Tigers Presence Looms Large on PGA TOUR

By Associated PressJanuary 23, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO -- Two people turned into six, which soon turned into a dozen, all of them standing behind the first tee Tuesday on the North Course at Torrey Pines as darkness gave way to dawn.
 
And they weren't there to watch Bubba Watson.
 
Even big-hitting Bubba was waiting on Tiger Woods to show up for the first time at a PGA TOUR event in nearly four months. He eventually gave up, blasted his pink-shafted driver out of sight and played alone until Woods caught up to him on the back nine.
 
The 2007 season enters its fourth week at the Buick Invitational, but in some respects, it feels like opening day because of the enormous interest Woods brings to golf.
 
Despite sitting out the first three tournaments this year, Woods still worked his way into just about every conversation.
 
Vijay Singh won the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship for his 30th title on the PGA TOUR, and some people wondered if he was ready to make another bid for No. 1 in the world ranking, a position he took away from Woods a few years ago.
 
Adam Scott, Charles Howell III, Justin Rose and Lucas Glover -- all of them in their 20s -- played in final group at the first three tournaments and watched someone walk off with the trophy. That only raised more questions about which young player might be capable of stepping up to challenge Woods, and Charley Hoffman winning the Bob Hope Classic didn't count.
 
'I just turned 30,' he said.
 
Woods begins his 11th full season on the PGA TOUR, and his impact has been well-documented. His television appeal has helped the PGA TOUR negotiate contracts that have sent prize money soaring, from $70 million the year before he showed up to $270 million this year. TV ratings spike whenever he plays, especially when he contends.
 
But a question came up late last year from a golf fan who is a member at Riviera Country Club, which sounded foolish at first but intrigued some of Woods' peers.
 
Has Tiger helped or hurt golf?
 
'You mean money corrupting people into not setting goals high and being satisfied?' Luke Donald said. 'In five years, it might take $1.5 million to keep your card. I don't know if that's a bad thing or not. I don't think you can ever blame Tiger for making the game worse. But it is an interesting question.'
 
One side of the ledger shows dollar signs, and not many will argue that Woods isn't responsible for golfers' income at least getting in the same ballpark as other sports. Curtis Strange in 1988 was the first golfer to break the $1 million mark; last year, a record 93 players earned at least $1 million. Interest in golf is up because Woods is the most famous athlete in the world. Arnold Palmer brought golf to the masses. Woods made it cool.
 
The other side of the ledger shows greater disparity than ever between PGA TOUR events -- those with Woods and those without. The International hasn't had Woods since 1999, and its future is uncertain. Tournament founder Jack Vickers is complaining about his spot on the calendar, but all he really cares about is getting Woods.
 
And there are questions about the competition. If stardom was supposed to inspire the best young athletes to take up golf, where are they? Geoff Ogilvy and Ben Curtis are the only players under 30 who have won a major. Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia remain prospects, but not much more than that.
 
'Everyone is trying to get to that level, and I don't know if that has ruined players or made them better,' David Toms said. 'It could be harder for them to win tournaments because he wins so many. Do they change their game early on to play like he does? I think it's ruined some players who try to get extra distance when they would be better off playing within themselves.'
 
Golf always has been a niche sport, and suddenly it had the hottest property in sports. Did the PGA TOUR try to draft off Woods' popularity and have an inflated opinion of its value? Remember, it was in 2000 when commissioner Tim Finchem said the golf should aspire to have the top fan base in sports, surpassing the NFL by the year 2020. Six years later, reality set in and he shortened the regular season to avoid competition with football.
 
And without Woods, would there be a FedExCup?
 
'It might have happened sooner,' Toms said. 'It might have happened five years ago if it hadn't been for Tiger Woods. As a general question, he's been good for golf. I'm glad he's around.'
 
Paul Azinger couldn't agree more.
 
He pondered the question for a few minutes Tuesday morning before considering where golf would be without him.
 
'You can only say he's helped,' Azinger said. 'In an oversaturated market, without him you have next to nothing. Let's see Tiger Woods leave the game, and let's see how good the game does then.'
 
The PGA TOUR has him for the first time in nearly four months, dating to his eight-shot victory at the American Express Championship just north of London. Woods has played in Asia, at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf exhibition in Hawaii, and his own Target World Challenge to wrap up the silly season.
 
And while he was runner-up twice in Asia, Woods has a streak alive on the PGA TOUR. He will be going for his seventh straight tour victory at the Buick Invitational, where he is the two-time defending champion and has never finished out of the top 10.
 
The field at Torrey Pines is not as deep as it has been in recent years. Only three of the top 10 in the world are on this public course along the Pacific Ocean, because Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey are at the Qatar Masters.
 
That didn't keep fans from showing up at dawn Tuesday. And no one had to ask why they were there.
 
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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