Slow start, but season still young for Woods

By Doug FergusonFebruary 25, 2014, 9:51 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Imagine being one-third of the way through the PGA Tour season and having a slight edge over Tiger Woods in the FedEx Cup.

''I would say, 'God, I'm playing well,''' said Joe Ogilvie.

Except that he's not.

But he does have a slight edge over Woods, who is hardly playing at all.

The points distribution system goes down to the very decimal. Ogilvie finished in a two-way for 74th at the Phoenix Open, but because one full point is awarded only to 70th place, he earned 0.91 points. Woods did not make the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines and finished in a two-way tie for 80th, thus receiving 0.79 points.

So at least Ogilvie has that going for him.

''It is amazing that we're one-third of the way through the season,'' Ogilvie said. ''But he's playing the Honda Classic, so I know he's looking at the stats and saying, 'If I can just get ahead of Ogilvie, I should be OK for the rest of the year.'''

Woods has said he's having a hard time getting his head around the wraparound season that started in July. That should start to clear up this week at the Honda Classic, which the No. 1 player sees as the start to his season.


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The Florida swing is better known as the road to the Masters, and it's time for Woods to get into gear.

He's in good company, of course. Masters champion Adam Scott, who has played twice as much as Woods this season on the PGA Tour (that would be two tournaments) is holding steady at No. 101 in the FedEx Cup. He's three spots ahead of Rory McIlroy.

That's what prompted NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller to effectively dismiss the three wins this season by Jimmy Walker, the winners of the tournaments last fall (which include Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson), or even the 64-64 weekend by Bubba Watson when he won at Riviera.

''We've had a lot of good stories,'' Miller said. ''But I think now the guns are back and probably ready to do something in the next couple weeks. So I don't see players that maybe are the second-tier players ... I think the big boys are warmed up and ready to go.''

Some of them are, anyway.

Scott followed his amazing run Down Under with a pair of top 10s in Hawaii before taking a six-week break. McIlroy had chances to win at Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Woods is the mystery, though it's early, even if the PGA Tour's new schedule says otherwise.

He has played only four times since the Presidents Cup last October – the Turkish Airlines Open, his World Challenge against an 18-man field, Torrey Pines and Dubai. He missed the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines with his worst score in America (79), and he tied for 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Woods said he spent most of the offseason ''trying to get my body organized,'' and he said his game was slow to come around. But he's playing three of the next four weeks, including title defenses at Doral and Bay Hill.

Even with 14 tournaments already in the books, there is a sense the PGA Tour season is just started.

Besides, at this stage in his career, it's all about being ready for the majors for Woods.

He is not unlike Jack Nicklaus at age 38. Nicklaus played only five times before the Masters in 1978, and he played two events a month in the heart of the season (February through August). Then again, Nicklaus didn't have to worry about a FedEx Cup at the end of the year in which most players will be asked to compete seven times in nine weeks, all big tournaments. It would not be surprising for Woods to consider skipping a playoff event.

Woods rarely goes to a tournament without hearing some mention of being stuck on 14 majors - four short of the Nicklaus standard - since 2008. Expect to start hearing even more of that speculation with Augusta National around the corner.

Miller said last month that how Woods fared in the Masters would be a precursor to the rest of his year in the majors. During a conference call Monday, the two-time major champion made it sound as though the task were tougher than ever.

''Before it was like if he had his A-game, you could just kiss it off,'' Miller said. ''It wasn't going to happen. He was just so much better than everybody and so much better under pressure and so much better on Sundays and so much better in the majors. It was not a fair fight, as Roger Maltbie would say.''

That was Maltbie's famous line from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach after Woods hit 7-iron out of the rough on the par-5 sixth hole to 15 feet. He won by 15 shots.

''Now, it's a fair fight, wouldn't you say?'' Miller said.

He asked that of Notah Begay, a close friend of Woods who also works as an analyst for NBC. Begay agreed, saying ''his game has come back down to Earth a little bit.''

''Prior to everything that's happened away from golf, if you were to pace your game according to Tiger Woods, you knew you were going to be around the top 10 and probably most likely near the lead,'' Begay said. ''And I don't think that's the case right now.''

That would be good news for those trying to challenge Woods – and bad news for Ogilvie.

''I just hope Tiger can pass me,'' Ogilvie said.

The sarcasm was heavy and the message was clear. No matter what the schedule says, it's early. Golf is just getting started.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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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.