Tiger needs 'reps' like Phoenix to get into major shape

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2015, 6:12 pm

It’s less surprising that Tiger Woods will reportedly return to the zoo known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the first time since 2001 than it is that he hasn’t added more starts to his schedule.

Golf.com reported on Wednesday that Woods seems likely to add the Arizona stop to his dance card later this month, but after missing the majority of last season with various injuries the alternative would be nearly six months of competitive inactivity since his last meaningful start at August’s PGA Championship (with apologies to the Hero World Challenge, an 18-man field during the Challenge Season is closer to a rehab start than it is Game 1 of the World Series).

Woods has always embraced a less-is-more mentality when it comes to his schedule, a tactic that has served him well through 79 Tour victories and 14 majors, but now is not the time for ball counts and competitive convalescence.

Although Woods’ manager told GolfChannel.com that “nothing [is] committed yet” regarding his potential start at the Waste Management, because of a reworked Tour schedule this year that moved the WGC-Match Play out of the West Coast swing Woods would have had just four starts before the Masters in April if he maintains his traditional lineup.

Under normal circumstances that might not be a glaring concern, but the former world No. 1 managed just seven Tour starts last year because of injury and made it to Sunday on just three occasions.

Consider that prior to his four victorious trips down Magnolia Lane (2005, 2002, 2001 and 1997) Woods averaged 6.75 starts in the run up to the year’s first major and he has historically played his best golf during the dog days of summer.

Nor does it seem like a coincidence that just three times since 2008, the last year he won a major championship, he played more than 12 events in a season.

In fact, just once in his career has he won a major after fewer than six starts, and that was at the ’08 U.S. Open when he was sidelined with knee and leg injuries and needed a Herculean effort to claim Grand Slam No. 14.

The point is, when Woods speaks of reps it’s not the sun-splashed range sessions in South Florida that he’s talking about. The only way to properly prepare is to bend a mold that, although has been successful in the past, no longer dovetails with his competitive needs.

Woods hinted at as much in December when he said his schedule this year would probably be, “slightly different ... I’ll have a pretty full schedule next year.”

Maybe the outdoor cocktail party at TPC Scottsdale, where Woods has finished in the top 5 twice in his three starts, isn’t the perfect fit, but given the alternative of playing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (where weather hasn’t historically been ideal) or the Northern Trust Open (which would require he play four events in five weeks) it was his best option.

While it may not be a popular option at PGA Tour headquarters, there will be time to rest after the PGA Championship in August.

In simplest terms, if trading a start in the fall, say at The Barclays, for a week or two in the spring adds up to success at Augusta National or St. Andrews so be it. After all, it wasn’t Jack Nicklaus’ FedEx Cup record hanging on the wall when Woods was growing up.

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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.