Punch Shot: Will Tiger or Rory have the better 2014?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 28, 2013, 9:02 pm

Rory McIlroy defeated Tiger Woods Monday in a one-on-one exhibition match in China. Both have a few more starts in 2013, but the focus is already on the upcoming year. Who will have the better 2014? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.



The only way Rory has a better 2014 than Woods is if the latter goes on the disabled list, which, of course, is not outside the realm of possibilities. 

The reason Tiger will have a better year has little to do with talent.

Woods, who turns 38 in December, is more settled in his life. His swing is no longer a work in progress. He’s not tinkering with equipment. His desire to win remains strong. He has a steady girlfriend and what seems like a satisfying relationship with his children. His health (at least for the time being) is good, though we may forever hold our breath when he settles into an awkward stance and gives it a full rip.

McIlroy remains a man in transition, both on the course and off, and his ongoing legal battle will hover over his head until next October. 

It takes years to get used to life under the microscope. By now, Woods has seemingly mastered it. 


Considering the duo’s divergent paths in 2013 history would favor Tiger Woods to have a better 2014 than Rory McIlroy, but before we mail next year’s PGA Tour Player of the Year Award to the current world No. 1 it may be worth reviewing the Ulsterman’s body of work.

For both of these players, the ultimate litmus test for single-season success is how they fare in major championships. That yardstick favored Woods in ’13, with two top-10 finishes and an untimely bounce at the Masters compared to McIlroy’s single top 10 (T-8 at the PGA Championship).

Yet recent history still favors the Northern Irishman on this front. McIlroy has two major victories – by a combined 16 strokes no less – since Woods last hoisted Grand Slam gold at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods’ game is as sharp as it has been in years. You don’t win five PGA Tour titles in a single season without having ownership of one’s swing, but major No. 15 has proven to be his most difficult.

In Woods it is easy to imagine a player pressing at the game’s biggest gatherings in his historic quest to match Jack Nicklaus’ major haul; while McIlroy finally seems to be at ease with his new clubs and life.

Woods may win more titles in 2014, but at this level success is measured in majors and McIlroy currently has the edge in that category.


While both held the No. 1 ranking for part of 2013, it’s a no-brainer for me when predicting who will have a stronger 2014: Tiger Woods.

Fresh off a five-win season and Player of the Year honors, Woods will have plenty of momentum when he tees it up for the first time in January. He’ll also have an increased sense of urgency when it comes to chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, as Woods will turn 38 in two months and will face an appetizing slate of major venues in 2014. While I expect him to win one of golf’s four biggest events next year, even a major-less season will likely include at least two or three PGA Tour titles.

On the other hand, it’s hard to find a more polarizing set of results than “Rory 2012 vs. Rory 2013,” and if I’m asked to foretell I would say that McIlroy’s game next year will trend more toward the latter. The Ulsterman is currently plagued by a variety of distractions, including several that extend off the course, and it remains to be seen when he will resume the dominant form that we last saw more than a year ago. While he possesses the talent to win and win often against the game’s best, the variables currently in play – from equipment to relationships to litigation – make the timing of his resurgence hard to pinpoint. McIlroy will be a force again in golf, but within the confines of 2014, it’s difficult to see him having a better year than the current world No. 1.


So lemme get this straight: We’re choosing between Tiger Woods, who won five times this season and once again built a Super Wal-Mart between himself and the next closest contender on the Official World Golf Ranking … and Rory McIlroy, who failed to win a single tournament and may follow up POY awards on both the PGA and European tours by failing to qualify for each of their season-ending tournaments?

With all due respect to both my astute editors and baseball bad boy Bryce Harper, that’s a clown question, bro.

Call it a classic case of not overthinking the situation, but I’ll take the guy who won a bunch of ‘em this year over the one who didn’t.

Nothing against Rory. I’m actually bullish on his 2014 prognosis, at least in a “buy low” sort of way. If nothing else, I think that one year from now he’ll be ranked higher than the sixth position on the ranking that he owns now, for whatever that’s worth.

But Tiger is, well … Tiger. He’s the best player in the world. And while I’ll be the first to point out that at various times he appeared to either be trying too hard or not hard enough, the results speak for themselves. If any other player wins five times, we’re celebrating his career year. Tiger does it and we’re asking whether a guy who didn’t win at all will somehow pass him next year.

Maybe this is like one of those trick questions on the SAT where the answer is the one you least suspect. But I’m not going to overthink it. Give me the guy with the recent hardware sitting on his mantle.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."