Nick Faldo defends criticism of Tiger Woods at Players Championship

Nick Faldo defends criticism of Tiger Woods at Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Tiger Woods was sarcastically dismissive of comments from six-time major champion Nick Faldo that Woods has lost his self-belief.

Faldo, an analyst for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, made the remark in a conference call Tuesday for The Players Championship. Woods looked bemused and said he finds it interesting to hear such comments because “they're not in my head.''

“They must have some kind of superpower I don't know about,'' he said.

During the telecast Thursday, Faldo defended his opinion because of his experience.

“I hated it when analysts and commentators were saying, `He's thinking this. He's thinking that,''' Faldo said. “But this analyst here, I've walked the walk. I've been there and the bit I'm trying to describe is self-belief. I've had self-belief when I was playing my best and I also lost self-belief, and that's obviously when you get to the end of your career. I can generally recognize when a player is on the range, striping it, which Tiger's been doing basically all season.

“But for a player, if you cannot walk from the practice ground to the first tee … for me, he doesn't have the self-belief he really needs.''

WILD DAY: Sunghoon Kang was distraught after opening with a 75 – not because of the score, but how he got it.

He opened with a quadruple-bogey 8, going long of the green into an area of bushes and taking a couple of hacks to try to free his ball. Ten holes later, Kang was 1-under par. But he finished with four 5s on his card, including a ball in the water on the island-green 17th hole for a double bogey.

“I'm right back to where I was after the first hole,'' he said to his caddie, Steve Hulka, as he walked in the tunnel of the clubhouse.

Not quite, but point taken.

It was an amazing comeback from an 8, and it was helped by an unusual pep talk from Hulka.

“We walked off the green and Steve said, `There's a big elephant, and we're going to eat it one bit at a time,''' Kang said.

On the par-5 second hole, Kang hit a 4-iron to 15 feet.

“I told him, `You just bit off the toe,''' Hulka said. “And when he made the putt for eagle, I told him, `There goes the leg.'''

Alas, the elephant returned by the end of the round, which concluded with a three-putt bogey. Kang headed for the range, trying to remember that there was some pretty good golf in the middle of his round.

SCHWARTZEL IN SOUTH AFRICA: Masters champion Bubba Watson skipped The Players Championship to bond with his newly adopted son. Dustin Johnson is recovering from a back injury. As for former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel? His agent said he simply didn't want to come all the way from South Africa.

Chubby Chandler said Schwartzel faced a trip halfway around the world to Florida, and then would have to go to Spain next week for the World Match Play Championship. After that Schwartzel is playing the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, then Memorial. After a week off, he has the U.S. Open and then the Travelers Championship.

To be at Sawgrass would mean six tournaments in seven weeks and an itinerary that went South Africa-Florida-Spain-England-Ohio-California-Connecticut.

SHRINKING FIELD: The 144-man field at The Players Championship is shrinking even before the cut is made Friday.

Five players withdrew from the opening round Thursday, and only one of them (D.A. Points) did not start and was replaced in the field.

Angel Cabrera, who made a 9 on the par-3 17th, withdrew for “personal reasons'' after a 78. Simon Dyson withdrew with a bad back after a 76. Hunter Haas only made it through three holes (he already was 4-over par) when he stopped with a bad back. Paul Casey withdrew with a shoulder injury after a 42 on the front nine. Casey injured his shoulder snowboarding over the holidays and missed the first two months of the season.

It was the second year in a row that a player withdrew after a 42 on the front nine. A year ago, that was Tiger Woods with a left Achilles tendon. Odds are Casey will play again before August.

DIVOTS: No one has ever won back-to-back at The Players Championship, a streak that looks to be intact after K.J. Choi opened with a 75 and was 10 shots behind. … Gary Woodland, playing for the first time since he withdrew after the third round at the Masters with a wrist injury, opened with a 77. … Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III shot 72.

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