More questions than answers

By Rex HoggardAugust 11, 2011, 8:03 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Not sure what was the bigger surprise on Day 1 at Atlanta Athletic Club & Sauna, that Tiger Woods signed for his worst opening-round score in a major or that he stopped on his way to points beyond to talk with the media about his misadventures.

Normally, we’d hold Woods to a higher standard when it comes to the obligatory sound bite, but if ever he deserved a 'get out of jail free' card it was Thursday. In short, his 7-over 77 is among the worst 13-hole rounds in recent history.

Thirteen because through five holes Woods looked like, well the old guy, you remember the one who won major in bundles and U.S. Opens on one leg. Three under par through five holes, tied for the lead for about a minute, which was about how long it took for things to get sideways.

A double bogey at the par-3 15th hole, another at the par-4 18th was all it took. There were plenty of unsightly moments after that, but the script had been set.

Just before Woods stepped to the 17th tee, his eighth hole of the day, the PGA of America e-mailed a “GUR” (ground under repair) announcement for the 17th and 14th greens, which were damaged by mowers late Wednesday. At that moment it seemed like an apropos assessment of Woods – Game Under Repair.

Following the eventful round Woods was surprisingly forthright: “Got off to a great start, 3 under through five and was having mechanical thoughts and wanted to free it up. I thought I was playing well enough to let it go. I’m not at that point yet.”

There are always more questions than answers when it comes to Woods, but Thursday’s pile up created even more certainty and the kind of questions that, even if he were inclined, Woods would probably be powerless to answer.

Deep, maybe even painful, questions like: You said on Wednesday you showed up this week at the PGA Championship looking for a “W,” but given the state of your game was avoiding another “WD” a more realistic goal?

Woods has been clear on this, lowering expectations is not an option, yet the PGA will be his 21st consecutive official PGA Tour start without a victory, dating back to the 2009 BMW Championship, and his 10th winless major since his historic 2008 U.S. Open triumph.

Has Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Slam record of 18 major championships, the benchmark that has driven him since his junior days, become less milestone and more Moby Dick?

The media is fond of saying Woods is an old 35-years-old, noting that Nicklaus never dealt with the litany of injuries, both physical and mental, that Woods has. Woods has the same number of majors (14) as Nicklaus did at 35, which proves the last four are always the hardest. But regularly being reminded of that summit can’t be productive.

If it is “reps” that you feel you truly need, than why not consider playing next week’s Wyndham Championship?

Woods said he will not play the regular season’s final event next week because of family obligations. But he needs to finish in the top 30 or better this week to move into the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list and qualify for The Barclays in two weeks. If he misses the cut at Atlanta Athletic Club his next competitive event may be November’s Australian Open the week before the Presidents Cup.

Given the current state of your game, should you play the Presidents Cup?

Last week U.S. captain Fred Couples made it clear one of his two wildcard picks is earmarked for Woods and his decision to play the Australian Open is an indication he has told Couples he would participate in the biennial matches. However, the matches – which, unlike the Ryder Cup, requires full team participation in each session – is no place to dust off the rust or hide a struggling star.

Have you tinkered too much with the formula that has worked so flawlessly for more than a decade?

Both Woods and swing coach Sean Foley seemed confident the new action is starting to take, and in Foley’s defense Woods has played just 11 official Tour events on the Canadian’s watch, but the swing is just part of an ever-changing picture.

In order, Woods has divorced his wife, his caddie, moved to south Florida and tinkered with his pre-tournament routine. He climbed to the top of his game because he was never satisfied with the status quo, but maybe a complete life overhaul could have waited.

Was Bryon Bell your best option for a caddie this week?

It’s likely Woods would have signed for a 77 on Thursday even with Steve Williams on the bag, and Bell is clearly someone he trusts. But the “friends and family” plan rarely works out in situations like this and given the gravity of this week’s event it may have been wiser to go with a proven commodity.

And finally, the $50 million question that every athlete in a similar situation has asked themselves, are you worried?

For two weeks Woods has raved about his healthy left leg, and that’s a start. But during the quiet moments when the cameras and fans are gone, the thought that his best days may be behind him must be inescapable.

In fairness to Woods, only time can answer that question. But after days like Thursday he can’t like the potential answer.

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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