We'll finally get to see the real Tiger

By Will GrayApril 29, 2015, 7:42 pm

Never have 138 characters felt more like an avalanche.

Tiger Woods is a creature of habit, and while his typical tournament schedule reflects that fact, rarely does he offer his plans far in advance. He committed to the Masters six days before the opening round, and only publicly announced his plans to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass 13 days before the start of The Players Championship.

Then came Wednesday’s tweet, and in the span of a few keystrokes Woods booked his summer tour. Much like his jovial mood (and earbud use!) at Augusta National signaled the turning over of a new leaf, a five-event flurry of commitments from Woods is almost unheard of.

There will be familiar venues – namely Muirfield Village, where he has won five times, followed by the Old Course at St. Andrews, which Woods calls his “favorite course in golf.” But the itinerary also includes some less familiar stops. Woods has never played Chambers Bay (U.S. Open), his lone trip to the Greenbrier resulted in a missed cut in 2012 and his last competitive shot at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (Quicken Loans) came at the 2005 Presidents Cup.

If nothing else, Woods’ announcement signals that the issues with which he struggled earlier this year – both in terms of health and short game – are things of the past. After subsisting on a week-to-week basis for nearly three months, he now feels physically and mentally confident enough to plan three months in advance. That is a good sign, both for Woods and the game in general.

This also means that a pivotal season for Woods, one that failed to get off the ground in Phoenix and San Diego, can begin – again – in earnest. Starting next week in Ponte Vedra Beach, the 39-year-old will play six events across a 13-week span – a significant stretch considering he has completed just 19 competitive rounds since July.

It’s also a schedule that could become even busier in August. Woods is No. 116 in the world, but should he crack the top 50 in the rankings by Aug. 3 he would earn a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won eight times and the site of the most recent of his 79 PGA Tour wins.

If Woods tees it up at Firestone and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, it would mean three tournaments in three weeks – a trifecta of productivity he last pulled off in March 2013.

Make no mistake, the landscape currently facing Woods is far different from the one he saw in ‘13, when he won five times and took Player of the Year honors. Rory McIlroy has asserted himself as a clear No. 1, with Jordan Spieth hot on his heels. Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have combined to win nine times since Woods’ last victory.

He faces an uphill climb to re-join the game’s elite, but Woods’ T-17 finish at the Masters shows that while he’s no longer No. 1, he’s not playing like No. 116, either. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the more golf he plays, the more accurate his ranking will become.

For more than 15 months, Woods’ game has been shrouded with questions. He has shown flashes of his old form, only to be derailed by injury or betrayed by his wedges. While some of those questions will still linger when he tees it up next week and beyond, at least now we know where to expect the roars.

Plan your schedule accordingly. 

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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.