The Golf Stars Are Aligning
Davis Love III birdies six of eight holes during a victorious stretch of the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It is a statement. And it says, 'Remember me?'
Some had forgotten. And part of that was Love's fault. He hadn't won in two years. He will turn 40 next year. But he remains in the top 10 of the world rankings. And the 4-iron he punched into the par-5 18th green on Sunday served as a reminder.
Nobody has forgotten Tiger Woods. But the massive media machine that always manages to crank up whenever he enters a tournament will be working overtime this week at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. It will be Woods' first event since knee surgery late last year. And the scrutiny will be intense.
Last week, playing with his father, Tiger Woods reportedly shot a 66. Earl Woods carded a 70. This tells us two things: Tiger Woods still knows how to get the ball in the hole and, if Earl Woods shot 70, they probably weren't playing the TPC at Sawgrass.
Tiger Woods will downplay how much his 2003 debut means. But don't think he hasn't been watching Ernie Els nearly run the table here and abroad so far this season. Don't think he didn't see Vijay Singh look better than ever while cruising to victory at the Phoenix Open. Don't think he doesn't know the younger ones are coming up behind him faster than ever. The latest hot names are South African Trevor Immelman and England's Paul Casey, who won a modified Stableford in Australia Sunday against a strong field.
This is going to be good just chasing down the vibes between Woods and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, too, will be in the field at Torrey Pines this week where he ended Woods' six-tournament winning streak in 2000.
Mickelson is many things to many people. He is a massive talent. He is loose cannon. He is an underachiever in the majors. He is a great guy. He is a foolish risk-taker on the course. He is the tour's most fan-friendly player off of it. It all depends on what you want to believe about Phil.
I believe Mickelson didn't want everybody to take him as seriously as they did recently when Golf Magazine circulated an interview in which Mickelson suggested Woods' Nike equipment was 'inferior.' Bob Wood, who runs Nike Golf, took him quite seriously.
Meanwhile on Sunday at Pebble, Beach Mickelson shot 45-35--80. Which Phil Mickelson will show up at Torrey Pines? The one who has won this event two of the last three years? Or the one whose most recent round was 10 shots worse than Earl Woods' most recent round?
The most delicious possibility of all, of course, would be a Thursday-Friday pairing at the Buick Invitational that placed Woods and Mickelson in the same group.
I double-checked with tour official Ben Nelson Sunday and he reminded me the only way that can happen is if the computer spits out their names together. No devious local tournament promoter should be able to toy with this in an effort to pump up the volume and the gate.
It's almost too bad. Wouldn't we all like to see it as soon as possible? Wouldn't we all like to read the tour's 'Shotlink' printouts of how far they hit it on every hole?
Mickelson may have broken an unwritten rule when he dissed an equipment company. But he is good for the buzz of the game. And that buzz will become a din at Augusta in early April when Mickelson and Woods and Els and Singh show up inside the gates while a lot of politically-motivated people park their agendas on the outside.
Golf never bores me. But certain times in the continuum of the game are more interesting than others. This is one of the latter.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
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
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
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.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
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."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
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.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
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