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The Social: Everyone has Tiger fever

By Jason CrookMarch 13, 2018, 5:15 pm

Everyone goes wild for Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler honors Arnold Palmer with some custom shoes and Andrew "Beef" Johnson did the impossible ... he ordered too much food.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Not sure if anyone heard, but Tiger Woods is back.

Sure you’ve probably heard that more times than you can count over the last few years as he’s tried to return to the PGA Tour after several back surgeries ... but this time, it sure looks like the real deal.

Sure, Woods ultimately came up a shot short at the Valspar, but watching that guy in red and black fist pumping his way around Innisbrook over the weekend was a sight for sore eyes. And not just these ones.

Fellow pros, superstar athletes, celebrities and even an ex-girlfriend caught Tiger fever on Sunday as Woods and Co., came down the stretch, and they couldn't help but tweet their support for the 14-time major winner:

With all due respect to the rest of the golfing universe, nobody moves the needle like Tiger. Not even Phil Mickelson's first win in five years, the previous week in Mexico, generated this kind of buzz. And the stats back that up.

The "Tiger Effect" is real and it's spectacular.

It'll be on full display again this week at the Arnold Palmer invitational, an event he's won eight times, and if he heads into the Masters with this kind of form, the first major of the year will be a circus.

While the spotlight will certainly be on Woods this week at Bay Hill, one guy who may steal a few looks from fans is Rickie Fowler.

Fowler plans on sporting some special-edition shoes to honor the event's former host, Arnold Palmer, and hopefully raise a good chunk of change for charity.

The 29-year-old has never been shy about his appreciation for Palmer's contributions to the sport, and he worked with Puma to customize the kicks to include several tributes to Arnie for the second Arnold Palmer Invitational since he passed away, including Palmer's signature, the iconic umbrella logo, pink lining and special inscriptions on the heels.

An identical pair of shoes will be autographed by Fowler and included in a giveaway benefiting Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation.

After a few tweaks during the six-month comment period, the new Rules of Golf have been finalized by the USGA and R&A and are set to take effect on Jan. 1.

There wasn't a ton of chatter online after the announcement, but Tyrrell Hatton did have a refreshing response to suddenly being allowed to tap down spike marks on greens – "What the hell am I meant to blame" for a missed putt?

Golfers of all levels can relate to the three-time European Tour winner. It's never your fault. Maybe it's the equipment? Perhaps the wind kicked up at the wrong moment? Maybe there was a spike mark that knocked your ball off line?

Whatever the case, blame should be placed elsewhere. You're great at golf. Wish the rule makers would understand this simple concept and stop making it harder to embrace.

Sure, we'd all get our ankles broken by Hot Sauce during this tremendous promotion the NBA's Atlanta Hawks are putting on during home games. But I defy you to find a bigger mismatch for the street-ball legend than ESPN reporter Darren Rovell.

Justin Thomas spent his off-week laying around doing nothing ... for good reason.

The world No. 2 had his wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday, and we know that because if you undergo surgery in 2018 and don't post a picture, then did it even happen?

Luckily for us, Thomas posted the aftermath on social media shortly after the procedure. Perhaps it was just bad lighting, but his career as an Instagram model is off to a rough start.

Looking my best #wisdomteethbegone

A post shared by Justin Thomas (@justinthomas34) on

Of course, Thomas' roommate, fellow PGA Tour pro Tom Lovelady, immediately jumped in the comments to reference Thomas' recent run-in with a fan at the Honda Classic that ended with JT issuing an apology for overreacting.

Thomas may not live that incident down with golf fans for a while. But from the looks of things, his friends will remember it for even longer.

Because what good are friends if they don't give you a little kick when your down?

Andrew “Beef” Johnston doesn’t come across as a guy who asks for a doggy bag at restaurants because he can’t finish his meal.

After all, you can’t get dessert if you don’t finish dinner.

That’s why the comment of the week has to go to Beef’s waiter at a restaurant in India, who had the gall to tell him he’d ordered too much food, and then was proven right.

After taking that loss, Beef also ended up losing the Indian Open in a playoff. While he won’t get another shot at that title for a whole year, he vowed to give the restaurant another chance before he left town.

Hope they stocked up. Beef eating with a vengeance must be a sight to behold.

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Luiten (wrist) withdraws from WGC-Match Play

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:38 pm

Joost Luiten was one of the last men to qualify for this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but he's the first one out of the tournament after withdrawing because of a wrist injury.

Luiten, who won the European Tour's Oman Open in February, posted on Instagram about his withdrawal and also wrote a lengthy explanation in Dutch on his website.

"Very disappointed to say that I have to withdraw from the WGC Dell Match Play because of a wrist injury," Luiten wrote. "Gutted because I love playing match play! I will be back strong."

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Luiten explained that the injury is on his left wrist, which was previously operated on in 2010. The exact cause is unknown, but he started to experience pain while at home in the Netherlands the week before the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Luiten went on to play in Mexico City, finishing T-37, and he tied for ninth the following week at the Hero Indian Open. But his wrist pain continued to increase, and when it didn't respond to treatment over the weekend he decided to withdraw.

Luiten will now be replaced in the field by world No. 72 Julian Suri. Bill Haas is now first alternate, while Brandt Snedeker is second alternate.

Golf Channel will air a live selection show from 7:30 to 9 p.m. ET Monday to determine the four-player pods in Austin, with round-robin matches beginning Wednesday.

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Rory inside OWGR top 10; Tiger near top 100

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:20 pm

Rory McIlroy is back inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking after rallying to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy shot a final-round 64 at Bay Hill to race past Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau for a three-shot victory, his first on the PGA Tour in nearly 18 months. As a result, he jumped six spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings, his highest position since October.

DeChambeau finished alone in second place, jumping 34 spots to No. 61 in the world. Justin Rose remained No. 5 after finishing third, while Henrik Stenson moved up one spot to No. 14 after finishing fourth.

Tiger Woods finished T-5, his third top-12 result in as many starts. As a result he's up another 44 spots to No. 105, his best ranking since April 2015. Woods, who started the year ranked No. 656, was 388th before a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship.

The top 50 in next week's world rankings will qualify for the upcoming Masters, meaning there are 13 players currently in the field for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play who could sew up an invite to Augusta National with a strong finish in Austin, including No. 47 Chez Reavie and No. 50 Cam Smith.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week, followed by Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Rose. Hideki Matsuyama remains at No. 6, with McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

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Denied relief, Reed jokes: 'Guess my name needs to be Spieth'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:45 pm

A rules controversy broke out during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational involving a player dressed in red and black, but it had nothing to do with Tiger Woods.

Patrick Reed was playing in the group in front of Woods for the second straight Sunday, and he became embroiled in a situation after launching his approach into an area of trees behind the 11th green. As captured by a fan video, Reed got into a lengthy discussion with an on-site rules official before being told that he would not receive the free relief he was requesting.

"I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys," Reed said, drawing laughs from a few gallery members.

Spieth and Reed have a successful history together as Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup partners. But last summer Spieth was at the center of the biggest rules decision of the year, when he dropped on the driving range during the final round of The Open after taking an unplayable lie from an errant drive.

After taking a penalty drop, Reed ended up making double bogey on No. 11 en route to a 1-under 71. He finished the week in a tie for seventh at 8 under.

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Ketel call: McIlroy toasts to Arnie, media at API

By Nick MentaMarch 19, 2018, 1:09 pm

Standing in the Doc Giffin media center Sunday night following his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy made a gesture that would have made Arnold Palmer proud.

Wearing his newly won red cardigan and handing out cups filled with the King's favorite, Ketel One vodka, McIlroy issued this toast to the assembled media:

"To Arnie!" McIlroy began his toast. "To Arnie, I guess. Thank you. Thanks to everyone. Thanks for covering. Thanks for making us seem better than we are. And, cheers. Thank you."

Nice to hear someone say something nice about the media. Back atcha, Rors.