Tiger Woods' semi-disastrous showing at Quail Hollow, the golf world has been holding its collective breath to see if he can turn the tide on the familiar fairways of TPC Sawgrass. Judging by his practice round yesterday, so far, so terrible. The Orlando Sentinel's Jeff Shain (by way of the Boston Herald) gives us the rundown of what's going wrong for Tiger in his Players tuneup.

"I know what the fix is," Woods said during his pre-tournament meeting with reporters. "I’ve proven it to myself, and it’s just a matter of going out there and executing it consistently over 72 holes."
Based on Tuesday’s evidence, it hasn’t been solved yet. According to observers, Woods dunked five balls into the water during his crack-of-dawn tour of the back nine — four in a four-hole span over Nos. 11-14.

He looked a little better Monday, when he played the front nine in about even-par, give or take the couple of extra balls after wayward drives. Even so, it’s not likely to put him in contention at The Players, which he has won just once.
After all the outside scrutiny into his personal life, Woods now faces questions about the one facet golf fans generally take for granted.

Most importantly, Tiger is acknowledging what the the odds makers (and far too many sportswriters) seemed to willingly ignore leading into the Masters--that this comeback is not comparable to some of the other layoffs he's had in his career.
"I’ve been trying to make life adjustments and life changes," he said.
"A lot of people when they go through treatment, they’re able to make
these adjustments in anonymity; I’m not. And that makes it a lot more
Shain also touches on the fact that Hank Haney has yet to be seen at Sawgrass, though Woods insists they're still working together. But keep your eyes out, one or two more MC's will see Haney go the way of Harmon. The 8th Major?Speaking of the Players Championship, there has been some talk lately that the Tour's most prestigious non-major has lost some of its luster over the last few years. Golf Fanhouse senior writer Mick Elliott talks about golf's so called "fifth major" with one of the Tour's rising stars.
This week's Players Championship is the PGA Tour's signature event. It is played at Tour headquarters on the TPC Sawgrass course that has become among the most famous courses in the world. It is promoted as golf's "fifth major."
But is it really?
The No. 4 ranked player in the world Lee Westwood argues the PGA Tour has succeeded in upstaging its own event.

Westwood insists the three limited-field World Golf Championship events added to the schedule in 1999 have become more important than The Players.

"I think The Players probably used to be regarded as the fifth major, and it felt that way back in the late '90s," Westwood said. "But since the invention of the World Golf Championships, I think it's actually stepped back from that. They have to go in now before The Players Championship. So what is it, eighth on the list now?

"It's still a big tournament, very prestigious, you get a great field, and it's one that everybody wants to win, including me."

I think Westwood might be making too much of the Players' demise. Like Elliott says from the start, the Players is important because the Tour thinks it's important. It's given top billing and played at one of the coolest courses in the world. The success of the WGC events has proven one thing (to me at least): it's time for the Tour to turn the clocks back and make one of the majors a match play event. Tiger who?If there's been one common theme in the sports dailies this week, it's been the fawning over golf's latest youth movement. With the stunning numbers put up by McIlroy and Ishikawa this weekend, Ron Kroichick of the San Fransisco Chronicle is feeling the jolt of youthful energy in the air.

One of my coolest Masters memories is walking several holes in last year's tournament, watching Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa. They were 23, 19 and 17 at the time, a tantalizing collection of outrageous talent, eye-catching style and youthful bravado.

Their presence in the same group sent a distinct buzz through the galleries at Augusta National. "Look at these children out there," one spectator said. Another chimed in, "Kim is the only one who shaves."
McIlroy and Kim spent much of their time engaged in deep conversation, like long-lost pals. That image flashed through my mind Sunday, watching Kim give McIlroy a nonchalant low-five - after McIlroy (who turns 21 today) curled home a long birdie putt to punctuate his final-round 62 and his inaugural PGA Tour victory.

Kroichick admits that he's not yet ready to call this a "seismic shift" in PGA Tour competition, but you can't help but get the feeling that such a shift is exactly what people are hoping for. I can hardly blame even the most pessimistic of golf writers from looking longingly toward a day when Tiger playing in (much less winning) a tournament is a bonus for the PGA Tour, rather than the only thing keeping it afloat. On the other hand, until these kids stop "competing" in majors and start winning them, I'm not holding my breath for an upsetting of the old guard. As Sergio Garcia found out earlier this decade, toppling the kings of the game takes more than a few great Sundays in May. Cuba LibreIn a widely expected (and still somehow shocking) move, Cuba has announced that it will allow foreign investors to put money into the country's tourist system, putting special emphasis on golf course development. The BBC reports:

"A policy was approved that permits real estate development associated with tourism, fundamentally golf courses, marinas and other complementary tourist investments," Mr Marrero said at Cuba's annual International Tourism Fair on Tuesday.
He said the move aimed at "developing regions that today are virgin".
The cash-strapped Caribbean island now wants to attract a more affluent, bigger-spending class of tourist and golf is seen as the key, the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says.
Currently there is only one 18-hole golf course in the whole of Cuba. However, there are plans for 10 new courses, several of which are in an advanced stage of planning.
If all goes as planned, this seems like great news for both golfers and Cuba and a good first step in what will almost certainly be continuing economic expansion by the second most coy regime on the planet (don't go expecting Kim Jung Il to be doing the same any time soon, even if he runs out of holes to ace). Also, I can't talk Cuba without mentioning this fantastic piece by Josh Sens, who got to see up close the proud history and tragic present conditions of golf on the island.

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by Kevin Cunningham