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TT Postscript: Tiger plays 9 with Ryder Cup captains

By Tiger TrackerMarch 6, 2018, 10:51 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – After 22 years away, Tiger Woods finally returned to Innisbrook Resort on Tuesday for his first preparations for this week’s Valspar Championship.

As you’d expect, I was there from the moment he set foot on the grounds. Here are some observations from his stress-free trip around the front nine of the Copperhead Course:

• Woods got to the range just after lunch, then played a nine-hole practice round with Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and fellow vice captains Steve Stricker and Davis Love III. As far as I could tell, they did not decide when the team will visit the Eiffel Tower this fall.

• Woods was relaxed throughout his warm-up session, and his practice round didn’t include any foul balls. The misses were playable, including on both par-5s when his driver missed the target. The best shot of the day came with driver in hand on No. 9, where he uncorked a power fade that split the fairway and flew at least 330 yards.

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• Much of Woods’ focus came around the greens, where the rough is nothing short of gnarly. There were plenty of pitches and chips to various quadrants of greens as he tried to get a feel for both how the ball will sit in the grass and how it will react once it lands on the green. Typical Tuesday stuff.

• Woods spoke briefly after the round, and he admitted that he didn’t remember much about the course. It’s understandable given that he hasn’t been back since teaming with Kelli Kuehne in a co-ed team event in 1996. Following an afternoon that included a few blistered 2-irons off the tee, he remarked that the last time he was here some of the guys were still using persimmon woods. How times change.

• Woods will be back at it early Wednesday morning for his pro-am round, where he’ll encounter the back nine for the first time since the Clinton administration. He’s grouped with Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson for the first two rounds that count.

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Luiten (wrist) withdraws from WGC Match Play

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:38 pm

Joost Luiten was one of the last men to qualify for this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but he's the first one out of the tournament after withdrawing because of a wrist injury.

Luiten, who won the European Tour's Oman Open in February, posted on Instagram about his withdrawal and also wrote a lengthy explanation in Dutch on his website.

"Very disappointed to say that I have to withdraw from the WGC Dell Match Play because of a wrist injury," Luiten wrote. "Gutted because I love playing match play! I will be back strong."

Luiten explained that the injury is on his left wrist, which was previously operated on in 2010. The exact cause is unknown, but he started to experience pain while at home in the Netherlands the week before the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Luiten went on to play in Mexico City, finishing T-37, and he tied for ninth the following week at the Hero Indian Open. But his wrist pain continued to increase, and when it didn't respond to treatment over the weekend he decided to withdraw.

Luiten will now be replaced in the field by world No. 72 Julian Suri. Bill Haas is now first alternate, while Brandt Snedeker is second alternate.

Golf Channel will air a live selection show from 7:30 to 9 p.m. ET Monday to determine the four-player pods in Austin, with round-robin matches beginning Wednesday.

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Rory inside OWGR top 10; Tiger near top 100

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:20 pm

Rory McIlroy is back inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking after rallying to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy shot a final-round 64 at Bay Hill to race past Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau for a three-shot victory, his first on the PGA Tour in nearly 18 months. As a result, he jumped six spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings, his highest position since October.

DeChambeau finished alone in second place, jumping 34 spots to No. 61 in the world. Justin Rose remained No. 5 after finishing third, while Henrik Stenson moved up one spot to No. 14 after finishing fourth.

Tiger Woods finished T-5, his third top-12 result in as many starts. As a result he's up another 44 spots to No. 105, his best ranking since April 2015. Woods, who started the year ranked No. 656, was 388th before a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship.

The top 50 in next week's world rankings will qualify for the upcoming Masters, meaning there are 13 players currently in the field for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play who could sew up an invite to Augusta National with a strong finish in Austin, including No. 47 Chez Reavie and No. 50 Cam Smith.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week, followed by Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Rose. Hideki Matsuyama remains at No. 6, with McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

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Denied relief, Reed jokes: 'Guess my name needs to be Spieth'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:45 pm

A rules controversy broke out during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational involving a player dressed in red and black, but it had nothing to do with Tiger Woods.

Patrick Reed was playing in the group in front of Woods for the second straight Sunday, and he became embroiled in a situation after launching his approach into an area of trees behind the 11th green. As captured by a fan video, Reed got into a lengthy discussion with an on-site rules official before being told that he would not receive the free relief he was requesting.

"I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys," Reed said, drawing laughs from a few gallery members.

Spieth and Reed have a successful history together as Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup partners. But last summer Spieth was at the center of the biggest rules decision of the year, when he dropped on the driving range during the final round of The Open after taking an unplayable lie from an errant drive.

After taking a penalty drop, Reed ended up making double bogey on No. 11 en route to a 1-under 71. He finished the week in a tie for seventh at 8 under.

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Ketel call: McIlroy toasts to Arnie, media at API

By Nick MentaMarch 19, 2018, 1:09 pm

Standing in the Doc Giffin media center Sunday night following his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy made a gesture that would have made Arnold Palmer proud.

Wearing his newly won red cardigan and handing out cups filled with the King's favorite, Ketel One vodka, McIlroy issued this toast to the assembled media:

"To Arnie!" McIlroy began his toast. "To Arnie, I guess. Thank you. Thanks to everyone. Thanks for covering. Thanks for making us seem better than we are. And, cheers. Thank you."

Nice to hear someone say something nice about the media. Back atcha, Rors.