Truth & Rumors: McIlroy says Woods inspired new generation of Tour stars

Truth & Rumors: McIlroy says Woods inspired new generation of Tour stars

The current generation of young golfers — Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler and Quail Hollow winner Rory McIlroy — look primed to give us great battles for the next 20 years, and we have Tiger Woods to thank for it, McIlroy said at his victory press conference Sunday evening.

I think I speak on behalf of all the early 20-somethings out here. Tiger was the guy that we all looked up to and the guy that we followed and the guy that we turned on our TV and the guy that we went out to practice so hard. He was the person that — I think he's been the reason that the likes of Ryo, myself, AK, Danny Lee, all the younger guys, have flourished at such an early age, because Tiger set the benchmark so high.
We want to achieve that. Even if we don't quite get to that level, it's still pretty good. He's been a big reason for this influence of so many younger players.

McIlroy, Kim and Ishikawa remind me of the post-Michael Jordan superstars in the NBA like Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant. The younger guys who played with Jordan never really emerged from his shadow — like Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott with Woods — but the guys who grew up idolizing Jordan are now revitalizing the game. Whatever short-term problems the PGA Tour has with its business model (many serious ones, according to BusinessWeek), the long-term prospects of the pro game are bright. Phil the Pill Phil Mickelson's not a fan of the greens at Quail Hollow, a point he made emphatically when he told his caddie, Bones Mackay, NOT to tend the pin for his birdie putt on 18 Saturday, according to Steve Elling's Short Game Blog.

Theatrically, Mickelson tried to make his point clear on the 18th green when he hit his approach shot over the flagstick and had a sloping, 60-footer for birdie that he could not get anywhere near the flag. At least. not without using a pitching wedge and hitting the flagstick with the lob shot.
He ordered caddie Jim Mackay to leave the flagstick in the hole as he putted away from the hole. It was shocking to see, to be sure, and nobody could recall ever witnessing it before in a tour event. If he'd made the putt, which he insisted was an impossibility, he would have been assessed a two-shot penalty.

On Sunday, however, Mickelson said that he still planned on playing this tournament every year, despite his problems with the greens.
"I love this tournament, and I think that — I love the way the Tour sets it up. I love the city here, and I've always loved this — I've come to really love and enjoy this golf tournament, and everybody has got to play them." Tiger's Sawgrass blues Ryan Ballengee of the Trailing Tiger and Waggle Room blogs notes that if Tiger Woods is going to have a bounce-back tournament, the Players Championship is not a likely candidate. He won there once in 2001 — during the Tiger Slam — and finished second in 2000, but his 8th place finish last year was his best since 2001.

In terms of winning percentage, Woods has his worst record on his course. He has just one win at Sawgrass, a mark only matched at Riviera CC (which Woods no longer plays each year).

You can never count Woods out, but TPC Sawgrass looks like wrong place, wrong time for him to rediscover his game. He's still got seven weeks until Pebble Beach. Hit too many times in the head? Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gets extra credit for finding a fan who was actually hit by one of Tiger Woods' wayward drives at the Masters in April. The man and his wife apparently position themselves in areas where bad shots are likely to land so they can get a close-up view of the player's recovery shot.

[John] Sullivan still had the bruise on his shoulder more than a week after the Masters, proudly displaying it as a badge of honor. But it wasn't the pain in his shoulder that bothered him. Or, more specifically, bothered his wife.
It was the way they said they were treated by Woods and his caddie, Steve Williams, when they came to retrieve the ball, which landed under Sullivan's portable chair. Especially when they saw the way Phil Mickelson handled a similar situation moments later.

After telling Williams the ball hit her husband, Kim Sullivan said she was disappointed Woods never asked if John Sullivan was OK. Nor, she said, did he even seem to care. But Williams did toss John Sullivan a ball after Woods hit his next shot, which struck a tree and ricocheted further into the pines.
Minutes later, playing in the twosome behind Woods, Mickelson hit his tee shot almost in the exact same spot in the pines. But Mickelson's ball struck a spectator in the foot and ricocheted to where he had a shot at the green. Mickelson was able to salvage par at No. 11, then went on to birdie four of the final seven holes to win.
John Sullivan said Mickelson came over to the spectator, talked to him to make sure he was OK and gave him an autographed golf glove that said, "Thanks for the assist."

Mickelson deserves all the accolades he gets for his fan-friendliness, but what exactly is Woods supposed to do in these situations? The guy was actually trying to get in the way of his bad drive, and Williams did toss him a ball. Now he wants a signed glove too? It should say, "Next time, duck. Tiger Woods."

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