Grateful Woods happy with opening round at Hero

By Rex HoggardNovember 30, 2017, 10:42 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Those with even a passing interest in social media likely noticed over the last few days the return of one 14-time major champion.

You may have even noticed that much of the conversation has focused on how far Tiger Woods is hitting his driver, which by every account is dial-back-the-golf-ball long. On Thursday, paired with Justin Thomas, Tiger hammered that narrative home – literally.

At the first hole, he pounded his drive down the fairway. Yep, past JT, who last year averaged 309.7 yards off the tee. At the second, Woods launched another missile high into the windy Caribbean sky. You guessed it, well by the reigning PGA Championship winner.

Again and again, Woods turned back the clock with an impressive combination of power and, with a few notable exceptions, precision off the tee. But that tells only a portion of the Day 1 story.

There’s so much more to golf than simply prodigious drives, like a short game which still seems to be a work in progress for Woods. He caught his chip heavy at the fourth, and again at the ninth on his way to his first bogey of the day. Two holes later he sent another delicate pitch some 30 feet long (although to be fair, there were some highlights like the up-and-down at No. 12).

“It's frustrating because I have a hard time with this into-the-grain, ball sitting down,” said Woods, who turned in 1 under. “I have to hit the ball high. I'm used to using the bounce and hitting behind it a little bit and getting it up, but it's so sticky that it's really hard to do. I haven't quite figured it out yet.”

You could see this coming. Since he started his run up to this week’s start, his first since having fusion surgery on his lower back in April, Woods has spent extra time working on his short game.


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Before the social media universe begins coming up with answers for Woods’ short game woes, know that Albany is an exacting test around the greens, with putting surfaces that are ringed with swales and collection areas; and following more than eight months of complete inactivity a player’s touch is always going to be the final tumbler to fall into place.

But it was neither Woods’ wonderful driving or his wanting short game that mattered on Thursday. It wasn’t even an opening-round 69 that left him tied for eighth, three strokes off the lead held by Tommy Fleetwood. No, what mattered was his participation.

He wasn’t going to be perfect straight off the DL. In fact, it’s highly unlikely he figures it all out before Sunday’s curtain call. But for those watching his round the most important takeaway was that he remained upright and off the trainer’s table.

“All I'm trying to do is just keep plodding along. Today if I take away the two 6s and play the round correctly, then I'm probably tied for the lead,” Woods said. “So it's just little things like that I need to clean up and hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”

Moral victories have meant little to Woods throughout his career and he probably won’t spend Thursday night celebrating on his yacht, Privacy, which is moored in the nearby harbor.

With Woods the story never ends at the quantifiable.

More than two years removed from his last competitive tournament and five years since his last PGA Tour victory, Tiger’s reach still far transcends his competitive relevance.

Forget the final score, 41 million Google results can’t be wrong.

“What do you guys want to talk about?” joked Thomas following his round when he was approached by reporters, a playful nod at this week’s headliner.

The instant analysis came fast and, to be honest, without many facts at this early juncture. Woods largely drove the ball well, putted well, but needs to clean up his short game and the big miss – like at the 15th hole when he airmailed his drive into the dunes right of the fairway.

Completing an under-par round with an edge to his voice that hasn’t been there in some time, however, is what those who have awaited this day should celebrate.

“He was such an inspiration to me, I had to come out and watch,” said Tour frat brother Bryson DeChambeau, the winner of this year’s John Deere Classic who ventured out to Albany to play the role of spectator.

DeChambeau’s take was shared by many and helped temper expectations for what is always the best story in sports – the reclamation project.

Through the 1,000-yard gaze that defined so much of his career, Woods seemed to allow a moment of contemplation after having so many years of pain and uncertainty. The man whose aura has always been defined by his ability to compartmentalize and stay grounded in the here and now, was asked his thoughts before teeing off on Thursday.

“I was very thankful this morning,” he allowed. “I was in my head thanking all the people who have helped me in giving me a chance to come back and play this round again. There were a lot of people that were instrumental in my life; friends, outside people I've never met before, obviously my surgeon. I was very thankful.”

Of all the elements that defined Woods’ Day 1 return, it may be that gratitude that should give golf a reason to be truly optimistic.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.