Punch Shot: One positive to expect in Tiger's return

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 9, 2016, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up this week at the PGA Tour's season-opening Safeway Open, marking his first competitive start in 14 months after sitting out with injuries to his back. Expectations will be tempered, but what positives will we see from the 14-time major winner? 

Our writers debate.

By REX HOGGARD

After 14 months of competitive inactivity and relative seclusion away from the PGA Tour, it’s probably best to keep expectations low for Tiger Woods when he returns next week.

Success, which for Woods has always been measured with victories and trophies, will be four tournament rounds with no setbacks or lingering health issues.

Although he tied for 10th place in his last start at the 2015 Wyndham Championship, it seems unlikely he’ll have a tournament-ready swing after multiple back procedures sidelined him for the 2015-16 season.

A more realistic goal for this week’s Safeway Open would be making the cut without reinjuring himself. Testing his back over five consecutive days (counting the pro-am round) and the physical demands of tournament play will be the ultimate gauge of success for Woods.

Woods has made a career out of exceeding expectations (see Open, U.S., 2008) and he certainly could surprise many by picking up where he left off and putting himself back in the hunt. But after so much time off this feels more like a rehab start than a competitive reboot.

With so many unknowns when it comes to Woods, from the state of his game to the ability of his body to withstand the rigors of tournament play, it’s best to keep expectations simple – play four days.


By WILL GRAY

One positive from Woods next week in Napa will simply be his presence. Make it through 36, or even 72, holes without incident and it should be considered a minor victory.

Sure, we’re setting the bar low, but it’s a great sign for Woods – and the game in general – that he feels ready to return to action.

The swing will need to work its way back into form, and in the early going the fears of an injury relapse will remain a tee shot or awkward step away. But after so often returning to the PGA Tour too early for his own good, Woods has been deliberate and conservative with this latest comeback.

A made cut should be considered a bonus, and a relaxed attitude would be a good sign for the other events on his proposed short-term schedule. But the key to this latest return is for Woods to remain healthy – not for weeks, but months and hopefully years at a time. The fact that he’s going to step to the first tee Thursday indicates that he believes that consistency is attainable, which is perhaps the biggest positive of all.


By RANDALL MELL

How about beating Phil Mickelson through the first two rounds?

No, it doesn’t really matter in the big picture. Woods should have more important goals in his return, like playing pain free, playing yip free and just hitting a bunch of shots that feel good. Woods’ mantra is he plays to win, but after all the time he has missed, expectations should be low. This comeback is about rebuilding confidence as much as it is rebuilding shot making. While making the cut would be nice, because this is a return to competition, Woods gains a small victory putting up a two-day score better than Mickelson’s, no matter what else happens. Yes, they’ll both say it doesn’t really matter how they fare against each other, but we know it does, just maybe not as much as it used to matter.

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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.

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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.