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Patriots don’t have a Trump problem 01.24.17 at 9:00 am ET
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Susan Pease of Lincoln may not have watched the Patriots defeat the Steelers in the AFC championship game, but it doesn’t appear as if many others joined her boycott. The contest received a household rating of 51.6, making it the second-highest non-Super Bowl performance in team history. Just imagine what the number would’ve been if it was a competitive game instead of a 19-point blowout.

Two weeks ago, SB Nation published a piece about how the Patriots have a Trump problem. The premise, which is supported by one on-the-record interview with Pease, is that the team’s affiliation with the divisive president is causing fans to tune out. But the ratings tell a much different story.

Throughout the season, the Patriots have consistently drawn massive numbers on television. Their affair against the Broncos Dec. 18 was the highest-rated broadcast of the regular season on CBS and the divisional round matchup against the Texans garnered a monstrous 42.2 rating in Boston.

Even more impressively, the market share for the AFC championship game was a whopping 73. That means 73 percent of TV watchers in Boston were tuned into the matchup.

Amazingly, this ratings triumph came on the heels of Trump’s inauguration, which was heavily Patriots-themed. Owner Robert Kraft was in attendance and even photographed at a swanky dinner with Kellyanne Conway, perhaps the President’s most visible surrogate. On Thursday, Trump gave Kraft a shoutout at an event, saying Tom Brady had called him recently.

On Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady said he speaks with Trump from time-to-time. On the night before the election, at a stump speech in New Hampshire, Trump said Brady had voted for him and also read an endorsement letter from Bill Belichick. Though Belichick admitted to writing the letter, Brady hasn’t revealed who he supported.

The Patriots and Trump will forever be tied together, but the ratings show that the vast majority of fans in liberal Massachusetts are able to separate football from politics. When Super Bowl 51 begins in two weeks, Trump will probably be the furthest thing from most people’s minds –– at least for a couple of hours.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots,
Tom Brady is a fool to wonder why his friendship with Donald Trump is a big deal 01.23.17 at 1:34 pm ET
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Tom Brady doesn't understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand the Donald Trump questions. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t understand why people care about his friendship with Donald Trump. He must’ve been born yesterday.

In his weekly appearance on Kirk & Callahan Monday, Brady shed further detail on how often he communicates with the President. Last week, Trump said Brady called him before the inauguration.

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

In the past, Brady has shied away from talking about Trump. But that wasn’t the case Monday. Just when the conversation was heading in a different direction, he brought up the subject again.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”

While Brady didn’t formally endorsed Trump –– he declined to tell K&C who he voted for –– he aligned himself with him throughout the entirety of the campaign. In September 2015, after a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he said it “would be great” if Trump were in the Oval Office. At that point, Trump had already derided some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and spent years propagating a racist birther conspiracy theory meant to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency. Brady later claimed to be unaware of the political issues at play, but ignorance isn’t an excuse.

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Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
A review of what Boston sports stars have said about Donald Trump 01.20.17 at 4:21 pm ET
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The Patriots and Donald Trump appear to be tied at the hip, with the President mentioning them at almost every turn. The latest string of shoutouts came at a pre-inauguration dinner last night, when Trump pointed out owner Robert Kraft in attendance. He then proceeded to talk about a congratulatory phone call he received from Tom Brady, and referenced Bill Belichick as well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said.

Communication between Trump and the Patriots has gone both ways. Brady talked about his friendship with the former real estate mogul on a variety of occasions and Belichick penned him an endorsement letter, which he read aloud in New Hampshire the night before the election. Kraft may be the closest to Trump of all: He called him a “very close friend” before the Massachusetts primary and has made the rounds in Washington D.C. this week.

In addition to Brady, Belichick and Kraft, several other Boston sports figures have commented on Trump as well. Some of the statements were made in passing, while others were thoughtful commentaries on his rhetoric and proposed policies. All of them garnered headlines:

Most regretful Trump statement:

Tom Brady (Sept. 16, 2015): “I hope [Trump can win]. That would be great. There’d be a putting green on the White House lawn, I’m sure of that.”

This is the comment that started it all. After a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he was asked whether he wants Trump to become president. Once Brady said yes, the floodgates opened. For the last year-and-a-half, Brady has periodically been asked about Trump whenever the president makes an especially inflammatory statement. Each time, he’s sidestepped the question or reaffirmed their friendship. Most infamously, Brady walked off the podium when he was asked about the leaked Access Hollywood video in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women. (On Friday, said he wanted to talk about football when Trump’s name was mentioned.)

Though Trump says Brady voted for him, that hasn’t been confirmed. Brady declined to tell Kirk & Callahan who he supported, and told the media that his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, no longer wants him talking politics.

Unfortunately for Brady, that probably won’t be possible. He’s now tied to Trump, thanks to his explanation for that stupid red hat.

Stupidest Trump endorsement:

Clay Buchholz (Feb. 17, 2016): Said he’s supporting Trump, because Trump introduced him to his wife. From the Boston Globe:

“It was 2008 in Anaheim,” Buchholz recalled. “€œIt was ‘€˜Affliction: Banned’€™ fighting, and [Trump] owned the whole circuit. My wife knew him prior, from ‘€˜Deal or No Deal’€™ when he came on the show as a celebrity banker.

“She was helping him host this event in Anaheim. So when we all walked in, he was there, and he saw us and he introduced Lindsey to me.”

Asked if he supported Trump for president, Buchholz gave an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!”

This quote from Buchholz exemplifies why some people are better off staying home on Election Day. Trump may be a great matchmaker, but it’s difficult to see how that correlates to getting the job done in the Oval Office.

Wisest Trump endorsement:

Robert Kraft (Jan. 19, 2017)“Loyalty is important to me, and [Trump] has been a wonderful friend. I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.” –– New York Times

Kraft didn’t officially endorse Trump during the campaign, but it’s apparent he voted for his longtime friend. In November, he even paid Trump a visit at his Manhattan tower.

As a billionaire free market capitalist, it’s not surprising to see Kraft endorse Trump’s economic platform of gutting regulations and lowering the corporate tax rate. You may not agree with the trickle-down theory, but at least there’s a debate to be had. You can follow Kraft’s reasoning, which you can’t for, say, Buchholz.

Most succinct Trump comment:

Isaiah Thomas (Nov. 8, 2016):

It’s hard to be more clear than that. The brevity is admirable.

Most thoughtful Trump comment:

David Ortiz (Sept. 6, 2016):  Ortiz opened up about Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric:

“When you speak like that about us, it’s a slap in the face,” Ortiz said. “I walk around sometimes, and I see Mexican people trying to earn a living in an honest way. And to hear somebody make those kinds of comments, it hits you. I think as Latin people we deserve better. Things have gotten much better in that regard. … As Latin people we deserve respect, no matter where you’re from. And especially our Mexican brothers, who come here willing to do all the dirty work.

“Latin people here in the United States are the spark plug of the country’s economy. Whoever opposes that is going to lose. And not just Latin people but immigrants. I’m talking about people who come from Africa, from Asia, other places. All those people come here with one goal, to realize the American dream, and you have to include them in our group.”

Oddly enough, Ortiz’s name was invoked in the confirmation hearing for Trump attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, referenced Ortiz when he asked Sessions about a speech he made in 2006, in which he said “almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society.”

Read More: Donald Trump,
Troll Bart Hubbuch compares Donald Trump’s inauguration to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 at 12:40 pm ET
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Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 11.27.41 AM

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Bart Hubbuch deleted the tweet and apologized for comparing Trump’s inauguration to 9/11, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

(Previously): Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post is the worst kind of troll. He’s a dishonest bomb-tosser who deletes tweets and hides whenever he’s called out on his idiocy. With that history in mind, his stupefying tweet that compares Donald Trump’s inauguration to Pearl Harbor and September 11 might not be up for long. But even if he deletes it, he can’t run away. Thanks to the magic of screenshots, it will live on forever.

There’s been a lot of anxiety and fear about Trump’s presidency, but putting his inauguration on the level of the attacks at Pearl Habor and on September 11, which combined to killed nearly 6,000 Americans, is gross and offensive. Hubbuch may say he’s being hyperbolic, but he lost the right to play that card when he tweeted out an edited video of Kirk Minihane joking about Patriots fans murdering Roger Goodell at the height of the Deflategate saga.

In Hubbuch’s world, hyperbole and sarcasm apparently don’t exist. His words here should be read literally, and they’re disgraceful.

Read More: Bart Hubbuch, Donald Trump,
Over next four years, Patriots won’t be able to hide from Donald Trump at 11:37 am ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick didn’t react well when they were asked questions about Donald Trump this season. But over the next four years, they should get used to it. One of the most divisive presidents ever is tied to the Patriots. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask some of his most high-profile backers to answer for him.

On the eve of his inauguration, Trump name-dropped both Brady and Belichick in front of a room full of supporters –– including Robert Kraft. He credited Belichick for teaching him a great work ethic, and let everybody know Brady called to wish him well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said while appearing to point at Kraft.

Brady probably didn’t think he was making a political statement when he placed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker a year-and-a-half ago. As he said several times throughout the campaign, he’s “good friends” with Trump. It’s perfectly normal for good friends to support each other.

But that doesn’t mean he was forced to stick with Trump at every turn. Even Vice President Mike Pence condemned Trump’s remarks about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women. Brady, meanwhile, walked out of his press conference when he was asked about the Access Hollywood tape.

Patriots beat writers are obligated to cover more than the games on the field. They write about issues surrounding the team, spanning from a nearly 18-month scandal involving deflated footballs to a murderous former tight end. If Trump sends out a tweet calling for flag-burners to get their citizenship revoked or reintroduces his proposed Muslim ban, Brady should get asked about it. As one of Trump’s “good friends,” his perspective is pertinent.

The same applies to Belichick, who wrote Trump a fawning endorsement letter before the election. It doesn’t matter if Belichick never intended for the note to be public. He said he hopes Trump can “Make America Great Again.” So if Trump signs legislation that leads to the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including mothers and fathers, it would be interesting to see if that’s the kind of greatness Belichick has in mind.

Brady and Belichick, of course, are under no obligation to answer any of these questions. On Friday, Belichick wouldn’t even bite when he was asked about his reaction when he heard about Trump’s shoutout. But if they didn’t want to be tied to Trump, they shouldn’t have expressed their support. They’re accountable for their words.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kraft, who’s been spotted around the capital this week, went all-in on Trump.

“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” he said. “I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”

Kraft doesn’t appear to have a problem touting Trump’s economic proposals, which include starting a costly trade war with China, so he should be asked about them after they’re enacted. As a titan of industry himself, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

Trump’s behavior during the transition wasn’t any less inflammatory than it was during the campaign. With that in mind, it’s fair to assume he’ll act similarly once he assumes the Oval Office. That means on many days over the next four years, Trump’s rhetoric or actions will be the No. 1 story in the country. Brady, Belichick and Kraft have aligned themselves with him. They’re forever part of the story, whether they like it or not.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
After pathetic season, Woody Johnson will leave Jets to serve as ambassador to United Kingdom 01.19.17 at 3:12 pm ET
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After a pathetic showing this season, Jets owner Woody Johnson is ditching his team to live in the United Kingdom. According to CNBC, he’s been called to serve as Donald Trump’s ambassador to the U.K. The jokes write themselves:

Johnson, 69, is a longtime Republican donor and served as the vice chairman of Trump’s victory committee. Ironically, he first supported Trump nemesis Jeb Bush in the GOP primary, but quickly shifted his allegiance after the former governor dropped out.

Earlier this month, Pro Football Talk reported Johnson would hand over day-to-day control of the Jets to his younger brother, Christopher Wold Johnson, if he were to be awarded an ambassadorship.

Like many of Trump’s appointments, Johnson has never previously held a job in government. But it’s not surprising he’s been named an ambassador. It’s political tradition to reward big-money donors with cushy overseas posts. Steelers owner Dan Rooney, for example, served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012.

When Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited Trump Tower in November, there was some speculation he was lobbying to be named ambassador to Israel (the job went to bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman). Though Kraft wasn’t a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, he did call the President-elect a “good friend” before the Massachusetts primary. On Tuesday, Kraft was photographed with senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway at a pre-inauguration dinner.

Given the NFL’s interest in relocating a team to the United Kingdom and Kraft’s role on several league boards, it’s possible he could work closely with Johnson on international expansion over the next several years.

But in order for Johnson to help the NFL make further inroads in the U.K., he’ll have to be a better ambassador than owner. Since he purchased the Jets in 2000, they’ve gone 132-140 and cycled through five different head coaches.

Read More: Donald Trump, Woody Johnson,
Donald Trump’s advisors want him to dance with Caitlyn Jenner at inauguration at 1:35 pm ET
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Donald Trump filled his cabinet with staunch opponents of gay rights, but his advisors think a dance with Caitlyn Jenner at the inauguration will appease the anxious LGBTQ community.

According to the New York Post, people close to the President-elect are urging him to sway his hips with Jenner Friday.

“The image of Trump dancing with Caitlyn would send a strong message that he supports gay rights and trans rights,” one unnamed Republican said. “A picture is worth a thousand tweets.”

A representative for Jenner told PEOPLE Magazine the gold medalist will attend the inauguration, but currently isn’t planning to share the dance floor with Trump.

Jenner is a longtime Republican and reportedly lobbied her stepdaughter, Kim Kardashian, to considering voting for Trump last year. Trump expressed support for transgender rights on the campaign trail, when he told NBC’s Matt Lauer that Jenner would be free to use any bathroom she wants if she were to visit Trump Tower. The following week, Jenner took him up on his offer.

Though Trump never spoke ill of the LGBTQ community during his presidential campaign –– he said he would protect its members from “violence and oppression” during his Republican National Convention speech –– many of his cabinet choices have histories of advocating for anti-LGBTQ policies. Perhaps the most egregious offender is Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who signed a religious freedom law when he was governor of Indiana that critics say would’ve permitted businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians (he signed an amended version of the bill after facing immense national backlash). In addition to that, Pence is a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage and once appeared to express support for gay conversion therapy.

When it comes to domestic policy, Trump’s personal views are largely irrelevant. The people he’s put in charge will shape what the country looks like over the next four to eight years, and it’s a scary visual for many members of the LGBTQ community. It’s insulting for Trump’s advisors to think one dance with Jenner will ease those well-founded nerves.

Read More: Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump,
Robert Kraft photographed at Donald Trump pre-inauguration dinner party 01.18.17 at 1:42 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are both tied to Donald Trump, but somehow Robert Kraft gets to skate, even though he appears to be closer with the President-Elect than either his coach or quarterback.

Trump made the rounds at a pre-inauguration dinner in Washington D.C. Tuesday, mingling with a plethora of diplomats, politicians and donors. The Daily Mail posted photographs from the event, one of which featured Kraft arm-in-arm with senior Trump propagandist, Kellyanne Conway (pictured above). Billionaire real-estate developer Richard LeFrak, who Trump asked recently to lead a new infrastructure council, was also in the shot.

It’s not surprising that Kraft is celebrating Trump’s victory. He called the former reality television a star a “good friend” ahead of the Massachusetts primary last year and was seen at Trump Tower in November. When I reached out to Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks to ask about the meeting, she said it was a “congratulatory visit.”

While Brady and Belichick have tried to distance themselves from Trump since the election, expect Kraft to only get cozier with the President-Elect. If the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl, perhaps Trump will be seated in Kraft’s box. He’s been there before, and in fact, even once paid a visit to the Patriots’ locker room after a victory in 2012.

The New England Patriots are the official football team of Donald Trump. There’s no debate about that.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft,
SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder goes unchallenged in ESPN Radio interview 01.16.17 at 10:31 am ET
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SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder turned down an interview with Kirk & Callahan last week, but she did pay a visit to the cozy confines of ESPN Radio following her controversial article about Patriots fans having a problem with the team’s affiliation with President-Elect Donald Trump.

In an appearance Sunday on The Morning RoastWilder reiterated her claim that the team is experiencing a significant amount of Trump-related backlash. “I heard from people who were like, ‘Man, I can’t believe they like this guy –– they like Trump. I hate Trump.’ And sort of up in arms,” she said. “But the majority of people I talked to or that I saw leave comments on Brady’s Facebook page –– there were thousands, hundreds –– the people that struck me the most, somebody put it really eloquently and I quote him in my story, he was like, ‘Look, I don’t care what they do off the field. I don’t care who they vote for.’ … But there’s this deep hypocrisy to some fans who think, ‘Here’s Belichick, who’s famously gruff with the media, who says, ‘We’re onto Cincinnati. We’re onto Cincinnati. We’re onto Cincinnati.’” And then, they felt that when it was beneficial for him, or when he felt like he didn’t have to follow his own rules, where the rules have been the media policy and the no distractions and the ‘do your job’ has been something that fans have really bought into. They feel sort of betrayed. It’s like, ‘Wait, you’re not following the one thing that we thought we all agreed on was our thing.’”

Hosts Domonique Foxworth, Clinton Yates and Mina Kimes didn’t challenge Wilder’s conclusion, despite the fact she only quotes one fan, Susan Pease of Lincolin, who says Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s friendships with Trump propelled her to stop watching. Wilder declined my request to be interviewed for this piece.

Later in the conversation, Wilder says many Patriots fans are experiencing an existential crisis in the wake of Trump’s victory. “Some people have stopped watching. As I said in the piece, the majority of people aren’t going to stop watching or stops supporting. But what I was focusing on are the people who are having issues with this, not the people who aren’t,” she said. “If you don’t care about this, great. I’m glad there’s a way some people are able to compartmentalize. But I think when you have an identity –– being a fan is so much about identity –– and your identity is tied into that of your team. And then when you team gets tied up into an identity that fundamentally breaks from yours, then it’s this real kind of moment of crises where you’re like, “Wait, where are the venn diagrams here? Where can I separate myself, how can I compartmentalize this?” And it might seem silly, because it’s sports, but it’s not silly, because sports are kind of everything.”

It seems as if most Patriots fans were able to put their supposed mental distress aside and watch Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans. The contest drew a monstrous 42.2 rating in Boston.

Read More: Donald Trump, ESPN, New England Patriots,
Friday’s Morning Mashup: Tiger Woods went golfing with Donald Trump; Cowboys DE Randy Gregory suspended for violation of NFL substance abuse policy 01.06.17 at 10:40 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Philadelphia at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (CSN)
NBA: New York at Milwaukee, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Memphis at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Carolina at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
College hockey: UMass-Lowell at UNH, 6 p.m. (NESN)
College hockey: Michigan Tech at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Western Michigan at Akron, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Iona at Monmouth, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: URI at Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Kent State at Ohio, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Oakland at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

— In a blog post published on his website Thursday, Tiger Woods revealed he played a round of golf with President-elect Donald Trump over the holidays.

“I recently played with President-elect Donald Trump,” Woods wrote. “What most impressed me was how far he hits the ball at 70 years old. He takes a pretty good lash.”

Woods said the two talked while on the course but did not go into detail about the topics of conversation. He also mentioned there was no competition involved.

“Our discussion topics were wide-ranging; it was fun. We both enjoyed the bantering, bickering and needling. I also shared my vision for golf and what I’m trying to do,” Woods wrote. “We didn’t have a match and played for fun. I was testing drivers and fairway woods, and changed some settings. I think he enjoyed seeing the difference in shots when you experiment. I’ve now had the privilege of playing golf with Mr. Trump, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and I appreciate the opportunity.”

Woods also discussed his upcoming schedule and his ideology going into this new year:

“I am working hard to sharpen my game for 2017, and my goal is simple: to win. Winning takes care of itself.”

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Read More: Donald Trump, Randy Gregory, Tiger Woods,