After Further Review: Tiger's schedule makes things even tougher

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Tiger's schedule, Jason Day's run at No. 1, the race for the top spot in the LPGA and Patrick Rodgers' maiden victory.

On the heels of his latest withdrawal, opinions on Tiger Woods’ long-term prospects have ranged from “still capable of passing Jack Nicklaus’ major record” to “never going to factor in another one again.”

What’s less debatable are his short-term opportunities.

Unless Tiger makes a shocking about-face, he won’t tee it up in next week’s Northern Trust Open. (He’s already out for this week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.) Even if he’s healthy enough to return, his likely schedule would include just the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational prior to the Masters. He hasn’t qualified for the WGC-Cadillac Championship and none of the other pre-Augusta events – Puerto Rico Open, Valspar Championship, Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open – have ever previously found their way onto his schedule.

For years, Tiger has maintained that he’d rather dig secrets out of the dirt than compete prior to the biggest tournaments. If we’ve learned anything lately, though, it’s that the strategy has some serious faults.

It’s difficult to envision him coming anywhere close to contending at the Masters based on recent developments. But it’s even more difficult to see it happening if he only plays twice more between now and then.  – Jason Sobel

Jason Day admits that when he won last year’s WGC-Match Play Championship his career goal was suddenly in sight.

“I felt like I was going to get to No. 1 [in the World Golf Ranking],” he said on Sunday at Torrey Pines.

A thumb injury, combined with a brilliant run by now-No. 1 Rory McIlroy, denied the Australian his spot atop the world. But Sunday’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open will catapult Day to fourth in the world on Monday and back into contention for the top spot.

He may not be able to unseat McIlroy atop the ranking, but it certainly will be fun to watch him try.  – Rex Hoggard

This battle for the Rolex No. 1 world ranking is looking like it’s going to be a tantalizing weekly subplot in the women’s game.

Inbee Park appeared poised to take back top billing from Lydia Ko this weekend, only to see Ko charge while Park treaded water on the back nine Sunday at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Ko began the week three hundredths of a point ahead of Park in their weekly averages. Ko looks like she will move a little more than two tenths of a point ahead of Park in Monday’s newest rankings.

With Stacy Lewis not all that far behind, the No. 1 ranking is a prize that might grow maddening for this trio. The shadow of No. 1, with all its projections and its decimal-point math and all the media questions that come with them, might seem inescapable.

It’s nice spice for the rest of us, though. It’s bonus competition for our Sunday viewing.  – Randall Mell

While much of the focus this weekend was on the California coast, one of the game’s rising stars notched his maiden victory some 3,000 miles away.

Patrick Rodgers was the top player in college golf last year, and his 11 wins at Stanford tied a school record previously held by Tiger Woods. An ill-timed injury hampered his run through the Tour Finals last year, but Rodgers bounced back to capture the second event of 2015 in a playoff over Steve Marino at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship.

The win paves the way for the 22-year-old to get his PGA Tour card for the 2015-16 season, when he’ll certainly be a player to watch.  – Will Gray

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.