Home of golf feels just like home to Woods

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2010, 10:05 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – During the first week of January, when Tiger Woods was in therapy and no one knew when he was coming back or how he would play, Jack Nicklaus looked at 2010 as a big year for Woods’ pursuit of major championships.

“If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard,” Nicklaus said at the start of the season.

It was more much about “where” than who, when or how.

Augusta National for the Masters. Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open. St. Andrews for the British Open. Woods has won half of his 14 majors on those courses, just as Nicklaus finished his career having won half of his record 18 majors on the same three.

Woods tied for fourth in the first two majors.

The Old Course at St. Andrews, however, is where Woods really feels at home.

He played his first British Open on these ageless links as a 19-year-old amateur and made the cut. He first won the career Grand Slam at St. Andrews in 2000 with a record score to par (19-under 269) for an eight-shot victory. He returned in 2005 to win by five shots and reaffirm his dominance in the game.

Such is his affection for the Old Course that Woods was asked last month which would be the ideal rotation for him to play the four majors. Without hesitation, Woods replied, “I’d probably pick St. Andrews all four times.”

The only question is what kind of game he brings to the home of golf.

In the majors, Woods looks like he is getting close. Having not competed for five months, Woods had a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday at the Masters and tied for fourth. Then at the U.S. Open, playing in the second-to-last group on Sunday, he made five bogeys on the opening 10 holes and tied for fourth.

But in every other tournament, Woods has looked like any other player.

There was that missed cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of Woods’ career. There was the neck injury that caused him to withdraw from The Players Championship. In the two other U.S. PGA Tour events where he played all four rounds, Woods finished a combined 26 shots out of the lead.

“Just call it one of those things,” Woods said. “Tried just the same in every one. For some reason, those two (majors) have been my best results.”

What to expect from him at St. Andrews?

“Yeah, it’s probably hard for me to answer,” Phil Mickelson said. “I probably have as good a guess as you do.”

The No. 1 world ranking, which has belonged to Woods over the last five years, will be up for grabs at St. Andrews between Woods and Mickelson, as it was at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson has never fared well in golf’s oldest championship, his only top-10 coming in 2004 when he finished one shot out of a playoff at Royal Troon. He thinks he’s close to solving it, saying that he put too much spin on the ball in recent years. If he has learned the secret to the links, this might be an opportunity to win more than one major in a year for the first time.

Otherwise, sorting out the favorites for this British Open is not that easy.

Woods made it predictable the last two times he played because he was on top of his game, driving it well enough to take the bunkers out of play, and putting with the precision required on double greens that could leave putts as long as a football field.

“If Tiger plays the way he did in 2000 and 2005, yes, he is” the man to beat, said Colin Montgomerie, the runner-up to Woods in 2005. “It depends on how he is to cope with the situation he finds himself in. But at the same time, he’s played two majors now since he came back to play, and he’s finished fourth in both of them.

“So it would be a tough guy to bet against him on a course that is entirely suited to his strength, which is putting.”

Americans have won five of the last six times at St. Andrews, with John Daly somewhat of a surprise in 1995. They don’t see a golf course like this anywhere in the world. Then again, neither does anyone else.

“People who don’t like it, don’t understand it,” Scott Verplank said. “But if you understand it, then it’s brilliant.”

No one is ready to rule out Woods, who will try to become the first player to capture the British Open three times at St. Andrews. And while he failed to break par in any round at his last event in the AT&T National – the first time that has happened in 11 years – he said he made progress simply by getting another tournament under his belt, and driving the ball better than he had all year.

“I can’t wait to get over there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting my lines, my feel, my numbers. I love playing the golf course, and we’ll see how the weather is. You never know.”

The forecast is for periods of rain throughout the week, meaning this could be a “green” British Open. There have been years, especially at St. Andrews, where it was so dry and brown that the fairways were running faster than the green.

The defending champion is Stewart Cink, one of the least celebrated Open champions in recent years not because of how he won, but because of whom he beat. Tom Watson, on the verge of becoming golf’s oldest major champion at age 59, missed an 8-foot par putt on the final hole at Turnberry and then never had a chance in the playoff against Cink.

Can he do it again? History is against him.

Watson is America’s greatest links champion, having won the claret jug five times, on five courses. Even so, the one Scottish links that Watson failed to win was St. Andrews. He came close in 1984, losing on the final holes to Seve Ballesteros.

The Spaniard, sadly, won’t be returning for one of the highlights of the week – the Champions Challenge, featuring past Open champions in a four-hole competition on Wednesday. Ballesteros, still recovering from a brain tumor, has been deemed not fit enough for travel, and perhaps for the emotional response he would surely have received.

After that, all eyes turn to Woods and his attempt to restore some normalcy to his game, and perhaps to make more history at St. Andrews. To some players, he is still the favorite.

“There’s no doubt,” Padraig Harrington said. “If Tiger hits form at all … he’s comfortably the favorite to win any of the majors, and St. Andrews sets up very well for him. He’s the No. 1 player at getting the ball to finish closest to where it lands out there, and St. Andrews requires that so much because of the firmness of the greens and how tight the pin positions will be. He’s well capable of winning without hitting his very best form.

“Is he about to hit that? I wouldn’t write him off, that’s for sure.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.