"Top 10 in 2014: Social Media Fails"

I hope I'm not the first to wish Steve Elkington a big congrats for making Golf Channel's 2014 Top 10 Social Media Fails list...twice.

The list is a sobering reminder of the pedantic and more ridiculous scandals of 2014, all from hitting little keys on a digital device.

And a special nod to Jesper Parnevik for Instragraming his Segway accident, which made the list.

On a classier note, GolfChannel.com's most watched videos of the year list is topped by an actual golf shot and includes several other golf shots. For those so inclined.

Roundup: Tiger Looks Rested, Ready, Slimmer, Better...

After a year of painful press conferences denying the obvious, Tiger Woods appears to have either (A) had an intervention from Notah Begay (B) listened to his critics (C) listened to his mother (C) had a moment of honest introspection, or (D) a combination of the above. Because not only did he manage to make some major admissions for his ownself, but Woods just looked younger, refreshed and less burdened.

He may still stink it up this week due to rust, but it was hard not to watch him talk or hit balls and see that he's made positive changes in his game. So much so that it appeared to have unburdened him of the defensiveness that plagued most of these sessions in the last year.

Of course, getting to the choice words was tough, as his Tuesday Hero World Challenge press conference was nearly upstaged by some of the finest rally killers the modern game has ever seen. The Guinness World Records people are looking into whether a record was set for rally killers and also into "brand value" references by Hero CEO Pawan Mujal, whose presence also added to the rally kills.

You can read the full transcript here.

Dave Shedloski at GolfDigest.com was there and noted the new kid vibe.

Looking 10-15 pounds lighter but still just as muscular in the arms and shoulders, Woods said he had no interest in reprising the golf game from his youth until he suffered a lower back injury earlier this year that scuttled most of his 2014 season. Woods made just seven starts that included two missed cuts and two withdrawals. He failed to post a top-10 finish for the first time in his career.

Steve DiMeglio asked Woods about his back in between questions about the Hero brand nonsense and got this answer, reported on his roundup.

"The body is good. I've gotten stronger. I've gotten more explosive. I've gotten faster," Woods said Tuesday.

"I just now need to hit more balls, but the body is good. I don't have the sharp pain like I used to at the beginning of the year. I still have some aches and pains, just like anybody else who is my age and older. …

"But I'm past the rehab portion of it, and now I'm in the strength development of it, and I don't have to do those tedious little rehab exercises. I can basically play with my kids and do whatever I want. We've been playing a ton of soccer in the backyard just about every day."

He's also been hitting a bunch of golf balls in the backyard of his Florida compound.

Bob Harig addressed the Chris Como part of the equation, among other topics.

Saying it is "new, but it's old,'' Woods said he reviewed video going back to his junior golf days that preceded a 79-victory career on the PGA Tour that includes 14 major championships.

"It was quite interesting to see where my swing was then and how much force I could generate with a very skinny frame,'' Woods said Tuesday during a pre-tournament news conference. "How did I do that? How do I generate that much power? That's kind of what we are getting back into.''

Michael Collins noted Tiger's unusually forthright answers, including a rare "I don't know" uttered on many occasions, suggest a new, more humble and self-aware man.

Tiger Woods was at his most honest and vulnerable as I have ever seen him saying those three words Tuesday prior to the Hero World Challenge he is hosting this week.

That's a phrase athletes, especially ones who are considered by some to be greatest of all time in their sport, rarely use when talking about themselves and their game.

Tiger said "I don't know" more than I've ever heard him utter it in his career.

The man who appears to be behind Woods' self-realization movement, Notah Begay, talked to Golf Channel's Ryan Burr on Golf Central. Video here.

"[Tiger] called me a day or two after the PGA Championship. I could tell he was a little dejected and a little bit disappointed in how the season had gone... But mostly it was an athlete and a friend who was in pain physically… So it was time to have a candid conversation.”

And this was revealing:

“He had to take ownership over his own golf swing… My job was not necessarily to provide answers, but to ask more informed questions. ‘What did he want his swing to look like? What was most important to him?... How do we get rid of this [back] pain?’... He really started to formulate ideas on what he felt needed to happen.”

Jason Sobel said the vibe Tuesday at Isleworth was one of golf returning to normal, which could also speak to Woods' newfound comfort level with where he's at physically and mentally.

Now that Woods is returning to action once again, it feels like the golf world is getting back to some normalcy. That world doesn’t revolve around him, but he at least helps place it back on the proper axis.

Matthew Rudy talked to Hank Haney and the former Tiger instructor also sees mostly positives, even predicting a Woods run at the '14 World Challenge title.

"It's going to be an interesting week to watch," says Haney, who had his own public debut as Woods' coach at Bay Hill in March 2004. "His body looks different, and he says he's able to practice his normal amount now.

That means at least his short game should be different. Does he try to shape shots? Will he play some draws? We could see a lot of different things, and there will probably be more to come."

Brian Wacker seized on the retro effort by Woods to reclaim past elements of his swing.

Added Woods: “I think that physically, I just wasn't able to do some of the things that we wanted to do in the golf swing.”

Ultimately, that’s what prompted Woods to change coaches and go in a new, old direction.

Brendan Mohler at golf.com pulls up some old swing video and notes this about the changes.

When asked about what went wrong with Sean Foley, Woods said, “Physically I just wasn’t able to do some of the things that we wanted to do in the golf swing.” Tiger also noted that the two remain friends and often needle each other via text message.

While Woods said that he does not yet feel entirely game ready, he did note that he is pleased with the progress he’s made thus far.

“It hasn’t taken me that long to implement it. I haven’t done it in a long time but my body’s remembering it. I’m very pleased with my speed and the freedom I have, and what I’m doing with the golf ball.

“I don’t feel like I’m hitting it very hard, but it’s coming off the face faster. That part was exciting.”

Here is Woods talking about the switch from Golf Central's coverage.

And the transcript component of the day's most interesting answer related to balancing technology, technique and swing thoughts.

Q.  Is it fair to say or would you say that maybe in the last couple years, you had gotten too technical and away from some of the naturalness that you had once enjoyed in your game and your swing?

TIGER WOODS:  Well, I think that I got into‑‑ just like I think a lot of people in this generation, the new information of TrakMan, and trying to get the numbers to jive and trying to get the motions to match.  And I think that that's been extremely informative because it's helped me during this process, but it's not the only thing I'm going to do.

Still retain the feel in my hands and how I hit golf shots; but also I have an understanding that if I do something, these numbers should be like this.  Because I didn't have that understanding and I didn't have that basis when I worked‑‑ when I was going into working with Sean.

So that was very new.  That's something that I think that is very helpful but can't be the end of all things.

As for the event benefiting his foundation, in one of the worst kept secrets in golf, Woods confirmed the stop at Isleworth is a one-off move for the Hero World Challenge before going to the Bahamas starting in 2015. Rex Hoggard reports. And just think volunteers who spent over $100 for a uniform you'll wear six times…it’s a collectible!

Who is Hero and why did they mess up a perfectly interesting press conference? Bob Harig says they want to sell Americans motorcyles and motor scooters starting in 2016 and that Tiger, mercifully, has no intention of trying out the product.

But Woods admitted he has never ridden one.

"And even with Hero's valuable sponsorship this year and for the next three years, there's no way I'm about to start,'' Woods said, smiling.

Woods makes his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge after a four-month absence due to injuries. The annual tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Michael Buteau also reported on the Hero deal that is both a personal endorsement deal and a World Challenge sponsorship, despite Tiger's best efforts to only play up the foundation portion.

Neither Hero nor Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg, would disclose financial terms of the agreement.
In a statement, Munjal said Woods is “not just a golfing champion and an icon for millions around the world; he is indeed a phenomenon -– a symbol of humility in victory and grace in adversity.”

If you have a few extra minutes, GolfDigest.com has this Jaime Diaz reported look at Tiger's swing changes through the years.

"The Tour Championship was the first and only event of this year’s FedEx Cup to have an increase in overnight ratings"

A Sports Media Watch graphic pretty much sums up the dismal ratings news out of East Lake, where the third round managed to out-rate the final round and the weekend was up slightly from last year, something the other events could not claim. So the primary takeway was that this year's Tour Championship was the only playoff event not on the decline despite having Rory McIlroy involved and an eventual winner who really could use the massive winner's prize.

Ogilvy: "'More' didn't really work for me."

Another fun read from Geoff Ogilvy in this week's Golf World, talking about his career resurgence following a few years of struggle. As with many others before him, all the searching only made things worse.

Ryan Herrington with the highlights of Ogilvy's piece, which can be read in its entirety here.

At first my reaction was to practice harder and longer, experiment more with TrackMan, video and other equipment, and increase my work in the gym. It made me feel I was doing it the "correct" way, but it's actually easy to just work hard. Somebody next to you is hitting 500 balls, so you hit 550, and it seems you've gained ground. It's the time-honored sports approach that many simplistically ascribe to Ben Hogan, but I have no doubt even his voluminous practice was more about quality than quantity.

Bottom line, that kind of "more" didn't really work for me. For months, I found myself dragging my clubs to the airport Friday night instead of Monday morning. I finally realized I had fallen prey to a common tour disease: getting analytical, doing a lot of repetition, taking a scientific approach that tempts with possible answers.

Jason Day: Too Much Massage Harms My Timing!

In one of the more unintentionally epic first world bits of rationalizing, Jason Day (67) attributed his could-have-been-better round-one Tour Championship to timing issues brought on by too much back massage.

The plight of the modern golfer!

Day WD'd last week from the BMW Championship with a wrenched back, but appears to be on the mend. If he can just get these masseurs under control. From the transcript.

Q.  Pretty decent effort considering where you came from last week and how much work you had to do.

JASON DAY:  I was just explaining earlier with the withdraw from last week's BMW Championship Friday, getting at least two sessions a day, anywhere between two and four hours, that much work can definitely mess with your timing, mess with the sync of the swing, just because things are moving a lot better than what you're used to.

That's why there was a few loose shots out there. 

Meanwhile Day had mental coach Jason Goldsmith on the bag because regular looper Colin Swatton had to give up the bag mid-round with back spasms (Rex Hoggard reports). Hopefully after several 2-to-4 hour massages Swatton’s ability to lift the luggage or give yardages will not be too loose!

Horschel Won't Pass Up Chance At $10 Million For Child's Birth

What refreshing honesty from Billy Horschel who didn't suggest he would give up the chance at the life-changing (and college tuition paying) $10 million FedExCup bonus to be present should his wife go into labor. As you may recall, many golfers have pledged to drop everything they are doing to be there for the big moment, and Tiger was once criticized for daring to try to win a U.S. Open. As I noted at the time, hundreds of millions of times men have not been in the delivery room and something tells me the Earth will remain on its axis should a Horschel child come into being without dad there to be yelled at by mom as she goes through the birthing.

Mark Lamport Stokes on Horschel's comments after an opening 66 has him tied with fellow non-Ryder Cupper Chris Kirk.

"My wife and I are due two weeks from Saturday," Horschel told reporters after charging into a share of the first-round lead at East Lake Golf Club with a four-under-par 66. "On the golf course I'm not thinking about it.

"We have decided that if she (Brittany) goes into labor while I'm playing, I will just keep playing, because $10 million is a lot of money and I'm not going to pass that by.

"And I'll just fly home after the round and fly back (to the tournament) a couple hours later, spend some time with them."