Punch Shot: Which course do you most associate with Tiger?

By Jason Sobel, Randall Mell, Will GrayJanuary 20, 2014, 10:00 pm

As Tiger Woods prepares for his season debut at Torrey Pines - a course on which he's won eight times - GolfChannel.com writers debate which course they most associate with Woods. For more on the events Woods has dominated over the years, click here.

By JASON SOBEL

When we think Tiger Woods, we think major championships - and since three of the four rotate on an annual basis, that leaves one logical course for us to most greatly associate him.

Even though Woods has won more tournaments at Torrey Pines … and Bay Hill … and Firestone … his greatest successes and biggest failures have come on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.

From that 12-stroke win as a precocious 21-year-old which ignited Tigermania to the 2001 victory that gave him the so-called Tiger Slam to the thunderous chip at 16 four years later that hung on the lip before dropping into the cup, Woods’ most memorable moments happened on the world’s most revered golf course. Even in defeat, he’s made major headlines there; we need only look back to last year for evidence, when his flagstick-to-water shot led to a bad drop which in turn led to a penalty and in turn led to one of the most controversial rulings in recent memory.

It’s not as if we’d think of venues such as Torrey or Bay Hill or Firestone and think of anyone besides Woods – he’s won a combined two dozen titles on those three courses, more than many Hall of Famers have won in their entire careers – but if there’s one course with which we most associate with him, it can’t be anything else other than Augusta National. 


By RANDALL MELL

Tiger Woods marveled just like the rest of us back then.

Not over his 15-shot victory at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open, or his 12-shot triumph at the ’97 Masters, but with trophy in hand after limping home to win the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a left leg ravaged by a torn ligament and fractured tibia.

Woods looked at the trophy that day in a way we’ve never seen him look at a trophy before. He looked at it as if he couldn’t believe he won it. He has amazed us with his performances so many times over the years, but, for the first time that day, he looked like he amazed himself.

“All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position,” Woods said back then. “It’s probably the greatest tournament I ever had.”

Tiger Woods has won eight times as a professional at Torrey Pines, seven times in the PGA Tour’s annual event there, and once in that U.S. Open. Yes, he has dominated at Firestone, Bay Hill and Augusta National, but his signature victory, the one even he couldn’t believe he won, came on his signature course, Torrey Pines.


By WILL GRAY

He may have won more at other venues, but the course I most associate with Tiger Woods remains Augusta National.

It was at Augusta that Woods burst onto the scene with his runaway victory in 1997, demonstrating a combination of command and power the likes of which few have replicated before or since. No other venue took such overt lengths to “Tiger-proof” itself following that breakthrough win, though Woods now has a total of four green jackets despite those efforts.

Augusta is where he has had many of his most memorable moments, for better or worse – the fist pump on the 18th green in 1997, the chip-in at No. 16 eight years later and the drop from the 15th fairway just nine months ago. It’s also where he arguably reached the zenith of the game, winning in 2001 to hold all four of golf’s major trophies at the same time.

Augusta was where Tiger first asserted himself on golf’s biggest stage, and the link between player and venue remains strong to this day.


By REX HOGGARD

Augusta National, with its history and hierarchy atop the game’s most important tilts, will always be central to the narrative that is Tiger Woods’ career, but considered in recent context Torrey Pines is the course most easily associated with the world No. 1.

It was at the Southern Cal municipal gem where Woods last hoisted major glory, an ageless victory on one leg against a dogged opponent.

On a broken leg and a knee bound for a medical overhaul it was quintessential Woods during Round 3 at the 2008 U.S. Open complete with eagle putts at the par-5 13th and 18th holes to move into the lead.

He would finish 72 holes tied with affable everyman Rocco Mediate and through pain that wasn’t fully acknowledged until well after the fact he grinded out an 18-hole playoff lap for his 14th major championship.

Add to that historical masterpiece seven other professional victories at Torrey Pines, including last year’s four-shot rout at the Farmers Insurance Open, and the city fathers in San Diego could be forgiven if they renamed the seaside layout Tiger Pines.

San Diego may be Phil Mickelson’s home, but Torrey Pines will always be synonymous with Woods, at least until he wins Grand Slam No. 15.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."