Woods a Western Gunslinger

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
Cialis Western OpenThe putts just wouldnt drop for Tiger Woods. They went every which way to circumvent the holes at Pinehurst No. 2. And when he finally got one to fall on the final hole on Sunday, it just wasnt enough.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is in search of his fourth Western Open title in his last eight starts.
With his dreams of a Grand Slam deferred to another year, Woods returns to action at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club for the Cialis Western Open.
 
Two weeks removed from his runner-up finish to Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open, Woods will try and gear up his game for another major run, as he is just two weeks away from the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
 
This will mark the only competitive event for Woods in between the seasons second and third major championships.
 
And while Cog Hills Dubsdread Course in no way resembles the Old Course at St. Andrews, this could be the tune-up Tiger needs as he vies for his second Open Championship victory.
 
Woods has won this tournament three times. Yet hes not the defending champion.
 
That distinction goes to Stephen Ames. Ames kept Woods from repeating a year ago, eventually winning by two strokes over Steve Lowery.
 
It was Ames first PGA Tour victory, and his only one to date. In 25 starts since winning the Western, he has recorded only three top-10s. His lone top-10 finish this season came at the MCI Heritage.
 
Ames recent performance, combined with the fact that Woods and Jerry Kelly are the only players in the last 10 years to finish inside the top 25 the year after they won the Western, dont put him on the short list of favorites.
 
On the other hand, Woods is at the top of that list.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Tiger Woods
Just because Woods has had past success at a course doesnt mean hes going to factor into the final outcome (see this years Byron Nelson). But considering he has won this tournament three times (1997, 99, 03) in his last seven tries, its a good bet that hell somehow be among the final groups on Sunday. But where he finishes will likely depend on how he starts. Woods has played this tournament nine times, including twice as an amateur. Three times he shot in the 60s in the first round; and all three times he has won.
 
Luke Donald
Luke Donald
Luke Donald is in search of his first PGA Tour win since the 2003 Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
Accuracy used to be the key on Dubsdread. Thats why players like Nick Price (1993, '94), Joe Durant (1998) and Scott Hoch (2001) were able to win. But that was before the course was lengthened a few hundred yards prior to the 2002 tournament and reduced to a par-71 in 2004. Now it takes an all-around game ' like the one Donald possesses. Donald, a Chicago resident who was an All-American at Northwestern, is in the top 50 statistically on tour in driving accuracy, greens hit in regulation and putting; however, hes outside the top 100 in driving distance. That shouldnt hurt him, though, as two of the three winners since Dubsdreads lengthening have been average hitters (Ames and Kelly).
 
Vijay Singh
Singh may be spoiling us. It seems like forever since he last won a tournament, even though it was less than two months ago. Maybe it feels that way because he hasnt really been in the mix coming down the stretch since winning the Wachovia Championship. He was third at the Byron Nelson, but finished four back. He tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, but a balky putter really kept him from applying any pressure on Michael Campbell. In between those two events, he missed the cut at the Memorial and tied for 29th at the Booz Allen. Last week, he was tied for the lead during the third round, but dropped three shots coming home and shot 73 Sunday to tie for seventh. Perhaps he's due for a win. Singh has a good track record here, with seven top-20s in 10 career starts. He was the runner-up in 1998.
 
Jim Furyk
Yeah, yeah, we pick Jim Furyk every week. And we almost got it right last week at the Barclays Classic. Once again, Furyk has to be considered one of the favorites, just based on his track record at Cog Hill. He has finished inside the top 10 in five of his last six starts here. The only negative might be that this will be his eighth event in the last nine weeks, and his fifth in a row. He may be worn out, particularly considering how much effort he had to give in trying to win wire-to-wire at Westchester, where he finished runner-up.
 
Stuart Appleby
Appleby, like Donald, can do everything well; though, he has struggled with his putter this year. Appleby won the season-opening Mercedes Championships for the second straight year, but since has only one top-10. This could be where he turns it around. Appleby has a pair of top-5s in his last three starts here.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more players to keep an eye on
 
*Robert Allenby, who won this tournament in 2000. Like his countryman Appleby, Allenby hasnt been playing up to his standards. Hes currently outside the top 60 on the money list, with only a pair of top-10s in 18 starts. But he loves this venue. In addition to his victory, he has only finished outside the top 11 only once in the last five years.
 
*Jerry Kelly, who won this tournament in 2002. Kelly has only one top-10 this season, but he has three top-5s in his last four starts here.
 
*Mark Hensby, who will defend his title next week at the John Deere Classic. Hensby tied for third in his U.S. Open debut. He also tied for third at this event a year ago. Hensby, who turns 34 Wednesday, once slept in his car in the parking lot at Cog Hill. He won the Illinois Amateur in 1994 and the Illinois Open in 1996.
 
*Chris Couch, who has won twice this year on the Nationwide Tour. One of those victories was at the LaSalle Bank Open in nearby Glenview, which earned him an invitation into this event. Hes never had much success on the PGA Tour, but he is in the top 50 this season in every major statistical category on the developmental circuit.
 
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.