Out of the Woods

By Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' This close to South Beach its easy to become lulled into a sleepy stupor by the warm ocean breezes and lively native wildlife. This close to the Masters, its just as easy to come down with a case of competitive tunnel vision.
 
It happened last year. It happens every year.
 
Tiger Woods, by way of an explanation more so than an excuse, is the florescent bulb that effortlessly draws in winged golf scribes. Were mesmerized by a three-quarter speed swing that produces straightaway power, by a game that should be licked in rust by months of inactivity but looks more like polished titanium.
 
Sergio Garcia
There are players other than Tiger Woods worth keeping an eye on this week. (Getty Images)
It is the nature of the PGA Tour smorgasbord, the steak always gets the most traffic. What is lost, particularly at majors and these world shindigs, is that the rest of the tee sheet is hardly ham in a can.
 
Last year on these same palm-lined fairways Woods began the delayed final turn five strokes behind eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy and there was a collective gasp when he failed to run down the Australian on Monday.
 
A losing streak of one, how would the markets ever survive?
 
But the truth is, all of these guys are good, not just the Superman in Sunday red. Our hearts and our heads tell us the range is lined with world-class players capable of beating the odds, but Woods aura, if not his resume, simply make that reality hard to digest.
 
On a bad wheel in 2008, Woods lost just two of his six starts (Doral and the Masters), never mind that 44 other Tour events, and a Ryder Cup, were won by someone not named Tiger.
 
Never mind that the hottest player on the planet is an unassuming Aussie who proved he could beat the best the world could throw at him at Doral just as easily as he could in the desert. Marketing types may pine for a Tiger-Phil Sunday duel, like that magical spring day in 2005 when this event answered to the name Ford Championship, but we would take a Tiger-Geoff mano-e-mano match and thank the golf gods for our good fortune.
 
Never mind that while Woods was away a new generation emerged that grew up with the World No. 1s accomplishments taped to their bedroom walls. That Anthony Kim won at Quail Hollow, a Woods hitching post; Congressional, home to Woods own event, and at Valhalla, with assists from a Boo, Phil and Paul but no one named Tiger. That Dustin Johnson has won twice with the most intimidating long ball since John Daly was hitting it straight.
 
Guys like myself and I know Camilo (Villegas), we havent done enough yet to warrant somebody saying that this guy has a legitimate shot (of overtaking Woods), Kim said. Now, hes back. We have to pull through and we have to win some golf tournaments with him in the field. I think things will change.
 
Know this about Tour players, 100 percent of them took a celebratory swig of their Amino Vital when Woods returned and not a single one of them thought to themselves, Second place isnt bad with Woods in the field. You dont earn a spot in one of the years most elite fields with a utility-infielders mindset.
 
On Wednesday after a relaxed 18 with Mike Weir, Woods gushed about his rebuilt knee and guessed about his game. Thirty-two holes at the Match Play wasnt exactly the road test he had in mind.
 
Stroke play is more of a marathon, Woods said. Youre trying to set yourself up for the last round. In match play, it is the last round each and every round you play.
 
Who knew Woods last round in Tucson would come on Thursday?
 
Not that he showed up in south Florida with one eye on Augusta National, but two tournaments in 10 months is hardly ideal and money games at Isleworth Country Club with your buddies are no substitute for Sunday pressure.
 
Im ready to win. Thats why Im here, Woods said in his signature simplicity.
 
It is, after his mind, the most important building block in Woods DNA that separates him from the pack. He doesnt place tee in ground ' at Doral or Augusta or Isleworth ' not fully expecting to walk away with the winners hardware.
 
Its what weve come to expect, what with a .274 (237 starts, 65 victories) all-time winning percentage on Tour, and it is what draws bug-eyed scribes to him regardless of conditions or the assembled cast.
 
Like fading house flies, we move toward the light regardless of reason, blind to the Ogilvys and Kims of the golf world. Call it an occupational hazard.
 
Taking Tiger over the field sounds good on Wednesday, but ' if we learned anything from the 2008 CA Championship ' in practice its hard not to like the field, regardless how brightly Woods flame burns.
 
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  • Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

    Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.