Does his win mean Tiger is back?

By Rex HoggardMarch 26, 2012, 1:05 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – He’s back.

He’s done.

He needs time.

He needs reps.

He needs rest.

One busy week for the game’s former alpha male doesn’t quiet or quantify any of these often-heard sound bites because, as the last 30-odd months have demonstrated, golf eschews instant analysis.


Video: Tiger talks after winning at Bay Hill | Analysis and highlights

Photos: Arnold Palmer Invitational


Today’s reality is tomorrow’s recycled nonsense. Yet as a breezy spring day turned to dusk at Bay Hill, the only thing that was certain was that for four days Tiger Woods was good. Like 2006 good only with more shots out of the short grass and fewer walk-off putts. In his defense those types of theatrics would have seemed like overkill.

Truth is there was no need, not when your final line is the statistical embodiment of precision.

Bogey-free and nearly perfect on Friday hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation; slowed by a surreal two-hole stretch on Saturday that included a plugged lie (No. 14), a swooning teenager, a scream and a snapped tee shot out of bounds (No. 15); and ultimately a victory that ended a title drought that had stretched to 30 months with the type of Sunday performance that once defined his career.

Woods’ heroics at Torrey Pines in 2008 and Bay Hill in ’08 and ’09 aside, he made his competitive bones by undercutting his competition and removing all glimmers of hope one clinically played shot at a time.

It was a familiar modus operandi, Woods began his final lap at Arnie’s place by hitting six consecutive fairways – and the one he missed (No. 9) was by inches – nine consecutive greens in regulation and made the turn 2 up on Graeme McDowell. From there Woods played the final loop in 1 over in what on most Sundays is called a prevent defense.

If next month’s Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday, Bay Hill was over by intermission. At least it felt that way.

“I noticed coming down the stretch he was 3 under for the day,” Bubba Watson gushed. “In these conditions that’s unbelievable.”

Woods’ last official PGA Tour victory was at the 2009 BMW Championship but to watch him close at Bay Hill it was as though he was fresh off a ‘W’ and not a worrisome WD at Doral two weeks ago.

When he bolted the property 11 ¼ holes into his final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month, his status for the Masters was a hot topic. Now the only talking point is whether he’ll be the outright favorite heading down Magnolia Lane or share the honor with Rory McIlroy.

The last two years he’s finished tied for fourth place at the year’s first major with a “one-dimensional game” and more distractions than a teenager with a BlackBerry. But his five-stroke victory over McDowell changed all that, at least for this news cycle.

But if the victory was defined by Woods’ stellar ballstriking there is also something to be said for his resilience following a miscue on the 15th hole on Saturday when a woman reacted loudly to a teen-aged boy who had passed out and Woods pulled his tee shot out of bounds.

Some may have considered that an untimely nod from fate. Not Woods.

“I saw a calmness last night on the range,” said Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava. “I’m a little frustrated because of what happened on 15 and he didn’t let it bother him. He heard what happened and understands the situation. Hit balls until dark and you could almost sense he knew he was going to play well today.”

But if that episode added a surreal element to the proceedings, the absence of tournament namesake Arnold Palmer from the award ceremony cast a pall over what was an otherwise circus-like atmosphere.

Fifteen minutes before Woods completed his closing-round 70 Palmer was sent to a local hospital with high blood pressure and planned to stay there overnight.

“It really puts a damper on the situation because he is what’s so special about this tournament,” said McDowell, who slipped three strokes behind Woods with a double-bogey 6 at the first hole and never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

But then Woods has become accustomed to the surreal ever since he hit a tree and a fire hydrant in November 2009 to begin an uber-public free for all. Since that last official victory in ’09 in Chicago Woods has changed swing coaches, caddies, addresses and marital status.

Armchair psychologists would consider Woods’ Bay Hill breakthrough nothing short of monumental and, for a moment, Woods allowed the thought.

“It was pure joy,” he smiled before the inner competitor intervened a few moments later. “You don’t need to win. You want to win, that’s the misconception a lot of people have.”

Few, if any, of Woods’ contemporaries can attest to the ebb and flow of the past two-plus years better than Sean O’Hair. It was O’Hair who began the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational five strokes clear of Woods only to lose by a stroke. And it was O’Hair who helped facilitate the connection between Woods and swing coach Sean Foley in the summer of 2010.

“I just think it was a matter of time,” said O’Hair, who split with Foley last May. “He’s the best player that ever played the game and it was only a matter of time before he wins again. For the people who thought that he wasn’t going to win again I don’t think they know the game of golf very well.”

There had been close calls, including near misses last year at the Australian Open and this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Pebble Beach and the Honda Classic. There had been breakthroughs, unofficial or otherwise, at last year’s Chevron World Challenge. But there was never any doubt. Not for Woods or Foley.

“All my guys are fantastic talents and when you put science to talent you’re going to get good things eventually but it takes time,” said Foley, who began working with Woods in August 2009. “Outside of his kids winning is what matters so to see him happy right now is what’s important.”

The scientist in Foley saw progress give way to near perfection this week. Bay Hill marked the first time Woods has posted four under-par rounds in the same event since the 2010 Masters, and his patience was matched only by his precision.

For the week Woods was first in greens in regulation, hitting 57 of 72 putting surfaces, 29th in fairways hit, sixth in driving distance and fourth in strokes-gained putting.

Woods also dissected Bay Hill’s par 5s playing them in 12 under, a key statistic during his halcyon days in 2006 and 2000. But most telling about Woods’ performance was that both teacher and student see plenty of room for improvement.

Both, however, took a moment to savor Tour tilt No. 72 and his seventh Bay Hill decision. Following Woods’ approach to the 72nd green he high-fived LaCava and beamed, “All that hard work has paid off. F’ing yeah.”

At the same moment adjacent the final green Foley allowed, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re 50 percent of the way into the pattern.”

For those closest to him the question was never whether Woods was done or back. It was when would all the pieces fall into place?

“It’s been a long time. He was a man on a mission. Let’s be honest, you saw the ballstriking,” LaCava said. “He was pretty jacked up . . . He probably wishes the Masters was tomorrow.”

Don’t we all?

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x