Woods climbs closer to Barclays lead despite back pain

By Jason SobelAugust 24, 2013, 10:18 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Tiger Woods has a pretty sharp sense of humor. You just have to be in on the joke.

For instance, after his Saturday round at The Barclays, he deadpanned to reporters that he told caddie Joe LaCava to meet him at the driving range after his media responsibilities.

If you hadn’t seen Woods’ third-round performance, it sounds like an innocuous comment. Just another example of a player who wants to get in a few more swings before sundown.

For those who witnessed his round, though, for those who watched him wince and grimace and twist and stretch all afternoon, it was easy to recognize this as simply his brand of sarcasm.

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With back pain that was noticeably affecting him throughout the day, the last thing Woods wanted was a practice session on the range following a grit-through-it, grind-it-out round of 2-under 69.

“I hung in there,” he said of the round. “It's golf. You just kind of grind it out. It's a long day.”

Woods has issued similar comments after each of the first three rounds this week, his back pain becoming progressively worse as every round wears on. For a while in this one, it appeared that “hanging in there” wouldn’t include getting his name back on the first page of the leaderboard.

In fact, for much of the third round, a few notions permeated the thoughts of those watching him.

Maybe we’ve underrated these FedEx Cup Playoff events. Maybe we’ve failed to understand just how much they mean to him.

For years, Woods has explained to anyone who will listen that he holds the four major championships in higher regard than all other tournaments. And yes, that even includes the PGA Tour’s end-of-season bonus babies.

But how else were we to explain his performance throughout most of this day? He was treating the proceedings like he’s treated Moving Day at the majors lately. He entered the third round with a good chance of getting himself into position to win the next day and looked like he’d be exiting with less of a chance.

Alright, so maybe it wasn’t nerves or pressure or whatever other explanation/excuse you’d like to offer for his weekend struggles at majors over the past half-decade that was afflicting him at Liberty National.

Whatever has been causing so many major championship Moving Day sagas in recent years, it’s likely had more to do with technical mechanics and mental progressions than physical ailments.

This wasn’t a grind-it-out day in the sense that he just couldn’t get a feel for his long game or a rhythm with his putting. This was a grind-it-out day based on the pain he was feeling.

Sure, it was a far cry from the 2008 U.S. Open, when Woods won his 14th career major title on one leg, but the discomfort was obvious. From bending down to place his tee in the ground to reaching into the cup to pluck his golf ball and everything in between, he endured a level of anguish that was clearly affecting his result.

After stuffing his opening-hole approach shot to a foot for birdie, Woods bogeyed the third and fourth holes, then followed with another bogey on the seventh. It appeared, much like his increasingly regular Saturday performances at the majors, that this Moving Day would again find him moving in the wrong direction.

As he said, though, he hung in there and grinded it out.

Woods posted a bogey-free back nine that included birdies on three of his final six holes. A day that looked at one point like it would keep him from contention, turned right around. He started in a share of eighth place, five strokes off the lead; he ended in a share of fourth place, four strokes off the lead.

While he allowed afterward that he would continue receiving treatment on his back, Woods also broached the subject of Sunday’s final round with optimism. If he could stay in contention with physical pain, he could win if it finally dissipates.

“It starts off great every day, and then it progressively deteriorates as the day goes on,” he explained. “Hopefully tomorrow it will be one of those days again and fight through it and see if I can win a tournament.”

There’s no telling how Woods’ back will react the next time he swings a club on the range Sunday afternoon. Or how it will affect his play early in the round. Or how much pain he’ll feel as the day continues.

What we do know is that directly after his uncomfortable round on Saturday, the last thing he wanted was to hit another golf ball. But maybe that was one of those jokes where you just had to be there.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.