Woods dominating but fizzles at finish

By Randall MellJanuary 29, 2013, 2:05 am

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods limped home yet again to win another championship at Torrey Pines.

This wobbly march through the home stretch at the Farmers Insurance Open Monday wasn’t awe-inspiring like that win at the U.S. Open here five years ago, but it was nearly as head-scratching.

When Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he made us scratch our heads at how he could hit so many brilliant shots on a left leg ravaged by a torn ligament and fractured tibia.

He brought home this latest title, his eighth at Torrey Pines, limping home figuratively, with a sprained swing and hemorrhaging scorecard.

This time we marveled at how the greatest closer in the history of the game could look so invincible for 54 holes and so vulnerable for the final 18.

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We marveled at how the Tiger Woods of old came back to us through the first three rounds, how he emerged from the ethereal mist that shrouded this place with a game that made us think he could dominate again, that he will dominate again. We marveled at how all that brilliance could give way so quickly to the same doubts that have given us pause since he returned from his personal woes.

Yeah, it’s not fair, not at all, that a four-shot victory comes with scrutiny like this, but that’s the nature of the shadow Woods casts; that’s the specter that comes with his remarkable record.

Only Woods could win his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots and leave us thinking he didn’t somehow deliver all the goods.

That’s just crazy, but we see his career as a drama larger than any single moment. He’s our Odysseus, and we’re wondering if he’ll ever make it to Ithaca. We’re wondering where this great adventure ends because the task ahead still seems so great.

We see Woods in a picture frame larger than the PGA Tour events he is playing. So, when we see flashes of Woods’ brilliance returning, we think, yes, he will break Jack Nicklaus’ record. He will leave the sport with all the records, and then we see Monday’s stumbling finish and wonder if that’s the arc the bigger picture also takes. We remember his lost weekends after taking the lead at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship last year and failing to even grab a top 10.

There are so many ways you can look at Woods’ victory this week.

You can see the hard work paying off here in that terrific stretch where he hit one long, straight drive after another. You could see the power back with his ability to dominate par 5s. You could see the great escapes, the ability to recover from impossible lies that helped him erase so many mistakes in the past. You could see the sharpening short game that has helped him keep his scorecards so clean over the years. You could see the putting stroke continuing to come back.

You see all of that and think Woods is rebuilding the greatest arsenal of shots in the game. You see him being able to get away with mistakes again because he can erase so many of them.

You also see how his swing with his driver deserted him in the final round this past week, how the big misses returned in a rush, with tee shots spraying into trees, ice plants, bunkers and fences.

Woods built his reputation closing stronger, better and more fiercely than anyone who ever played the game, but he went bogey, double bogey, par, bogey and par coming home Sunday. He turned an eight-shot lead into a four-shot lead. Yes, there’s rust in his first PGA Tour start of the year, but this was Tiger at Torrey.

So what do you take away from his 75th PGA Tour title?

“That’s a good question,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. “I’m a bottom-line guy, and the fact that he won is all that matters to me. I take away how he drove the heck out of the ball. Going forward, that’s a positive. I think he’s very confident now.”

Woods dismissed the stumbling finish with the idea that he knew all he had to do was “stay upright” to win. The slow pace play annoyed him, and he said he lost his patience.

No matter how he finished, winning here bodes well.

In the six seasons Woods has won this event, he has gone on to win major championships in five of them.

When he wins at Torrey Pines, big years always follow. He averages 6.3 wins a year when he wins at Torrey Pines.

“I didn't know those stats, sorry,” Woods said. “Does it feel good? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely. But as far as the other stuff, as I said, I'm excited about this year.  I'm excited about what I'm doing with Sean Foley and some of the things that I've built.  This is a nice way to start the year.”

Yes, but ultimately, it’s the finish that matters and that’s what Woods is working toward, finishing his great quest.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry