Like LeBron, Tiger happy to be back in Ohio

By Jason SobelJuly 30, 2014, 7:11 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Comparisons between the world’s most polarizing professional golfer and its most transcendent basketball star come fast and easy, especially in this city.

There's the talent thing, of course: Each was born with immense athletic skill that's been honed through years of intense practice and preparation.

There's the unhealthy dose of expectations: Each has raised the bar so high that on the occasions they don’t win championships, criticism rains down like hailstones from the heavens.

And then there's this: Here in the northeast corner of Ohio where LeBron James recently returned home, Tiger Woods is attempting to make a similar comeback of his own.

No, Tiger wasn't raised here, nor does he own real estate, but he's won $11,060,125 in 15 career trips to this event – a paltry $737,342 per week – which should at least qualify him for honorary Rubber City citizenship.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. That number alone would place him 133rd on the PGA Tour’s career money list – above names like Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Craig Stadler and John Daly. And even with a last-place finish this week, he’ll pass Tom Watson.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

In fact, his list of accomplishments at Firestone Country Club reads like a list of Most Interesting Man in the World memes.

He once finished off a win in the dark … and made birdie. He once hit a shot onto the clubhouse roof … and only made bogey. He once struggled on the back nine … and still shot 61.

All told, Woods has won eight times in 16 tries at this tournament. Even he knows that’s an exceedingly impressive percentage.

“I've finished first eight times,” he said Wednesday with a knowing smile. “So that's actually a pretty good stat.”

Here’s another noteworthy stat: The last of those eight was the last time he won. Anywhere.

It was a year ago this week that Woods polished off a seven-stroke triumph, then hugged his son Charlie, scooped up another piece of hardware for the trophy room and left here $1.5 million richer.

Prior to this week’s edition of the event, he didn’t allow that it felt longer than a year since that day, but it’s been an injury-riddled, enigmatic, uncharacteristic 52-week period for the game’s biggest star.

He followed that victory with just one top 10 in his last five starts of the season while hampered by a back injury that he consistently maintained wasn’t hampering him. He then returned this year to more of the same, a list of wince-inducing results that any Tigerphile has long since memorized and tried to forget.

He missed the secondary cut at Torrey Pines, where his record rivals that of Firestone; he withdrew from the Honda Classic; he grimaced his way through a T-25 at Doral; he underwent microdiscectomy surgery; he missed three months; he returned at his own Quicken Loans National, missing the cut; and he played in his first major of the year, finishing in 69th place.

All of which brings us back to here at Firestone, where Woods is hoping that a return to friendly confines will in turn boost his performance level.

“There are certain golf courses – here, Torrey, Bay Hill, even Augusta – no matter what my form is going into that week or on those particular venues, I just somehow feel good,” he said. “It doesn't mean I'm going to play well, but I still have that feeling.”

It’s difficult to believe that a player who has won more PGA Tour events than anyone besides Sam Snead and more major championships than anyone other than Jack Nicklaus would need to relearn how to win, but having those good vibes on familiar territory certainly won’t hurt his chances.

As Woods is quick to point out, he needs a big week to not only salvage his season, but to potentially qualify him for the FedEx Cup playoffs and a Ryder Cup spot. Those carrots are dangling in front of him right now – and they couldn’t come at a better place.

“I'm excited to be back,” he said. “I've had some pretty good memories here. I've had some pretty good rounds and certainly some great moments on this property. Anytime I come back here, it's always a good solid feeling, and I'm looking forward to this week.”

Tiger’s comments might not have echoed LeBron’s now-famous refrain of “I’m coming home,” but the sentiment isn’t far off.

Like his fellow superstar, Woods understands that winning a championship in his return to the Akron area would alleviate some pressure and once again live up to those lofty expectations.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 6, Dustin Johnson

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:00 pm

Only Dustin Johnson could win four times in 2017 and it still feels as though he underachieved.

That’s unfair, perhaps, but it’s a testament to Johnson’s awesome ability – and his incredible run of form last spring – that observers can’t help but shake the feeling that his year could have been even better.

In February, he rose to the top of the world rankings for the first time, the culmination of a long, bizarre journey in which he often battled himself (through major blunders and, reportedly, drug-related suspensions) as much as his peers. Johnson’s blowout victory at Riviera was his first of three consecutive titles (including two WGCs), as he achieved Tiger-like levels of dominance and rolled into the Masters as the prohibitive favorite.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Expectations for this star-crossed talent are always different, and so the surprise wasn’t that he blew that major but that he didn’t even give himself a chance. In one of the biggest stunners of the year, Johnson’s manager announced on the eve of the first round that his client had suffered a back injury while slipping on a set of stairs in his rental house. Just like that, the year’s first major was thrown into chaos, with Johnson unable to play – the line of demarcation in his good-but-not-great year.

Though he added a playoff victory at the end of the season, Johnson failed to factor in any of the remaining three majors and was surprisingly inconsistent, perhaps because of swing compensations after the injury.

Would DJ have denied Sergio Garcia a green jacket? Would he have created even more separation at the top of the world rankings? Would he have defended his Player of the Year title? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

In typical DJ fashion, he left us to ponder what could have been.

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