Can Woods rescue his season with a win?

By Rex HoggardAugust 22, 2015, 11:14 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tiger’s done. Tiger’s back.

Let the faceless social media give-and-take commence, not that any of the background noise will slip through Woods’ long-established firewall.

Whatever happens on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, Woods has made it abundantly clear it’s all part of a larger plan, the often-referenced “process” from competitive struggles to something more than simply a curiosity.

Crowds that swelled to more than 32,000 on Saturday at Sedgefield Country Club suggest otherwise, but any hint that a victory would somehow be worth more than the sum of its parts was quickly dismissed by Woods.

“I’m not looking at it like that,” said Woods, whose third-round 68 left him two shots behind Jason Gore. “I'm two back right now. I can go out there tomorrow and make a run and get myself up there and make some birdies. Anybody can make a run and shoot the score that Jason and Jonas [Blixt] did.”

It turns out Davis Love III was right, that Sedgefield was the tonic for what ails Woods’ game. For the week he ranks 16th in driving accuracy, he’s averaged 302 yards off the tee and is 10th in the field in proximity to the hole.

But the key this week has been about what has transpired on Sedgefield’s speedy putting surfaces. Woods’ play at the Wyndham is reminiscent of the Old Tiger, the guy who didn’t make every putt, just the ones that matter.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Specifically it’s been the par putts, the must-make moments to maintain momentum that have separated a chance to win Tour title No. 80 and another tie for 18th place, like his finish at the Quicken Loans National where he also felt like his driving and iron game were on point.

“I felt good. Very steady from the word go,” said Woods, who has converted 44 of 49 putts from inside 10 feet. “I felt like I could be aggressive today. I took a few runs at putts and ripped them past the hole. I just never felt like I was going to miss any of them.”

Clutch moments like at the 10th hole when he missed the green right, drew a bad lie and converted a 24-footer for par. And at the 11th when he calmly rolled in a 4-foot par save and from 5 feet at the 14th hole and 4 1/2 feet at No. 17.

In fact, the only par putt he didn’t convert was at the 18th hole when he ran his birdie attempt 5 1/2 feet by the hole and lipped out his par save.

Otherwise it’s been a clinic for a guy who has felt as if he was just one key moment away from a breakthrough. Your 54-hole front-runner Gore could relate.

After years of pedestrian play the affable veteran scorched Sedgefield with a 62 to move to 15 under and alone atop the leaderboard. Like Woods, it’s a spot he hasn’t felt was that far away despite a season that’s included just a single top-10 finish.

“I felt like I've been one momentum swing away. Like getting up and down on a par 5, something like that,” Gore said. “That's what's been so frustrating. You have to put your head forward and plow forward and keep moving. That's probably what he's going through.”

While a Wyndham win would go a long way to bolstering Woods’ battered psyche, if not quiet the expanding crowd of armchair swing coaches, it’s what an 11th-hour walk-off would do for his competitive fortunes that may be more interesting.

A victory is projected to move him into the top 75 on the FedEx Cup points list and effectively assure him a spot at not only next week’s Barclays but also the second playoff stop at TPC Boston, where he won in 2006.

It would also move him into the top 75 on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list with just two weeks remaining before captain Jay Haas makes his wild-card selections.

Although normally No. 70-something wouldn’t be elevated to “captain’s pick” consideration, even with a victory, but this is Tiger Woods. Haas’ assistant captain Davis Love III has become something of a confidant to the former world No. 1 in recent weeks.

As farfetched as it may seem considering the last two years for Woods, those of Haas’ generation have a preconditioned image of Tiger that is not easily clouded by a recent string of missed cuts and mediocre play.

Put another way, a victory on Sunday would add up to much more than simply Woods’ 80th Tour title. It would be a reason to be optimistic, maybe even provide a measure of validation, but then Tiger historically doesn’t think in those terms.

“I'm having a good time,” said Woods, his shirt soaked with sweat and admittedly “stiff” after playing back-to-back weeks for the first time since February. “It helps to play better and the atmosphere is incredible.”

Woods showed up at the Wyndham Championship to give this season one final chance, and a “W” on Sunday would certainly stand as an unqualified success, but his play this week will be measured in much more subtle terms.

He didn’t travel down Tobacco Road to prove he’s back or that he wasn’t done. He’s here to show that this process is nothing more than a road that had to be traveled no matter how long or difficult it may seem.

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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, 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 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