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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Tiger Woods struggles to rediscover winning touch at Doral

Posted: 10 Mar 2011 08:06 PM PST

Tiger Woods on the 14th hole at the TPC Blue Monster, March 10, 2011: Has to change everything — "the whole release pattern" . . . the putter, the short game, drivers. — Reuters

DORAL, Florida, March 11 — Tiger Woods struggled to find his form at the WGC-Cadillac Championship yesterday, with a messy opening round that showed the former world No. 1 continues to have deep problems with his game.

Unlike the player who seemed to hit every shot perfectly en route to capturing 14 majors, Woods was missing fairways and putts, and was six shots back of leader Hunter Mahan before play was halted at Doral owing to darkness after Woods had played 15 holes.

Woods, whose reputation was scarred by his well-publicised marital infidelities and divorce, has not won a tournament since the Australian Masters in 2009, and will need a drastic upturn in his form for that drought to end this week.

Ahead of yesterday's weather-delayed opening round, Woods said he was getting it right in practice but was so far unable to deliver when it mattered.

Woods only hit five of 12 fairways yesterday, and missed five birdie putts from inside 15 feet on a course where he has three wins and never finished outside the top 10.

The fans were there in numbers to watch Woods play with his rival and fellow former world No. 1 Phil Mickelson along with defending US Open champion Graeme McDowell.

But it was Mickelson who got the louder applause and shouts of encouragement, and there was a strange quietness around Woods, in marked contrast to the past when he was roared on by legions of supporters during his three victories at Doral.

There was no hostility towards Woods from the gallery, more an awkward silence, indicating it is not his personal problems that have led to a cooling of emotions but rather recognition that they are witnessing a player finding it so difficult to recapture what made him so great.

The most dramatic example of his problems came on the 12th, his third hole, when he took out his driver and sent an awful shot 50 yards left of the fairway.

But it was not just Woods's well-noted problems from the tee that was evident — his putting, once so astonishingly effective, was ordinary at best, and his short play in general lacked finesse.

The once fluid swing now too often looks choppy, and his admirers can only hope the current technique is merely a transitional phase.

Woods did not speak to reporters after his 15 holes, rushing off to catch the NBA game between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, but he had in many ways described his problems a day earlier.

"I have to change everything — it's the whole release pattern," said Woods. "How I release the putter, how I release the short game, how I release irons, drivers, they are all related. You just can't have one swing and not have another — they are all interrelated." — Reuters


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Outrage grows over escalating NHL violence

Posted: 10 Mar 2011 07:38 PM PST

Combination photo shows Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara (left) as he hits Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty into a glass stanchion during the second period of NHL hockey play in Montreal, March 8, 2011. — Reuters pic

TORONTO, March 11 — The National Hockey League was under attack from all sides yesterday as fans, sponsors and politicians expressed outrage at the rising levels of violence in the sport, following a devastating hit on Montreal Canadiens' forward Max Pacioretty.

The romantic image of children playing hockey on a pond that appears on Canada's five-dollar bill was replaced by disturbing pictures of Pacioretty lying unconscious on the ice on Tuesday after having his head violently slammed into partition at the end of the players' bench by the Boston Bruins' hulking 6-foot, 9-inch, 260-pound defenceman Zdeno Chara.

As a sell-out crowd at Montreal's Bell Centre watched in stunned silence, Pacioretty was carefully loaded onto a stretcher and rushed to a Montreal hospital, where he remains with a fractured vertebrae and severe concussion.

Despite being assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct, Chara escaped further punishment for his role in the gruesome collision, sparking a firestorm of anger that has been building for months following a string of on-ice fights, and ugly hits that have sidelined some of the NHL's biggest names, including Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby.

That outrage could even be heard in Canada's House of Commons on Wednesday, as politicians from all parties voiced concerns about the escalating violence.

The Conservative government stopped short of saying it would intervene if the NHL did not clean up its act but Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn called the hit "unacceptable" adding: "We would do everything to ensure that NHL does not allow this kind of action to continue."

Unless the NHL acts quickly, it could also find the league's finances taking a hit. Air Canada, one of the NHL's major backers, has threatened to withdraw its sponsorship if the league does not take serious action on hits to the head.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick confirmed to Reuters that director of marketing and communications, Denis Vandal, had sent a letter to all six of Canada's NHL clubs making it clear the airline expected the league to take action or risk losing it as a financial partner.

"We are contacting you (Wednesday) to voice our concern over (Tuesday night's) incident involving Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara at the Bell Centre in Montreal," wrote Vandal, in a letter printed in the Ottawa Sun. "This is following several other incidents involving career-threatening and life-threatening headshots in the NHL recently."

He continued: "From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.

"Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey."

The NHL was also staring at the possibility of courtroom battle yesterday after Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions requested a police investigation into the Pacioretty incident.

While the NHL ruled the hit just another hockey play, incensed fans have seen it as something much more calculated and sinister, venting their anger through social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

In the United States, where hockey is rarely water cooler talk of the day, replays of the violent hit were replayed repeatedly and debated on sports television and radio.

Even before the Pacioretty incident, the NHL was under increasing pressure to do something about hits to the head and the issue of concussions that have robbed the league and fans of some of their most popular and talented players.

Not seen on the ice since absorbing two cranium-rattling hits in early January, Crosby's continued absence has reignited the debate, which has stubbornly refused to be pushed from the spotlight despite compelling playoff races in both the Western and Eastern Conferences.

"The NHL does track, monitor and pay attention to public reaction," Neal Pilson, head of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports, told Reuters. "At some point the league has to assess whether changes will affect the competitiveness and entertainment value of the sport.

"I would pay attention to what is going on." — Reuters


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