For one round, at least, everything goes Woods' way

By Rex HoggardAugust 20, 2015, 6:43 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – All he needed was one good shot, one good round, one good tournament.

Through the first turn at the Wyndham Championship Tiger Woods remained on topic, holing putts like he’s Jordan Spieth on his way to his lowest round on the PGA Tour (64) since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational ... in 2013.

Woods’ 6-under card was an impressive opening move in what is essentially an 11th-hour Hail Mary attempt to secure a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin next week.

“It was nice to finally get some putts going in and on top of that it was nice to make some par putts,” said Woods, who needed just 26 putts on a soggy Sedgefield Country Club layout.

Woods made putts for birdie at Nos. 1, 4, 5, 13, 15 and 18; but it was the crucial par putts, like at the par-3 16th hole when he raced his first attempt some 7 feet past the hole, that somehow made Thursday feel different.

All the little things that Woods has talked about in recent weeks – his inability to maintain momentum and turn a 70 into a 64 – were on display on Thursday at the Wyndham Championship from the outset.

Just before 8 a.m. (ET) he set the tone, igniting the gallery, and even himself, with a bold flop shot that bounced twice and trickled into the hole for an unlikely birdie at his first hole (No. 10).

“That was a loud roar,” said Brooks Koepka, who was paired with Woods on Day 1. “I haven’t heard that one, that loud in a long time. It was cool to see.”

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Woods seemed to agree, walking the pitch-in with his hand held high in the air like it was 2007, like it was the most natural thing to turn a hard par into an easy birdie.

“I went for the shot and instead of playing something more conservative, the greens were hard and fast and I wanted to play something long,” said Woods, who was tied for fifth place when he completed his morning round. “I got aggressive with it and I went for it and I pulled it off.”

Being aggressive seemed to be the order of the day for Woods.

Although many applauded Woods’ decision to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time, opining the relatively short Sedgefield layout (7,127 yards) would allow him to play away from his driver and focus on position, his game plan on Thursday suggested otherwise.

Woods hit driver five times in Round 1, finding the fairway on three of those occasions, the most impressive of which was a bomb down the middle of the par-5 15th fairway to set up a two-putt birdie.

Normally Woods would shy away from courses like Sedgefield, where 18 under par is a good target number unless the course is soft and things really turn into a scoring frenzy.

The course is soft and the frenzy began early on Thursday, with two players (William McGirt and Erik Compton) posting 62s.

“You just have to do it, accept how the golf course is playing,” Woods said. “When it’s like this you got to throw darts and go low.”

For a player who has dealt with all manner of pressure in his career, normally of the Grand Slam variety, this is strangely new. A win, or maybe a solo second-place finish depending on how the math settles, is the only way to play his way into the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list and the playoffs.

If not, Woods’ short-term competitive fortunes are on the shelf, probably until the Open in October to begin the 2015-16 season.

For so long now Woods has told anyone who would ask that he’s close, that he needs just one good push to break himself out of his competitive swoon. At his own Quicken Loans National, for example, he felt things were finally swinging in his direction after a second-round 66, but he signed for a 74 on Saturday and tied for 18th place.

Even at last week’s PGA Championship he didn’t feel like things were as askew as the scorecard would suggest.

“I know it’s crazy to say, but I wasn’t playing that poorly at the PGA,” said Woods, who missed the cut at Whistling Straits with rounds of 75-73. “Every spot I put myself I had no lie. ... Any borderline shot I never got away with it and that’s the way it goes.”

It’s the way things have gone for the better part of two years, to be accurate. Whether it was the rub of the green or the rut his game has been in there has always been a rally killer to turn what could have been a breakthrough week into just another break.

It’s still early in Woods’ 2014-15 walk-off, still plenty of birdies that will have to be made, but for one day, for one round things went his way.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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