Woods confident he can claim Firestone, PGA victories

By Jason SobelAugust 1, 2012, 7:53 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods returns to Firestone Country Club this week, site of a touchdown on his personal scoreboard of 74 career PGA Tour victories. One more and his extra point becomes a two-point conversion, apropos of almost nothing, other than this being Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend here in the Northeast Ohio area.

Much like the most celebrated gridiron greats, Woods can’t find the end zone every time – even on what could substitute as a decided home field advantage.

The analogies and puns can end here, but so has his domination at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Two years ago, mired in the worst season of his career, he finished in a share of 78th place out of the 80 competitors who finished four rounds; last year, in his first tournament after being sidelined three months due to injury, he came in a middling T-37.

If that doesn’t appear like enough to sound the alarm in Camp Woods, well, that’s because it isn’t – nor should it be. Tiger is cruising along this season with three wins and five other top-25 results in 13 starts so far; below the norm for his career, yes, but above the norm for those of everyone else.

Video: Woods' WGC-Bridgestone news conference

It should serve as a testament to the lack of duress facing Woods right now that the most strife he’s incurring is the fact that he hasn’t won one of three (or four, or five, depending on your count) World Golf Championship events since all the way back in 2009.

OK, so maybe that’s not entirely true…

There is the little case of Woods failing to claim a major since one year earlier, the historic victory at the 2008 U.S. Open leaving him with 14 in perpetuity – or at least until he beats perpetuity in a playoff.

So far this year he failed to break par in any round at the Masters; turned a title contention entering the weekend at the U.S. Open into a share of 21st place; and got into the mix at the Open Championship, finishing T-3.

For a player who so often maintains that he wants to “peak four times each year” and ranks his place in history based on major championship wins, the questions remain: How does he quantify a successful season? And if he doesn’t win a major this year, can it still be considered a success?

“Well, I've said this many times in the past: Winning golf tournaments makes it successful, but winning a major makes it a great year,” Woods said Wednesday. “You can go from having a so-so year to all of a sudden winning one major, and all of a sudden it's a great year, because you're part of history when you do something like that.

“[Open Championship winner] Ernie [Els] has been consistent this year. I think that he would attest to that he's playing better, but then all of a sudden it just jumps you into a different category.”

Woods has one remaining opportunity to elevate his season into that category and it will come at next week’s PGA Championship. On Tuesday, he practiced at The Ocean Course, turning what was a great unknown into a little less of an unknown.

“It's going to be long,” he confided. “I mean, I think it's going to be close to 7,700 yards, and that's a big ballpark. A lot of the holes are crosswind holes. … Having paspalum greens is different. I've only played on paspalum greens one time. But they drain great. They're going to be firm.”

What makes this week unique for Woods is that unlike each of the year’s first three majors, he annually tees it up in competition directly before playing the PGA. At stake is an eighth career win at Firestone and a fourth win this season and an opportunity to regain the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it’s a chance to get himself into position to claim that elusive 15th major title next week – the one thing that would turn this season, under his own definition from a successful campaign to a great one.

And he’s well aware, of course. When asked to elucidate his thoughts on the difference between the two and whether a three-win, no major season would be eclipsed by those whose lone victory was a major, a wide grin came across his face.

With thoughts squarely on winning not only this week but next week as well, Woods declared in his own inimitable style: “It’s not over yet.”

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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.