Big names colliding at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2012, 11:34 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Imagine the possibilities: tee sheets riddled with more intrigue than an episode of “Grim” and enough volatility to set the World Golf Ranking on its side, again.

Imagine the possibilities if the math and mojo lineup. It’s happened here before, back when Doral was more South Beach than Sawgrass. Before the WGC cut Doral’s field in half and turned a true South Florida soiree into something a little more sterile.

In Cliff’s Note form, No. 2-ranked Tiger Woods went into the final round of the 2005 Ford Championship two strokes adrift of No. 4 Phil Mickelson, they turned all square, Woods pulled away with a birdie at the 17th and Lefty’s chip at the last that would have forced a playoff lipped out. Pandemonium ensued.

For good measure, No. 1 Vijay Singh finished tied for third place in 2005 but it wasn’t enough to keep Woods at bay and the Fijian slipped to No. 2 in the world.

It was as good as golf gets this side of Magnolia Lane.

These type of events rarely go to script and no matter how hard the PGA Tour contrives, there is no way to ensure magic. But on the eve of the year’s second World Golf Championship it’s impossible not to imagine the possibilities.

In order, Thursday’s tee sheet at Doral features an in-form Woods and Mickelson, a newly crowned world No. 1 and enough ranking points to allow for another overhaul of the world order on Sunday if the tumblers fall as prescribed.

Per custom, world Nos. 1, 2 and 3 will set out together on Thursday and it is a measure of how much subtext is swirling through the South Florida air this week that it’s not even the day’s most-compelling three-ball.

That honor belongs to Woods, who will play with defending champion Nick Watney and Sergio Garcia. Or maybe it’s Mickelson who tees off with WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship winner Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott.

It’s all enough to make reporters forget about Hank Haney’s impending book on Woods, at least temporarily.

In the last month Mickelson outdueled Woods, among others, at Pebble Beach and finished runner-up at Northern Trust Open, Woods closed with a 62 on Sunday at the Honda Classic for his best Tour finish (T-2) since 2009 and Rory McIlroy overtook Luke Donald atop the World Ranking with his win at PGA National.

“We have not had somebody play to the level of Tiger and so now we have four, five, six guys that are battling for the No. 1 spot it seems like monthly,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know where it will all settle.”

It doesn’t seem likely the ranking roulette will end any time soon with little let up in most players schedules through the Masters. Woods and Mickelson will play Bay Hill before the year’s first major, while McIlroy has planned a three-week hiatus before arriving at Augusta National which promises to only add to the ranking volatility.

Paul Casey has spent the last two months on the DL coming to grips with his inner couch potato following a snowboarding accident that dislocated his right shoulder. He doesn’t cherish the role of spectator but, all things considered, he picked an interesting time to become a bystander.

“I actually watched. I watched (Northern Trust), I watched the Match Play. Watched a bunch of stuff in the Middle East,” Casey said. “I’ve never done that before. It was very inspiring to watch and sort of thinking, I’ve won Abu Dhabi.”

But if the stars seem aligned for a Duel at Doral II, Woods sidestepped the hopeful hyperbole on Wednesday, pointing out that only the names on the tee sheet have changed, not the stakes.

“I’ve been in the same situation before,” Woods cautioned. “It was Vijay (Singh), myself, Phil and Ernie were all going at it for a number of years. So now it’s just a different crop of guys.”

Better than anyone Woods knows the dangers of unrealistic expectations. Despite the litany of intriguing story lines this week fate remains undefeated. In 2005 it took more than just opportunity to deliver a historic Sunday and karma, not ranking math or recent form, has the ultimate vote.

Still, considering this week’s lineup it’s easy to imagine the possibilities.

Getty Images

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

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

Each week, 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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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 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 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