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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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x