Does Torrey Pines win mean Woods is 'back?'

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2013, 9:11 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods hates the question, even though the answer should be simple enough.

Is he back?

Woods was asked that when he ended his 749-day drought by winning his World Challenge at the end of 2011. The question came up in various forms last year after each of his wins at Bay Hill, Memorial and the AT&T National at Congressional. And it was inevitable after winning for a record eighth time at Torrey Pines.

Woods will be ''back'' when no else is in front of him.

The answer he gave Monday after a four-shot win in the Farmers Insurance Open was that he ''never left.'' But that's not entirely accurate, because Woods was the undisputed No. 1 player in golf for the better part of five years and now he's not. Everything he did last year, Rory McIlroy did better.

You can believe Woods when he says he is excited about the year.

Torrey Pines was his fourth win in his last 16 starts on the PGA Tour. Perhaps a better indication of his game is consistency. He has finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven tournaments around the world, which doesn't sound like that big of a deal except that he hasn't had a stretch like that since he ''left'' at the end of 2009.

So where is he now? It's too early to say.

Golf is off to a quirky start this year. Four weeks into the season, one tournament finished on Tuesday because of wind, and another tournament finished on Monday because of fog. It becomes even more stilted with the schedule of the two biggest stars.

The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament director told the San Francisco Chronicle that Woods will not be playing next week. Woods' caddie told the Los Angeles Daily News that he tried to talk him into playing Riviera but to no avail. So Woods has 23 days off until playing the Match Play Championship. That's not a surprise. McIlroy, meanwhile, is in the middle of a four-week break, and he won't show up until the Match Play, either.

So right when Woods generates a buzz by winning Torrey Pines, golf will have to do without him until the end of next month.

It's tempting to make bold declarations about the rest of the year based on how Woods played last week, though the finish left just as many questions. And remember, it was only a week ago that Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. Give it time.

Still, there was something inevitable about this win, beyond the location. Woods took over the tournament during a four-hole stretch in the second round when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt, hit 5-iron to 5 feet for eagle, had a two-putt birdie and then one-hopped his wedge off the flag for another birdie.

His lead went from two shots after 36 holes, to four shots after 54 holes, to six shots at the close of business Sunday with 11 holes left.

''After last week, I think he was irritated, and I think he was a little upset at how he played,'' Hunter Mahan said Monday morning. ''I think he wanted to make a statement, and there's not many guys in golf who can go to a tournament and make a statement but he is. I think he's making one this week, and I think he's going to do everything he can to make this a double-digit win for himself and just kind of reclaim his dominance on the Tour.''

It looked as if that would be the case when Woods two-putted the 13th hole for an eight-shot lead Monday. What happened the rest of the way was awkward. Woods hit two tee shots that barely traveled more than 200 yards – one that was pulled into the trees and caromed into a patch of ice plant (double bogey), another that was a chunk pop-up and left him a 4-iron to the green and 50 yards behind two guys he had been blasting by all day.

''This one is going to irk him,'' Nick Faldo said, adding that Woods still had demons with his driving. Maybe so. The better measure of his driving is when the shots actually mean something. Woods looked more interested in getting off the golf course than winning by double digits.

Winning was never in doubt, however, and that's what should be remembered.

The real measure, of course, is the majors.

Woods winning at Torrey Pines, with a red shirt under a black sweater vest, was a reminder of how long it had been since his last major title. It was five years ago that he won on a Monday afternoon at Torrey Pines to capture the U.S. Open in a playoff, his 14th major.

Regular Tour wins are still meaningful. If nothing else, they build confidence.

Then again, Woods won in his final start before the Masters and U.S. Open last year and faded badly on the weekend. What makes him excited about the year is his short game, for he says that's what let him down at the last three majors in 2012. He was tied for the lead going into the weekend at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship and failed to finish in the top 10. He was four shots behind going into Saturday at the British Open and didn't break par on the weekend.

''It's getting up-and-down at major championships,'' Woods said. ''You're not going to hit the ball great every day. They're the most difficult situations and most difficult setups that we face. You're going to have to get up and down. You're going to have to save. You're going to have to make a 10-footer for par. You're going to have to make a tough up-and-down, and I wasn't doing that. Consequently, those 74s and 75s should have been 70s or 71s. And that's how you win those tournaments.''

That's what he will find out later this year.

In the meantime, he is still working to get himself back until everyone else is behind him.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.