C. Woods' Oz win proves she's more than just a name

By Randall MellFebruary 9, 2014, 4:50 pm

Cheyenne Woods looks so comfortable in her own skin.

That’s no small triumph given her name, her legacy and the burden of expectations that come with trying to follow her famous uncle into professional golf.

It’s what strikes you most about her, even before her breakthrough win Sunday at the Australian Ladies Masters.

Woods’ sense of herself, her quiet assurance in who she is beyond being Tiger Woods’ niece, is what gives her a fighting chance to be the best player she can be, whether that’s as a Tigress, or a one-shot wonder, or something in between.

And make no mistake, Cheyenne Woods, 23, looked like a Tigress closing out her first professional victory outside a tiny Florida mini-tour event.

She looked nerveless holding off her challengers on the back nine Sunday, making birdies at two of the final four holes, three of the last seven to beat 17-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee by two shots with Lee applying all kinds of pressure by making three consecutive birdies on the front nine.

After drilling her final tee shot deep down the middle of the 18th fairway, Woods quickly plucked her tee from the ground and marched resolutely to her bag. She wasn't wearing a power-red Sunday shirt like her uncle does, but she radiated with confidence and purpose throughout the back nine, dressed in all white with a splash of pink in her shirt.

With her cover-girl looks and a smile that bears a striking resemblance to her famous uncle’s, Woods has the gift of a dynamic presence. And she possessed it long before she won Down Under.

“I've been a pro for two years, and for the majority of it, people just think of me as Tiger Woods' niece,” Cheyenne said after hoisting the Aussie Ladies Masters trophy. “So, now I have a game of my own, and I have a title now, a win, which is exciting.

“It's nice now to say to people that I can play, and I'm not just a name.”

Photos: Cheyenne Woods through the years

There was no resentment in those words. If you’ve followed Cheyenne Woods since she turned pro two years ago, you’ve seen the humble gratefulness for opportunities she knows her name created. She gets it. She also gets that fellow players will ultimately respect only the name she makes for herself. She’s doing that the way most young players must do it, trying and failing as they work their way up the developmental ranks.

Yes, of course, Woods’ name has helped her with sponsorships since she graduated from Wake Forest. Yes, she has benefited from playing a limited number of LPGA events on sponsor invites, but after failing to qualify for the LPGA’s tour, she earned her Ladies European Tour card. She grinded away on the smaller foreign circuit as a rookie all of last year, finishing 78th on the LET Order of Merit. She’s still looking at playing the LET and LPGA Symetra Tour this year.

Honestly, if you were looking for signs of something special in Cheyenne’s game since she turned pro, you had to look beyond the scores and numbers. After grabbing the first-round lead at the Spanish Open last year, she followed it up with a 78. There have been a lot of those kind of disappointments in her pro career, which only makes her breakthrough more satisfying.

When Cheyenne Woods shoots 78, you can be sure there are snickers.

“Growing up with the last name of Woods, there is a lot of expectations and pressure and spotlight on you, but I always knew that I was able to win,” Woods said. “I always knew I'd be able to compete with these ladies, so now it's kind of a weight off my shoulders, because now everybody knows, not just me.”

Yes, this wasn’t an LPGA event Woods won Down Under, but it was no mini-tour event, either. She beat a field in a tournament co-sanctioned by the LET and Australian Ladies Professional Golf. She beat a field that included Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who was going for a record ninth title in this event. She beat a field that included Jessica Korda, who won the LPGA season opener in the Bahamas two weeks ago. She beat a field that included Caroline Hedwall, the Solheim Cup star who last year helped the Europeans win for the first time on American soil, and a field that included England’s Charley Hull and former Rolex world No. 1 Yani Tseng. 

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's win, Cheyenne said she had yet to check her text messages when asked if Tiger sent a congratulatory note. She did say Tiger texted her earlier in the week, encouraging her.

Cheyenne choked up at the trophy presentation when talking about her family.

“I know my mom will have shed a million tears,” Woods said. “Every day, I was getting texts from back home, from family, and I knew my mom and dad were watching the tournament online.”

Cheyenne is the daughter of Earl Woods Jr., the oldest son of Earl Woods Sr., Tiger’s late father. Earl was among three children born in Earl Sr.’s first marriage.

Tiger doesn’t talk about his siblings. He doesn’t let us in on his relationship with that side of the family. ESPN’s Rick Reilly painted a cold picture of it in a story before the Masters last year. He wrote back then that Tiger has had no contact with his siblings since his father died in 2006. Cheyenne, though, reports a good relationship with her uncle, gratefulness for the help Tiger has offered her over the years.

“I’ve asked Tiger for advice, here and there, so he’s great to have for that,” Cheyenne said earlier this week. “But pretty much, I’m just out here doing my own thing.”

The temptation now will be to ratchet up the expectations, to project what Cheyenne Woods could mean to the women’s game if she becomes its Tigress. Given her name, her looks and her dynamic presence, she possesses the intangibles that no player outside Michelle Wie possesses in being able to raise the women’s game to another level.

Now that’s a load of pressure to heap on anyone’s shoulders, especially a player who worked so hard to break through and win for the first time on a major tour.

The upside is Woods has lived with those expectations most of her life and managed to look so comfortable doing so. There’s something to admire in that alone.

Update: Tiger sent out a congratulatory tweet Sunday afternoon:

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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.