Tiger No Certainty to Win This British Open

By George WhiteJuly 16, 2001, 4:00 pm
Tiger Wont Win is about the most moronic prediction an aspiring prophet can write. Mr. T. Woods can win any tournament at any time, and just to show you he can do it, he has often been in a bit of a funk (notice I didnt use the hated word slump), and the next tournament defied all logic by doing the unlikely. Either he is toying with us, or suddenly he sees the light and just turns it on. Presto ' he wins by six or seven or 10 shots.
 
So instead of saying he wont win, lets just say that a victory at the British Open is a little less likely than, say, your average everyday Memorial.
 
The reason? He has been a non-factor in his last three events. He finished tied for 12th in the first, the U.S. Open. He went to the Buick and finished in a tie for 16th. And then he tied for 20th in the Advil Western. Does that sound like someone you would pick to go to Royal Lytham and win?
 
Well, no. He has just about made heretics out of those who saw 10-win season after 10-win season piling upon each other. Tiger himself never hinted that such was his destiny, even though Tigers father would have you believe that. But then, I guess my father would get a bit carried away by me if I possessed such awesome ability. So you must forgive Mister Woods the Senior. Hes understandably a proud pappa.
 
Woods, it appears, is not immortal. Hes just very, very good. He really can lose occasionally. On paper at least, this week would seem to be one such time. On paper a win seems unlikely. In reality, its quite possible that the unlikely will happen. You really look stupid if you pick someone else and then Eldrick wins ' who else do you choose but a man who has won four times already on the U.S. tour, including Bay Hill, the Players Championship, the Masters and the Memorial? And he won in Europe at the Deutsche Bank Open to give him five wins in six tries.
 
But if not Tiger, then who? Well, it looks like a European, perhaps Sergio Garcia, perhaps Darren Clarke or Thomas Bjorn. Perhaps it will be South African Retief Goosen, the unlikely U.S. Open winner. Perhaps an American will win ' is this old-timer Scott Hochs turn? Perhaps Phil Mickelsen?
 
Lytham will not be overpowered as Woods did at St. Andrews at last years British. However, Woods has won at finesse courses - quite often, in fact. But it makes it a little more difficult when you absolutely, positively must keep it in the fairway. Lytham has had a great deal of rain this year and the rough is, well, lush.
 
No one is hitting it as far off the tee or as straight as Garcia. Hes been avoiding the roughs quite well of late. The only question is if he has had the experience to win a major. If he learned anything at the U.S. Open where he was in position to win the final day, then the questions are moot.
 
Woods is more likely to win than Clarke or Bjorn, but Clarke won the Smurfit European Open two weeks ago and Bjorn has played well all year. Neither would be a great surprise if they won. And neither would Goosen, who won again last week after capturing the U.S. Open in a playoff.
 
Which brings us to Mickelson and Hoch. If this course were in America, Hoch would certainly be one of the favorites. Its just what the golfing gods ordered, tailor-made for a short, straight, accurate hitter, and Hoch has been such a hot golfer the last month or so.
 
Unfortunately, Royal Lytham and St. Annes is not in America. Hoch has only played the British three times in the 90s. He thinks there are much better things to do than travel 3,000 miles for one week of golf. But the first round this week is crucial for him. If he has a couple of bad holes, forget it. If the weather is cold and rainy, forget it. But if he scores well in the first round and becomes convinced he can play over there for one week ' watch out!
 
Mickelson? Who can tell? He will figure somewhere on the final day for the championship. He has everything it takes to win. But he also has the one thing it takes to lose ' a putter than misfires on short putts at the most crucial of times. As such, he is so difficult to predict. Is this Phils week? Or the week of Phils evil twin who blows the short ones?
 
Its likely on a course as difficult as Lytham that the eventual winner will be someone who hasnt been named. Another European, perhaps, one whom no one ever thought of as major championship material? Possibly.
 
Of course, theres our old buddy Tiger. Hes been in the country a week already. Hes proven he can win in Europe ' several times, in fact. And hes proven he can jump up from a string of mediocre play and win ' several times, in fact.
 
Its just not so certain that this is the time.
 
Who do you like for the British Open, and Why?
Getty Images

Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

Getty Images

Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

Getty Images

Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

Getty Images

Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.


Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1