The old Tiger Woods is never coming back

By John FeinsteinJune 19, 2012, 8:25 pm

There is a good reason why people tend to jump back on to the Tiger Woods bandwagon every time he pieces together a couple of decent rounds.

It’s because when they look at him they see Tiger Woods. Problem is, he’s not.

He’s not the Tiger Woods who dominated golf in ways no one in history has ever dominated the sport. He’s not the Tiger Woods who made getting up-and-down from anywhere look so easy that the only real question seemed to be whether he’d hole out from off the green or walk up for a tap-in.

And he’s most certainly not the Tiger Woods who, in a rare moment of complete honesty, once said finishing second “sucks.”

That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to win more majors. As he pointed out repeatedly after his victory at the Memorial, he’s still only 36. That’s right in golfing middle age and there isn’t any doubt that Woods is going to continue to work maniacally on finding the missing pieces in his game because that’s who he is and who he always has been.

Even so, it was shocking to hear him talk about how encouraged he is, about how close he is, after he collapsed on a weekend at a major championship in a manner one would expect from a mini-tour player who somehow found himself on top of a 36-hole leaderboard and then remembered who he really was when he woke up on Saturday.

It is to Woods’ credit that he talked to the media after his rounds on Saturday and Sunday even if he did react to Roger Maltbie asking him if the hand that smacked a camera on his way off of 18 on Saturday was alright, as if Maltbie had asked him how things were going with his ex-wife. You go from tied for the lead in the U.S. Open on Friday night to five shots back on Saturday night you should be a little bit cranky.

But let’s face it, the old Woods wouldn’t have talked to Maltbie or anybody else on Saturday. And Sunday? He would have been in the car and out of Dodge – or San Francisco – before the group behind his had walked up the hill to the 18th green at Olympic.

Butch Harmon, who was Woods’ teacher during the period when he was so much better than the rest of the world, made the comment a few months ago that he believed part of his old pupil’s problem was that he was trying to be someone he’s not; that trying to rehab his public image in order to win back corporate sponsors was getting in the way of rehabbing his golf game.

There may be something to that. Or there may be something to the theory that he has spent so much time trying to hit the ball straight off the tee that he’s lost the magic he once had around the greens.

Or maybe it’s just this: he’s trying too hard in the majors.

That’s natural for everyone who plays golf at the highest level. Does anyone think for one second that Jim Furyk would have hit a tee shot like the one that came off his club at No. 16 on Sunday if he was in contention at Bay Hill, the Memorial or, for that matter, The Players?

Of course not. Even though the Official World Golf Rankings and the FedEx Cup point systems don’t acknowledge the fact that the majors are at least 10 times as important as any weekly tournament, the fact is they are to everyone who has ever teed it up on Tour.

And for Woods, they are even more important than that. He’s said as much from the first day he first popped onto golf’s radar and, for the most part, has never backed away from that. There was the tiniest crack in that veneer when he won at Memorial. For some reason, he really wanted people to understand how remarkable it was that he had matched Nicklaus’s 73 Tour victories. He repeatedly pointed out that he’s 10 years younger than Nicklaus was when he won his 73rd tournament, something he never would have brought up pre-hydrant. His response then would have been something like, “It’s an honor to have my name in the same sentence with Jack Nicklaus but this is NOT the number I’m ultimately after.”

Maybe the thought has crossed his mind that he might not reach that number, the one that appeared to be an absolute lock at the moment four years ago when he last kissed a major trophy. Maybe that’s why he’s squeezing the club so tight at the majors these days.

Think about this: after his victory at Torrey Pines, Woods had won six of the previous 14 majors. Earlier in his career he won seven-of-11 at one point. It was not unreasonable to think that today, 16 majors later, he would already be at 19. Even if you account for the two he missed at the end of 2008 he still would have had 14 chances to win five more and be past Nicklaus now.

Of course, since that day his body has betrayed him and he betrayed his family. His putter has turned on him at key times and even his nerves have frayed. Four years ago, tied for the 36-hole lead at a major, Woods would have wondered only by how much he was going to win, not if he was going to win.

He’s correct when he says he’s seen progress. He’s won twice on Tour this year and finished second with a closing 62 on another occasion. But the majors have been a different story. In fact, his past four majors have produced the following results: DNP-injured; missed cut; T-40; T-21.

Do those results look like Tiger Woods? Consider for a moment his results the last year he was completely healthy and scandal-free, which was 2007: T-2; T-2; T-12; 1. And he wasn’t all that thrilled with those numbers.

In the end, there’s probably too much of the old Woods rummaging around inside the one we’re looking at right now for him not to win again when it really counts. He’s smart and he’s driven like perhaps no one in golf history has ever been driven. Nicklaus was driven by history; Woods is driven by history and anger.

But when it does happen, when he does win again on a Sunday when he really and truly cares, let’s not start screaming, ‘he’s back!’ The new Tiger Woods may be good enough to win a major. But the old one, the one who would have won by five last week and then said, “it’s nice win but I’ve got a lot to work on,” is never coming back.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.