Where Will Tiger Go From Here

By Brian HewittOctober 4, 2004, 4:00 pm
The season, in mens professional golf, isnt over yet. There are four more regular Tour events remaining to be played followed by The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
 
In the ensuing days and weeks we will all be watching very closely the world rankings and the top 125 and the top 30, among other things.
 
But its early enough to start looking to the tone that is being set for 2005. This is, after all, a season in which Vijay Singh wrested away the No. 1 spot atop the Official World Golf Rankings from Tiger Woods.
 
It is a season in which Woods dropped as low as No. 3 on the world rankings for the first time since 1999.
 
It is a season in which the Europeans torched the Americans by a whopping nine points in a Ryder Cup that offered little drama on the course and a lot of confusion off the course.
 
It is a season in which the best Howell in the world by the time October rolled around was Englishman David, not American Charles.
 
Imagine Ernie Els' relief Sunday after winning the WGC-American Express Championship in Ireland. The victory was his fourth worldwide this year and moved him ahead of Woods into the No. 2 spot in the rankings behind Singh, who did not play the event.
 
Els has to believe he has finally weathered the nuclear storm that has been Woods. He can look forward to 2005 with the idea that he has, at last, clawed himself back up onto the same plateau with Woods (and now Singh). The playing field, Els and Singh have to think, is level once again.
 
So what should we expect from Woods next year?
 
I think there are three ways this thing can go: He can rediscover his swing and regain the dominance that made him the best player in the world by a large margin; He can continue to tinker with his action and struggle with his swing while reeling off top 10s only to wind up repeatedly disappointed in the majors.
 
Or Woods can enter a downward spiral. Dont bet on that happening. Woods short game alone is good enough to keep among the worlds top 10 for the next 25 years.
 
After finishing ninth behind Els and seven others Sunday in Ireland, Woods addressed some of these issues.
 
Ive been close this year, he said, repeating the theme of so many of his press conferences this year. Ive come within a shot of making a playoff two straight weeks during the year. Ive had I dont know how many second place finishes, but Ive been there with a chance to win.
 
Actually, its only been two seconds for Woods. But there have been three thirds. We get the idea.
 
If you remember, he added, I junked my golf swing back in 97, too. I won the Masters by 12 and you guys all thought I was crazy for doing that. I remember all those articles. I turned that around, didnt I?
 
Indeed he did.
 
No, Woods said. I just wanted to go a different way and felt that I could get better. Im not any different than you are. Im always trying to get a little better, hit better golf shots.
 
His critics suggest that if it isnt broken, Tiger should not try to fix it. Others have postulated that perhaps Woods is a chronic tinkerer and, ever since his much-publicized split with instructor Butch Harmon, that tinkering has worked to Woods detriment.
 
Whatever the case, you can be sure of this: Woods wont lack for incentive in 2005.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.