A close friend of Tiger Woods has dished the dirt, while there's much better news in the women's game. Alex Perry rounds up the week's talking points in The Slam

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the first edition of The Slam of 2022. I trust you all had a marvellous festive period and, unlike this writer, managed to avoid the dreaded Covid. Thank you science for those jabs. (Please don’t email me.) Anyway, you’re here for Tiger Woods, aren’t you? We’ll get there, but first…

Whan bam!

One of former LPGA commissioner Mike Whan’s first acts as the new USGA CEO was to double the prize fund for the US Women’s Open.

In 2021, the world’s best competed for a share of $5.5 million, but thanks to a new sponsorship deal with health organisation ProMedica the 2022 purse will be $10 million, rising to £12 million over the next five years.

For context, the men’s purse last year was $12.5 million.

The USGA also announced an incredible roll call of golf courses for the next decade, starting this year at Pine Needles, then Pebble Beach, Lancaster, Erin Hills, Riviera, Inverness, Oakmont, Pinehurst, Interlachen, Oakland Hills, and Merion. OK, stop drooling.

Mollie Marcoux Samaan, Whan’s successor at the LPGA, said: “He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest advocates for women’s golf, and really for women’s sports.”

Damn straight. The women’s game is in excellent hands – and it’s about time.

You do the maths

This absolutely cracked me up this week:

How many people must something like that go through before it’s committed to screen in front of millions of people? Incredible.

Not out of the Woods

Right, Tiger Woods. To catch you up, he had a car accident, then told us he would be massively cutting down on his PGA Tour schedule going forward, then played in the PNC Championship with his son, Charlie, and, well, you see where this is going.

What is still open to speculation, though, is when he’ll tee up again. He rode in a cart at the year-end hit-and-giggle so his traditional early-year starts at Torrey Pines and Riviera are out of the question, and you have to say the Players – in the second week of March – will also come too soon.

Then it’s The Masters. Can you really see Woods not heading down Magnolia Lane if he thinks he’s fit enough? Or at St Andrews for the 150th Open Championship, for that matter? I don’t need to sit on the fence. He will absolutely play in those two events if he’s confident he can get round unaided. He won the US Open on one leg, for crying out loud!

But one man in Woods’ inner circle, 11-time PGA Tour champion and Golf Channel pundit John Cook, says it won’t happen this year.

“He was pretty open and honest,” Cook said. “He said he was exhausted [after the PNC], he saw enough good stuff with his short clubs and his feel, but the long irons were falling out of the sky – that was just from some mishits. But he said, ‘I’ll get that.’

“I don’t see it in the next 12 months. I don’t think his body will be physically ready. He can’t train the way he’s going to want to train.

“He’s never been a ‘show up’ guy if his game isn’t ready for prime time.”

I think I speak for the entire golf world when I say: I hope you’re wrong, John.

Cook, however, does see a return to full-time action in Woods’ future, “otherwise he wouldn’t be testing a ball, shaping shots on the practice tee, working on a new driver that he likes”.

“There’s a motive to that,” he added.

So who won this week?

The PGA Tour returned to action with the traditional year-opener at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii – and scoring was lower than the crowd at a Radiohead gig.

So low, in fact, that winner Cam Smith broke the PGA Tour record…

I feel like that tweet should have an asterisk, given they played preferred lies for three of the four days.

Anyway, let’s take nothing away from Cam, who now has three PGA Tour titles in his cabinet. Here’s the full leaderboard.

The Hawaii swing is also a time to admire shots like this from Bryson DeChambeau:

Also, and it took far too long for it to click and generally means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but how much better does he look in a standard baseball cap?

And finally…

Just because it’s one of my favourite actors and my favourite golfer, here’s Johnny C and Jordan Spieth riffing about talking to your golf ball…

Right, that’s enough from me for another week. You can follow me on Twitter, if that’s your kind of thing, otherwise play well and stay warm.

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