Tiger a part of every conversation, but not for his golf

By Doug FergusonMarch 11, 2014, 11:45 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – One lesson Jack Nicklaus imparted on Tiger Woods a decade ago in South Africa was to always be part of the conversation.

They were talking that day about rivalries.

The problem now for Woods is it's hard to have any conversation about him without mentioning his health. The biggest rival for Woods at age 38 might be a body that by his own account appears to be breaking down.

Woods was a big part of the conversation in back-to-back weeks on the Florida swing, and it had little to do with this golf.

He withdrew from the Honda Classic after 13 holes in the final round with lower back pain and what he said were spasms. He showed up three days later at Doral to walk a practice round on the new Blue Monster with wedges and a putter. He shot 73 in the wind on Friday (a very good score), and he shot 66 on Saturday (a great score) to get within three shots of the lead. And then his back flared up and he had the worst Sunday score (78) of his professional career.

His year is starting to sound like one big soap opera.

Was he working out too much in the offseason? Was he playing too little? Should he have played Doral? Will he be at Bay Hill next week? Just how bad is his back? Is rest and treatment enough? What kind of shape will he be in when he gets to Augusta National?

And the question that has yet to be asked - should he even play the Masters?

No other player from his generation has spoken more to the media than Woods.

Few have given up so little.

Part of that - most of that - is his desire to keep what he considers private matters just that. And that includes his health.

Consider a sampling of Woods' injuries in recent years.

-At The Barclays in 2012, he said he felt a twinge in his lower back the morning of the second round and showed great discomfort around Bethpage Black. ''Must have slept funny on it. Soft beds at the hotel,'' he said.

-The next year at the same tournament, he played only nine holes of the pro-am at Liberty National, and then chipped and putted on the back nine. ''My neck and back are a little stiff ... after a soft bed,'' he said. ''And just one of those things, sleeping in hotels and I didn't want to push it.''

By the end of the week, he dropped to his knees after one shot on the back nine from what he said were back spasms. Woods said it was unrelated to the tightness he felt in his back two weeks earlier in the final round of the PGA Championship. He showed up at Boston the next week, thankful for the Friday start of the Deutsche Bank Championship.

-He played with a left elbow injury in the U.S. Open last summer at Merion. He said he injured it ''playing golf'' at The Players Championship during ''one of the rounds,'' and that he would still play even if it were not the U.S. Open. But he wound up missing the AT&T National two weeks later to rest up for the British Open.

-He stopped after his tee shot on the 12th hole of the final round at Doral in 2012 with what he said was tightness in his left Achilles' tendon. ''In the past, I may have tried to continue to play. But this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary,'' he said. Woods won his next tournament two weeks later at Bay Hill.

It's painfully clear (no pun intended) that Woods does not want to divulge details when talking about injuries.

Asked Sunday at Doral if it could be something more than back spasms, Woods replied: ''Well, it is back spasms, so we've done all the protocols and it's just a matter of keeping everything aligned so I don't go into that.'' That was followed by a simple question: Have you had an MRI?

''As I've said, we've done all the protocols,'' he replied.

At times, it can be hard to ignore one part of Hank Haney's book, ''The Big Miss,'' when talking about Woods' fascination with injuries. Haney, his coach for six years, said Woods could have worsened the condition of his knee with heavy workouts and Navy SEAL activities.

''But Tiger preferred that people see his injuries related to his sport, so that he could wear them as an athletic badge of honor,'' Haney wrote. ''To him, injuries were a way of being accepted into the fraternity of superstars who played more physical sports than golf. For example, a couple of times when I knew he'd just gotten off the phone with Derek Jeter, I'd asked what they had talked about. Both times Tiger said the conversation was about injuries they were each dealing with.''

Tiger said plenty last Wednesday when he said of his most recent injury, ''A bad back is no joke.''

It's easy to connect dots with scores and injuries, especially when the bad back on the last two Sundays followed rounds of 65 and 66. But that would be ignoring the 2008 U.S. Open he won in 91 holes on a left leg so badly damaged that it required season-ending surgery two days later.

Even with eight wins over the last two years, his future remains muddled by recurring injuries. How bad are they? Does he need to take more time off? Can he afford to take more time off? How much longer will be stuck on 14 majors? Will he ever break the record 18 majors won by Nicklaus?

Woods is not playing this week. Consider it a commercial break.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 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 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

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

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.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

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."

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.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

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