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.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.