Happy Return for Monty Not Tiger

By Associated PressJune 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Open gave Tiger Woods a rude welcome back Thursday.
 
For Colin Montgomerie, it was a surprisingly happy return.
 
Playing for the first time since his father died, Woods ended a nine-week layoff with bogeys on his first three holes that sent him to his highest start ever in the U.S. Open. He had to play the final six holes 1 under par to escape with a 6-over 76, leaving him seven shots behind Montgomerie in the toughest first round of this major in 20 years.
 
Woods looked somber at times, although that was more likely a product of Winged Foot that memories of his father.
 
Scorecard: Tiger already finished with Rd. 2
 
Everyone was looking for me to be more emotional, he said. But Im trying to put the ball in the hole and win the championship.
 
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie is in position to contend for an elusive first major.
No one did that better than Monty. A perennial contender at the U.S. Open in his prime, Montgomerie overcame a rugged start by relying on his strength'fairways and greens'and his 1-under 69 was the only round under par.
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson got off to a solid start in his bid for a third straight major, making a pair of 30-foot birdie putts and a bunch of short ones for par that proved equally important. He wound up at even-par 70, along with Jim Furyk, David Howell, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker.
 
Howell managed to make six birdies and was 4 under par with four holes to play. But he started missing fairways, which inevitably left him testy putts for par, and dropped four shots down the stretch, three-putting for double bogey on the 18th.
 
Once I calm down a bit, its still level par and its a good round of golf, Howell said. But right now Im frustrated, and Im fed up.
 
Mickelson didnt even bother trying to explain the degree of difficulty at Winged Foot, where 22 players shot in the 80s. The average score was pushing 80, the highest in the first round of a U.S. Open since Shinnecock Hills in 1986.
 
Youve had to go play it to grasp it, Lefty said. Its the toughest test we have all year.
 
It surely was a test of patience, including for Montgomerie.
 
He was 2 over after his first three holes, then holed a 10-foot par putt on the par-5 fifth that turned his fortunes. He started finding the short grass and kept his ball below the hole, and finished atop the leaderboard in the U.S. Open for the first time since 1997 at Congressional. Still, the 42-year-old Scot kept it in perspective.
 
My God, weve only walked seven miles, Montgomerie said. Theres a long way to go.
 
It felt like a marathon, players plodding along as they looked for relief from a course that demanded accuracy off the tee, precision to the greens and no time to breathe easy until the ball was in the hole.
 
Vijay Singh, coming off his first victory of the season last week at Westchester, had a steady round of 71 to join former Masters champion Mike Weir, John Cook and Fred Funk, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Wednesday.
 
Mickelson was wild at the start of his round in the morning, under cool, overcast skies. He missed six consecutive greens, but left himself in decent shape to save par and did that five straight times. Then came a 30-foot birdie on his ninth hole, No. 18, which showed how much his preparation paid off.
 
He started the ball well to the right, and watched the severe slope guide it back toward the hole until it disappeared, setting off a raucous cheer from the New York fans who again made the Californian feel at home.
 
I had hit that putt a bunch in practice, and the first couple times I stroked it, I missed it 2 feet left or low and 3 or 4 feet short, Mickelson said. I ended up playing about 8 or 10 feet of break and it swung right in there.
 
That was one of the few thrills on this day at Winged Foot.
 
Ernie Els saved a pedestrian round of 4-over by holing out from the ninth fairway for eagle and a 74. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen didnt fare as well, failing to make a single birdie in his round of 77.
 
It was a stern test, but there were few complaints that it was unfair.
 
Furyk was so close to the lip of a bunker on No. 3 that he used his putter to get out to the middle of the sand, and he was all too glad to make bogey. The 03 U.S. Open champion is playing well this year and has been mentioned as one of the favorites.
 
It looks good, suits my eye, he said of Winged Foot. But thats a small part of the battle. The other part is hitting the shots and executing, which is difficult to do out here.
 
Par had not been so hard to beat in the first round since 86 at Shinnecock. No one did it then.
 
You just try to play for par here, whether its Thursday or Sunday, Mickelson said. Even is a good score.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had trouble with the greens at the start of his first round.
Woods gladly would have settled for anything near that.
 
He last was seen inside the ropes on Sunday at the Masters, where a balky putter kept him from making a charge, and he had to settle for a tie for third. More than two months later, not much changed.
 
Woods hit only three fairways but was hurt more by missing par putts of 8 feet, 7 feet and 6 feet on his opening holes. He said the greens were slower than he expected for a U.S. Open and he failed to adjust.
 
The first three holes ... I cost myself three shots, Woods said. Just got off to a bad start. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was going to be hard to make up shots. And I didnt. I lost ground.
 
Woods hit one tee shot so far to the right at No. 9 that he chose to play a sweeping hook with a 9-iron from 195 yards around the trees, over a corporate tent and into the grandstand to the right of the greens, which allowed him a free drop. Everything worked perfectly until he flew his chip over the green, flubbed the next one and had to make a 6-footer to save bogey.
 
The biggest damage came at the 640-yard 12th, when his approach went into a bunker and he flew that over the green, making double bogey. But he was solid the rest of the way, and while history is hardly on his side, he wasnt ruling himself out quite yet.
 
Woods has won only one of his 10 majors when he shoots over par in the first round, opening with a 74 at the Masters last year.
 
Ive just got to plod along; shoot under par the next two days, Ill be right there, he said.
 
Considering there was only one round under par Thursday, that might be a tall order. Woods was told that only Ben Hogan in 1951 at Oakland Hills and Jack Fleck in 1955 at Olympic Club had started with a 76 and gone on to win the Open. That brought a rare smile.
 
Its been done before, hasnt it? he said.
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry