Tiger's '08 U.S. Open putt voted as greatest moment

By Mercer BaggsApril 7, 2015, 12:30 pm

Tiger Woods knew what he needed. Everyone else knew what he would do.

Standing on the par-5 18th hole on the South Course at Torrey Pines – the 72nd hole in the 2008 U.S. Open – Woods trailed Rocco Mediate by one shot.

His tee shot was terrible, a pull into the left fairway bunker. His layup was lousy, a push into the right rough that elicited to a pair of club slams.

Two shots left or all the ecstasy and agony of the last four days was left to die on the vine. Saturday’s third round was one of the most exciting days – final round or not – in major championship history. Woods had hobbled and holed out, chipping in for birdie on 17 and making eagle on 18 to take the 54-hole lead.

No one knew how bad Tiger’s left knee was or that he had a double-stress fracture in his left tibia. That only added to the lore down the line.

But first, history had to be made.

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Woods thought about hitting a 56-degree wedge from the rough on the final hole of regulation. He had 95 yards to the front of the green and 101 yards to the pin. His caddie, Steve Williams, convinced him to hit a 60-degree wedge, instead. The thought being: Swing harder, put more spin on the ball, get it to stop coming out of the rough.

It worked. Tiger played his third shot right of the hole and his ball settled about 15 feet away.

After playing competitor Lee Westwood missed a playoff-inducing putt, Woods studied his effort from all angles. He stared intently, as if nothing else in the world existed. And, for a moment, for him, for millions watching, nothing else did.

“That was actually one of the worst parts of the green,” Woods said that Sunday evening. “It's so bumpy down there. And I just kept telling myself two-and-a-half balls outside the right, but make sure you stay committed to it, make a pure stroke and if it Plinkos in, or Plinkos out it doesn't matter, as long as I make a pure stroke.”

Tiger walked toward his ball. He took two quick practice strokes, made his address and peeked twice at the hole. He paused.

And then …

The moment. The greatest moment of his career, as voted on by fans. Tiger’s putt to force a Monday playoff in the 2008 U.S. Open defeated his embrace of father Earl after winning the 1997 Masters, 63.78 percent to 36.22 percent, to top the Tiger Woods’ Greatest Moments Match Play.

But it wasn’t just the putt dropping that made the moment. It was the reaction – his primal screams muted by a deafening crowd. It was the call – Dan Hicks saying, “Expect anything different?” It was that it was Tiger – Westwood making his putt ahead of Woods would offer little comparison. It was that Woods did what he was expected to do – Mediate watching, saying he knew Tiger would make it. It was that Tiger won the next day – in 19 holes.

It was that he did it all on a bum knee and a broken leg. It’s that he hasn’t won a major since.

This one may stand the test of time. It might forever be Woods’ greatest moment. But with Tiger, even with where he is now in his career, there is always the possibility of greater things.

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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.