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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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.