Golf Tidbits: Playing through distractions

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The game of golf has plenty of natural distractions to divert players' attention. You name it -- wind, rain, heat, cold -- there are plenty of elements players deal with on a round-to-round basis.

Those nuisances pale in comparison to the battle some players are battling off the course. Everyone knows what Tiger Woods has been dealing with, and though it's a sordid situation he brought on himself, there are two other high-profile players - Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els - who have coped with turbulent times of a different nature and can serve as role models for Tiger in his return to golf.

Last summer, Mickelson disclosed that not only his wife, but also his mother, was battling cancer. And those battles continue for both.

Els announced two years ago that his son, Ben, was autistic.

The two have continued to compete on a regular basis on the PGA Tour, and occasionally around the world, despite what they have going on at home.

Mickelson won the season-ending Tour Championship some four months after the diagnosis of cancer to his wife, Amy. He headed to China five weeks later and won the WGC-HSBC Champions event by a single stroke, over Els.

Prior to winning two weeks ago, Els hadn't won anywhere in the world since claiming the PGA Tour's Honda Classic title in 2008. It was after that victory that Els announced that Ben was autistic. Earlier this month, Els won the WGC- CA Championship, breaking the longest victory-drought of his career.

But how the two have performed isn't the only thing Woods can take from both men. The players have worn their domestic situations on their sleeves, and have come out the better for it.

Mickelson has added a pink ribbon logo to his golf bag and his on-course attire. Els did something similar, placing an autism logo on his golf bag, and went a step further by creating Els for Autism in the Spring of 2009. The goal of the foundation is to help fund an Autism Center of Excellence, a model for the world of dealing with the challenges of Autism.

I am in no way trying to equate Woods' marriage infidelity and subsequent trip to rehab with terrible, unavoidable family situations that Mickelson and Els in no way brought on themselves.

But it is indisputable that all three players are dealing with turbulent situations, however they came about, and it might be prudent for Woods to seek out players like Els and Mickelson to discern how they can channel their energy on the course into their golf games and block out the situations they deal with at home.

For both Els and Mickelson, part of their coping is to talk about their situations and give positive reports of what is happening at home. That is not Woods' style, to say the least, and of course Woods won't engender any of the sympathy that the other players do.

However, if Woods could free himself by publicly discussing the health of his marriage and how his rehab is going, it could both humanize him in the eyes of the public, as well as free his mind as it relates to his golf.

Knowing what we know about Tiger, it seems that he is more comfortable keeping everything to himself, but maybe he bombs out his first few tournaments back and takes a different approach. I doubt that will happen, but it is one way he could move forward. Or he could bottle all that up, and continue to dominate the game as he has over the past decade.

Either way, Woods has plenty of fellow golfers that can advise him on separating his golf game from his other issues.


Paula Creamer may already have eight LPGA Tour wins, but we know this about her - she has trouble staying healthy.

She has battled an assortment of issues over the past couple of years. At the end of the 2008 season, she caught a stomach bug playing at an event in Mexico and it bothered her well into the 2009 season as doctors failed to properly diagnose the issue.

The 23-year-old has had wrist problems in the past and is now battling a problem with her left thumb. She first injured the thumb last June at the Wegmans LPGA.

In February, she traveled overseas for the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand, but withdrew after one round because she aggravated the thumb injury.

Two months later, nothing has changed. Creamer is missing this week's event and has already withdrawn from the season's first major next week, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Creamer was interviewed on the Golf Channel earlier this week at the Tavistock Cup and said she is trying to do everything possible to avoid surgery. She has seen several specialists, but none have been able to come up with a solid prognosis.


- Tiger Woods has made a live, televised press statement and did a pair of television interviews last weekend. However, he has yet to face an entire press room full of reporters. That will happen April 5, the Monday of Masters week. That event will be very interesting to say the least.

- Kudos to Jim Furyk for his win last weekend at the Transitions Championship. Good to see him snap a winless drought that began after his win at the 2007 Canadian Open.

- Hard to believe that it was more than five years ago that Vijay Singh overtook Tiger Woods for the top spot in the world rankings. Singh, who has battled back problems for years, has tumbled to No. 34 in the world and now will miss his second straight event this week due to back pain. The question now is will he be ready for the Masters in two weeks? Singh won his first major title there is 2000.

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