For now, the future is unknown for Tiger

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For now, the future is unknown for Tiger

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Posted: 5:30 p.m.

By John R. Finger
CSNPhilly.com

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. Though he actually hasnt swung a golf club since May 12 or completed 18 holes in competition since he finished fourth in the Masters last April, Tiger Woods still draws a lot of attention.

Better yet, Tiger can still fill a room as well as anyone in sports.

In fact, even while recent tour winner Gary Woodland or Justin Rose, the defending champ at the AT&T National, took turns in the media room or some of the top players in the world wrapped up low-key practice rounds here at Aronimink Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon, Woods still had an Elvis-like aura around him.

As in, Tiger is on the premises.

Actually, about all he can do these days is to simply show up. As the host of the tournament that begins on Thursday morning here, Woods was much more visible than usual and caused a bit of a fuss while doing a TV interview near the clubhouse as spectators climbed over each other to steal a glimpse or a camera-phone picture of the No. 17-ranked golfer in the world.

Make that Tiger Woods, the No. 17-ranked golfer in the world, sporting a beard.

Thats what passes for news around Woods these days. Because he cant play or even swing a golf club because of a knee and Achilles injury, Woods is doing something unique hes doing nothing. Actually, Woods is working on rehabbing his injuries with two and sometimes even three workouts a day, but he hasnt done anything with a golf club aside from putt a few. More notably, Woods says he has no idea when he will be back on the course to practice, let alone rejoin the PGA tour.

No timetable, no idea and no clue.

Im just playing it by ear right now. Theres no timetable, Woods said, dressed as he would for an outing on the links, only with the facial hair that seemed uncomfortable on an overpoweringly humid day. As I said, thats hard for me. Ive always been goal-oriented about when Im going to play, how Im going to peak, how Im going to get ready, how my practice schedule is going to be, and Im not doing it this time.

In the past Woods has played through injuries, even the ones he says hurt more than people could understand. Even in those circumstances Woods has competed and won, like he did at the 2008 U.S. Open with a broken leg. In 2007 he finished second in the Masters and the U.S. Open and won the PGA Championship with a blown out ACL.

So after skipping the U.S. Open as well as the AT&T National, it seems very unlikely that Woods will be ready for the British Open in a couple weeks, and it begs the question, what makes these injuries so different? Is it his body or his brain?

Im being smarter this time, Woods said. All the years of playing when my knee wasnt very good and playing through it, you know, unfortunately I broke my leg and still played. Thats not exactly smart. Im going to do it differently this time. I am going to come back when Im 100 percent ready, which is different for me.

Maybe thats some kind of warning shot to the rest of the golfers that they wont be facing a gimpy, battered golfer anymore. Or, maybe Woods understands that he just cant show up and win anymore. It seems as if there is a new breed of young golfers coming up through the ranks with the aim to beat Woods in a way that guys like Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Mark OMeara or Vijay Singh could not. In fact, some suggested that Rory McIlroys victory in the U.S. Open this month was the de facto passing of the torch. After all, McIlroy broke Woods record for the lowest score ever in a U.S. Open and at age 22 has not yet hit his prime.

When Woods friend OMeara suggested that McIlroy is better than Woods was at the same age, Tiger didnt argue. Actually, he agreed.

Really, he did.

I totally agree with what OMeara said, Woods conceded.

However, Woods subtly pointed out that the kid McIlroy is dealing with different circumstances. Woods won with an inferior golf swing and pre-historic equipment, and though he didnt come right out and say it that way, he didnt really have to, either.

In 97 when I was 21, granted, I had some success, but I didnt like my golf swing. Thats why I changed it, Woods said. I felt like at the same age, yeah, his swing is definitely better than mine was at the same age. But in 99 my swing came together and I had a pretty good next two years. At the same age comparatively, yeah, his swing is better. He obviously needs to continue working on it and continue getting better.

Of course its not as if Woods is approaching the twilight of his career, either. Sure, Woods is 35, but Tom Watson was 60 when he had a putt on 18 to win the 2009 British Open and Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won the Masters. Thats the important factor, too, since Woods with his 14 major championships and Nicklaus with the record of 18 is there in the not-so distant horizon.

That is if he can get back on the course sooner rather than later.

Thats what makes it such an incredible achievement, Rose said. Not only do you have to be a great golfer, but you have to have a run of fitness. You need to have all areas of your life going for you for pretty much 20-plus years to achieve something like that.

Nicklaus was 35 when he won his 14th major title and it took him three years to get No. 15. Woods won No. 14 at age 32 and has not won in three years.

He won when he was 46, right? I still have some time, Woods said. On top of that were on the same pace, so I feel pretty confident of what my future holds and very excited about it. Im excited about coming out here and being ready to go instead of trying to kind of patch it, which Ive been for a while.

Either way, Woods is raising the level of expectations for when he returns. But then again, based on his past statistics, thats nothing new.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JRFingerCSN.

Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

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Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

BOX SCORE

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ken Tribbett scored his first career MLS goal in the 75th minute and the Union tied Orlando City 2-2 on Wednesday night.

Tranquillo Barnetta started the scoring in the 52nd minute on the Union's first shot on goal. Chris Pontius outjumped his defender to win a diagonal cross and headed it to the back post for an unmarked Barnetta.

Then the game opened up with three goals in a 7-minute span.

Kevin Molino tied it in the 68th -- one minute after entering as a substitute. Cyle Larin collided with two defenders and the goalkeeper while battling for a long ball and Molino knocked the loose ball into an empty net.

Three minutes later, Larin gave Orlando City a lead on a questionable goal. Kaka played a ball across goal, Larin chested it off the goalkeeper and the Union's Fabinho appeared to clear it off the line.

Tribbett evened it for the Union (5-3-4) when goalkeeper Joe Bendik dove to get a touch on a cross and Tribbett slotted home the rebound.

David Mateos was given a straight red card for Orlando (3-3-6) in the 93rd minute for a studs-up tackle just outside of the box. But Barnetta's free kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

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Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

The American Ninja Warrior television show is hosting a regional competition on May 26th and 27th at the Richmond Power Plant in Philadelphia.

A Comcast SportsNet camera crew was there on Wednesday to tape a segment for a show next week when they recognized a familiar face in the crowd.

Sixers big man Nerlens Noel was there supporting a friend practicing on the course. Noel also gave the wall a go and it proved no match for his length.

Contestants will compete on Thursday and Friday in Philly with a chance of qualifying for the finals to be held in Las Vegas.

If you think you've got what it takes, head on over and try to be a walk on talent. You probably won't do any better than Nerlens though.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”