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Another strong start for Woods, but can he make it count?

By Ron Sirak

NORTON, Mass. --  Maybe Tiger Woods can decoy his demons into thinking that since the Deutsche Bank Championship has a Labor Day Monday finish his weekend woes need not apply.

Woods looked a lot like his old self on Friday as he overwhelmed TPC Boston with a seven-under-par 64. Playing the back nine first, Woods ran off six consecutive birdies beginning on No. 18. The round was marred only by a bogey on No. 9 -- his last hole -- when he chipped poorly from the back fringe to 12 feet and missed the putt.

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Woods' starts this year haven't been the problem. Photo by Getty Images

"I hit a lot of good shots and made a few [putts] today," Woods said. "It was very tricky out there," he said about he swirling wind. "We didn't know if it was downwind or upwind. The lucky thing was that the greens were soft."

The course record at TPC Boston is 61 by Vijay Singh and Mike Weir. For Tiger, it was a start that reminded folks of what he was like at his very best -- especially that run of birdies.

Related: How Tiger Woods' swing has changed

But beginning tournaments has not been the problem this year for Woods; closing them has. Coming into Deutsche Bank, his pre-cut scoring average was 69.65, third best on the PGA Tour. And then strangeness sets in.

Tiger's third-round scoring average is 70.63,  59th among his peers, and his final-round average is 70.83, a woeful 73rd on tour. This is stunning from a man who was once considered the greatest closer in the history of the game, the best front-runner since Secretariat.

"It's just you can't really look at it as real bad going on this year," Woods said in advance of his great opening round about his problems on the weekend. "I won three times [this year], so it's not like it's been bad," Woods said accurately.

"It's just a couple rounds here and there or it's an up-and-down here and there ,or it's making one putt which is not good," he said, sounding like a political strategist spinning the news for his candidate.  "So that's a good thing."

Related: The Tiger Woods timeline

The bad thing is that those "here and theres" and that one putt which is not good have come in the closing rounds of tournaments. Yes, Woods has won three times, but in the big events he has failed on the weekend.

At the U.S. Open, Woods opened 69-70 and was positioned perfectly to take control on the weekend, but closed and 75-73. It was déjà vu all over again at the British Open, when Tiger started 67-67 but managed only 70-73 on the weekend.

And at the PGA Championship, Woods jumped out of the starting blocks 69-71 before limping home 74-72. His final-round scoring average in the four majors this year was 72.87 and he never broke 70 in eight tries.

Even last week at the Barclays, the first of the three FedEx Cup Playoff events, Woods went out 68-69 and came in 72-76. "I wasn't playing that badly," he said Friday about his weekend at Bethpage in the Barclays. "On Saturday, I had four three-putts. My rounds weren't as bad as they scored."

Now he has a chance at the Deutsche Bank to take a step toward putting those weekend demons back in the closet from which they inexplicably escaped. "We will just keep working on what we are working on," Woods said about his on-going swing change with coach Sean Foley.

Woods will almost certainly be in contention, if not in the lead, after 36 holes at TPC Boston. Maybe this time he can get it done on the weekend  -- or at least on Monday, when the tournament ends.

                    



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Gear & Equipment

Wear your college team colors in a golf shoe

By John Strege

Today is College Colors Day, defined on its website as "an annual celebration dedicated to promoting the traditions and spirit that embody the college experience by encouraging fans across America to wear their favorite college or university apparel throughout the day."

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TRUE linkswear has embraced College Color Days by introducing limited-edition team-themed colors in its phx golf shoes, including the colors of Tennessee and North Carolina State (shown here), which play one another in their football season openers tonight in a Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

Twelve color combinations will be offered (msrp $99) and can be viewed here.

TRUE linkswear, which was among the first in golf to embrace the so-called "barefoot platform" in its shoes, typically has five color combinations in its phx shoe available throughout the year.


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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: 5 Minutes Till Tee Time? Here's What to Do

Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he gives you some stretches to do if you have only five minutes before you tee off. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest


Here's Ron: It's an age-old question in golf: What do you do to prepare for a round if you  have only a few minutes before your tee time?
 
Some say hit a few wedge shots to loosen up. Others say to hit some putts to get a feel for green speed. Others say head to the bar, order a Bloody Mary, and accept that whatever happens, happens.
 
This should come as no surprise to you if you've been reading this blog, but I would choose none of the above. Instead, I'd spend a few moments trying to activate some of the key muscles used in the golf swing. You need to get your mid-back muscles primed. The hips and glutes are important, too. So are the muscles around your lower leg (calves/ankles). If you spend a few moments doing muscle activation (short-hold stretches), your body will be able to make the swing you want to make. If you don't, you'll struggle with coordination, range of motion, and possibly set yourself up for injury.
 
You can obviously warm up while waiting for your turn to tee off. In fact, the final thing you should do is a few toe touches or simulated deadlifts while holding your driver like a barbell. These will activate your hamstrings and lower back.
 
You also can knock out some key stretches in the locker room, activating several muscles right after you put your shoes on. To be clear, you do NOT want to hold a stretch for more than a few seconds. You want the muscle to be pliable, but not so stretched out that it loses its ability to contract in the blink of an eye. So remember to hold the stretched positions for only a moment.
 
Click on the video below to see me demonstrate four great muscle-activation exercises.
 
Ron Kaspriske
Fitness Editor
Golf Digest



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News & Tours

Trending: Erik Compton on 'Real Sports'

By Derek Evers

It's been an amazing year for golf; with Tiger's return to the winner's circle, Ernie hoisting the Claret Jug, and no less than a dozen of this year's PGA Tour winners coming from behind in the final round, it would be easy to call 2012 'The Year of the Comeback.' Yet as exciting as it's been on the course, the most remarkable comeback story on the Tour easily belongs to Erik Compton.

Related: Change of Heart: Erik Compton profile

If you're not familiar with Compton's story, you should get so. The 32-year-old PGA Tour pro was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy at the age of nine, starting him on a journey that's included two heart transplants. What makes his story remarkable -- aside from the fact he's still alive and well 20 years after receiving his first donated heart -- is that Compton not only returned to competition a mere five months after his second successful transplant, he eventually secured his 2012 PGA Tour card with a victory at the Nationwide Tour's 2011 Mexico Open. It's a story that's larger than golf and sports itself. The kind that seems almost too good to be true. Too 'made for TV.'

Cue HBO.

Last week, the new season of 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel' premiered with a feature on Compton. And though Gumbel himself wasn't on hand, it gave a great behind-the-scenes look at Compton's first full season on the PGA Tour, with exclusive access and interviews along the way. It's not only worth watching to learn more about the trials and tribulations of Compton's health, but that of a touring pro.

Related: Tim Rosaforte Q&A with Erik Compton

Obviously HBO doesn't have the full video available for non-subscribers, but this promo clip compels as much as it teases. Seriously, could they have cut it at a more suspenseful moment? Wait for it...


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News & Tours

Hurricane Isaac: 'Wasn't...comparable to Katrina'

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(Photo courtesy of Kelly Gibson)

By John Strege

The best that can be said about Hurricane Isaac was that it was not another Hurricane Katrina, according to the message conveyed by former PGA Tour player and New Orleans resident Kelly Gibson.

"We survived," Gibson said Thursday. "It was kind of a unique storm. It kind of hunkered down and took quite a while to get through here, but it wasn't anything comparable to Katrina."

Gibson, who was honored by the Golf Writers Association of America in 2006 for contributions to the Katrina recovery effort made by what is now the Kelly Gibson Foundation, said that the foundation is prepared to help if necessary, but that "the federal government and local government were way more prepared for these type situations than they were in 2005."

As for the area's golf courses, Tchefuncta Country Club (shown above), which he designed in Covington, just north of Lake Pontchartrain, "took on a substantial amount of flooding," Gibson said. "Nine of the holes are completely submerged in three to four feet of water, maybe six feet. It had minimal tree damage, where after Katrina it took six months to clean up.

"One course I'm personally concerned about is Joe Bartholomew Park [in New Orleans]. "We spent $8 million renovating it. They had received 12 feet of water for almost a month or so from Katrina and [Hurricane] Rita. We designed it to accommodate a substantial amount of rain."

Gretchen Bradford, the president of the Pontchartrain Neighborhood Park Association, reported that Joseph M. Bartholomew Sr. Municipal Golf Course survived intact.

"We had very minimal flooding in our neighborhood," she said. "We were very blessed. I'm not a golfer, but from what I see [of the golf course] it looks like it's OK. It has tree limbs and stuff around, and it probably did get saturated, but it wasn't flooded out."

Related: The Return of Joe Ba!

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Audubon Park Golf Course in New Orleans "was inundated with standing water."

As to how golf courses in neighboring Biloxi, Miss., fared, it is as yet unknown. "It sounds like they had a tremendous amount of rainfall, 12 to 15 inches," Gibson said. "They have a lot of golf courses in that area."


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Gear & Equipment

Bridgestone Golf, NFL enter licensing agreement

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By John Strege

The NFL and golf have a history of partnerships, the latest involving Bridgestone Golf, which has announced it has become an official licensee of NFL logo golf balls and golf bags.

Bridgestone will offer its golf balls and bags with logos of each of the 32 NFL teams, for those who wish to combine their passions for golf and a particular professional football team.

The NFL's partnerships with golf go back at least to the late Payne Stewart, who had a contract to wear NFL team colors and logos.


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News & Tours

Crimson Tide roll to top of men's preseason poll

By Ryan Herrington

Returning NCAA player of the year Justin Thomas and two other All-Americans in Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett for the 2012-13 college season, Alabama claims the No. 1 spot in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I preseason men's coaches' poll. The Crimson Tide, hard-luck runner's up at last year's NCAA Championship, earned 13 of the 23 available first-place votes. It's the first time the school has been ranked atop the Golf World polls since the close of the 2007-08 season and the first time since the polls were revived in 2001-02 that the team is No. 1 to start the fall.

With the Alabama women's team also being No. 1 in the Golf World/NGCA women's preseason coaches' poll, it marks the second time since Golf World revived the polls in 2001-02 that the same school starts the season atop by the men's and women's polls.

Defending NCAA champion Texas, with eight first-place votes, claimed the No. 2 spot in the ranking. The Longhorns won the national championship last June at Riviera CC, the first time the school had claim college golf's top prize in 40 years.

Pac-12 champion California, an NCAA semifinalist in 2012, earned the third spot. The Golden Bears had four players reach match play at the recent U.S. Amateur Championship, including runner-up Michael Weaver.

Rounding out the top five are UCLA and Washington. The Bruins must replace Patrick Cantlay, the 2011 NCAA player of the year who turned pro this past summer, while the Huskies are led by senior Chris Williams, the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

GOLF WORLD/NIKE GOLF DIVISION I MEN'S PRESEASON POLL
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News & Tours

Alabama tops women's preseason coaches' poll

By Ryan Herrington

Fresh off its first ever NCAA women's golf title, Alabama enters the 2012-13 season as the No. 1 team in the Golf World/NGCA Division I women's preseason coaches' poll. The Crimson Tide won four times in a year ago and return All-Americans Stephanie Meadow (the Ladies British Amateur champion) and Jennifer Kirby from the squad that claimed the NCAA title for Hall of Fame coach Mic Potter. The team earned 19 of the 27 first-place votes and hold the top spot in the Golf World poll for the first time since March 2011.

UCLA, with six first-place votes, claimed the No. 2 spot in the poll. The Bruins were the top ranked team in every Golf World poll in 2011-12 only to finish in eighth place at the NCAA Championship. Still, the program brings back All-Americans in Lee Lopez, Tiffany Lua and Erynne Lee.

USC, which lost to Alabama by one stroke at nationals, finds itself in the No. 3 spot, followed by Pac-12 foe Arizona State. Rounding out the top five is Duke, led by NCAA player of the year Lindy Duncan.

GOLF WORLD/NGCA DIVISION I WOMEN'S PRESEASON POLL

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Gear & Equipment

FootJoy GTxtreme: A glove for all (weather) occasions

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By John Strege

September and autumn are on the horizon and with it inclement weather. Or an Indian summer. Hence the need for an all-weather golf glove.

Here's a new one from FootJoy, the GTxtreme, designed to provide a reliable grip in any weather conditions. FootJoy, an industry leader in golf gloves, uses what it calls "Advance Performance Digital Leather" played in the palm and thumb parts of the glove.

The GTxtreme complements FootJoy's line of weather specific gloves, including the RainGrip and WinterSof. Bubba Watson has been using the GTxtreme in tournament play since the British Open, according to the company.

Thge GTxtreme has a suggested retail price of $15 and will be available on Sept. 1.


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News & Tours

Greg Norman survives scary landing in private jet

By Tim Rosaforte

Greg Norman made a dramatic entrance at the Omega European Masters on Tuesday when the nose landing gear in his private jet malfunctioned upon landing at Geneva Airport in Switzerland, shutting down a runway for 30 minutes. "We were going 60, 70, 80 knots, the wheel went 90 degrees, the nose started kangarooing and stuff in the cabin was going everywhere," Norman said after his practice round at Crans-sur-Sierre. "All the cabinets in the galley came out. The shaking was pretty violent. Nobody knew what was going on."

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Norman's wife Kiki, son Greg, and business manager, Bart Collins, were on the G-4. He credited the work of pilot Gary Marcinkowski for bringing the plane to a safe stop at 11:30 am. Since going to private air travel 22 years ago, Norman has averaged between 450-600 hours a year. He's had scarier experiences, from his wing being hit by lightning, to an engine blowing on takeoff.

Related: My Shot: Greg Norman interview

This one he could laugh about afterward. "Always an adventure and good stories with me, boys," Norman said in a text that accompanied the above photo of his plane.

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