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New version of Tiger-mania hits the PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonDecember 6, 2017, 12:51 am

NASSAU, Bahamas - The latest comeback by Tiger Woods, this one following a 10-month absence from a fourth back surgery in three years, was sure to cause some disruption in the workforce with the weekday television coverage.

That included the commissioner's office at the PGA Tour.

''I would consider myself to be among the highly distracted as Tiger played his first round,'' Jay Monahan said Tuesday.

Monahan was at the Hero World Challenge the day before it began and stayed for the pro-am dinner, where he said Woods spoke from the heart about his foundation, thanked the other 17 players for coming and reminded them they had a chance to compete against a player at No. 1,199 in the world ranking.

''That broke up the room,'' Monahan said with a laugh.

Indeed, it's rare for a player to tie for ninth and move up 531 spots in the world ranking - Woods now is all the way up to No. 668 - but such were the circumstances. The field featured eight of the top 10 in the world, and it included one guy who had earned ranking points at only two tournaments over the last two years.

There's no way to go but up.

That's what Monahan took away from the holiday exhibition, only he wasn't talking about the world ranking.

''We had such a strong year with great, young players stepping forward,'' he said. ''You add Tiger back in the mix, and we all go away from it with a lot of excitement.''

How much Woods is in the mix remains to be seen, although this was as strong as he has looked in four years. Next up is figuring out a schedule that Woods said would be geared around the four majors. He hasn't played all four since 2015, and he hasn't made the cut in all of them since 2013.

Most of the young players at Albany Golf Club - Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger - know more about the legend of Woods than what it's like to have him at tournaments.

Thomas got a taste of it.

He is the FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour player of the year after winning five times, including his first major at the PGA Championship. He started the new season by winning the CJ Cup in South Korea.

And when he sat down for a news conference, his first six questions were about Woods.

Thomas was paired with Woods for the first and final rounds, and while Woods had the largest gallery, there was rarely more than about 250 fans. It's the Bahamas. So when Thomas was asked if felt the effect of Woods on the golf course or in his news conference, he smiled.

''I would say more of the fact that I just won the FedEx Cup, player of the year, and all I get asked about is Tiger Woods,'' he said. Thomas was not the least bit irritated, even though this was the 10th out 12 consecutive questions he fielded about Woods on that day.

''I thought it was bad the questions I got asked about Jordan,'' Thomas said.

Golf wasn't suffering without Woods, not inside the ropes.

Dating to when Woods had his first back surgery, Rory McIlroy won two majors in 2014; Spieth got halfway to the calendar Grand Slam in 2015; Dustin Johnson fulfilled his potential with his first major in 2016 and was voted Player of the Year. And this year brought the emergence of the 24-year-old Thomas.

No one can draw attention to golf like Woods - not individually, maybe not collectively. That's no surprise.

''The keen golf fans will know Tiger moved the needle and brought people in that might be sports fans, but not golf fans,'' Henrik Stenson said. ''But everyone who follows golf closely, I don't think they've been home thinking, 'Oh, this is not exciting anymore,' when all the guys at the top have been winning. It's been a healthy couple of years, even though he's not been on the scene.

''I don't think he can make it less good, having the old Tiger back and trying to charge through the field,'' Stenson said. ''It would make it even more exciting.''

There's also the danger, especially in today's social media climate, to gush so much over Woods that it seems no one else is playing and tournaments that Woods doesn't play are not worth watching.

This is nothing new. The PGA Tour has been facing questions like this for 20 years.

Monahan sees only an upside now.

''We have such a deep bench of young, international players, combined with a great group of veterans. All have accomplished a lot in their own right, week in and week out. The story lines will be strong,'' Monahan said. ''You take a strong PGA Tour and just make it stronger. And it doesn't just apply when Tiger is playing. The fact he's back is bringing more attention, more eyeballs, and that's going to benefit everyone.

''It's great to be back in that situation.''

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Watson back in top 40 after OWGR free fall

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Bubba Watson ended his free fall in the Official World Golf Ranking with a two-shot victory Sunday at the Genesis Open.

Watson, a fixture in the top 10 in the world as recently as 13 months ago, had dropped all the way to 117th after a 2017 season in which he struggled with poor form, illness and desire.

After his third career win at Riviera, he is up to 40th.

Kevin Na rose from 95th to 65th after tying for second in Los Angeles, while Tony Finau jumped from 41st to 33rd.

Tiger Woods actually improved in the world ranking, from No. 550 to No. 544, despite a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

On the European Tour, Joost Luiten surged from 90th to 68th after his victory in Oman.

The top 10 in the world remained unchanged as the PGA Tour heads into the Florida swing: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.

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Bubba catapults, Phil creeps up in Ryder Cup standings

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:21 pm

Bubba Watson was an assistant on the 2016 Ryder Cup team. He doesn’t want to be driving a cart in Paris.

Watson, thanks to his victory in the Genesis Open, jumped from 60th to 10th in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings. The top eight after the PGA Championship qualify automatically for this year’s edition at Le Golf National in France.

Phil Mickelson moved up one spot to 11th after tying for sixth at Riviera Country Club.

Players will receive one point per dollar earned in regular events this year, with 1.5 points per dollar in majors and two points per dollar for winning a major. Here's a look at the current U.S. standings:

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Brooks Koepka

3. Justin Thomas

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Matt Kuchar

6. Brian Harman

7. Gary Woodland

8. Rickie Fowler

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9. Chez Reavie

10. Bubba Watson

11. Phil Mickelson

12. Patrick Reed


On the European side, the top four players from the Ryder Cup points list will be joined by the top four qualifiers from the world points list, with captain Thomas Bjorn making four additional selections. Here's a look at the current top names:

Ryder Cup Points

1. Justin Rose

2. Tyrrell Hatton

3. Ross Fisher

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Rory McIlroy

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Genesis Open purse payout: Bubba makes bank

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:03 pm

Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open for a third time on Sunday, moving his career PGA Tour win total to 10. Here's a look at how the purse paid out at Riviera Country Club.

1 Bubba Watson -12 $1,296,000
T2 Kevin Na -10 $633,600
T2 Tony Finau -10 $633,600
T4 Scott Stallings -9 $316,800
T4 Patrick Cantlay -9 $316,800
T6 Adam Hadwin -8 $241,200
T6 Phil Mickelson -8 $241,200
T6 Cameron Smith -8 $241,200
T9 Jordan Spieth -7 $180,000
T9 Martin Laird -7 $180,000
T9 Xander Schauffele -7 $180,000
T9 Ryan Moore -7 $180,000
T9 Justin Thomas -7 $180,000
T14 James Hahn -6 $133,200
T14 Aaron Baddeley -6 $133,200
T16 Alex Noren -4 $111,600
T16 Sung-hoon Kang -4 $111,600
T16 Dustin Johnson -4 $111,600
T16 Derek Fathauer -4 $111,600
T20 Rory McIlroy -3 $78,000
T20 Bud Cauley -3 $78,000
T20 Kevin Chappell -3 $78,000
T20 Talor Gooch -3 $78,000
T20 Jason Kokrak -3 $78,000
T20 Vaughn Taylor -3 $78,000
T26 John Huh -2 $46,996
T26 Peter Uihlein -2 $46,996
T26 Luke List -2 $46,996
T26 Rafael Cabrera Bello -2 $46,996
T26 Patrick Rodgers -2 $46,996
T26 Jamie Lovemark -2 $46,996
T26 Dominic Bozzelli -2 $46,996
T26 Matt Kuchar -2 $46,996
T26 Anirban Lahiri -2 $46,996
T26 Sam Saunders -2 $46,996
T26 Graeme McDowell -2 $46,996
T37 Branden Grace -1 $33,120
T37 Tommy Fleetwood -1 $33,120
T37 Charles Howell III -1 $33,120
T37 Luke Donald -1 $33,120
T41 Bryson DeChambeau E $24,516
T41 Troy Merritt E $24,516
T41 Kevin Streelman E $24,516
T41 Pat Perez E $24,516
T41 Charley Hoffman E $24,516
T41 Brandon Harkins E $24,516
T41 Jonas Blixt E $24,516
T41 Nick Taylor E $24,516
T49 Austin Cook 1 $17,964
T49 Brendan Steele 1 $17,964
T49 Paul Casey 1 $17,964
T49 Chad Campbell 1 $17,964
T53 Tom Hoge 2 $16,437
T53 Benjamin Silverman 2 $16,437
T53 Li HaoTong 2 $16,437
T53 Retief Goosen 2 $16,437
T53 Martin Kaymer 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Schenk 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Scott 2 $16,437
T60 Ryan Blaum 3 $15,696
T60 J.B. Holmes 3 $15,696
T60 Harold Varner, III 3 $15,696
63 Kelly Kraft 4 $15,408
T64 Padraig Harrington 5 $15,120
T64 Ryan Armour 5 $15,120
T64 Sean O'Hair 5 $15,120
67 Martin Piller 6 $14,832
T68 Thomas Pieters 7 $14,400
T68 Greg Chalmers 7 $14,400
T68 Abraham Ancer 7 $14,400
T68 Tyrone van Aswegen 7 $14,400
T68 Charl Schwartzel 7 $14,400
T73 Vijay Singh 8 $13,896
T73 Chez Reavie 8 $13,896
T75 Sang-Moon Bae 10 $13,608
T75 David Lingmerth 10 $13,608
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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 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 horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner


On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray


On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard


On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there.

The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell