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Tour players think Woods will be great team captain

By Rex HoggardMarch 13, 2018, 11:26 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Little in Tiger Woods’ life comes without a caveat.

He’s widely considered the game’s greatest player, although Jack Nicklaus did win four more majors. Many would contend that gap is a mere formality, if Tiger remains healthy. You get the idea.

So it should be no surprise that news on Tuesday that Woods had been named captain of the 2019 U.S. Presidents Cup team was met with a predictable proviso.

“A playing captain,” Lucas Glover answered when asked what kind of captain Woods would be. After a pause, he clarified, “He’ll be a playing captain.”

Woods will be 43 when the American team heads to Royal Melbourne for next year’s matches in December, and although he’s nearly five years removed from his last victory on the PGA Tour, the consensus among Tiger’s peers was layered with one common theme.

“He’ll probably be a playing captain the way it looks now,” Charles Howell III said.

A few weeks ago some may have called that kind of optimism misplaced considering Woods’ scorecard the last few years, but he’s emerged as a viable candidate to become the U.S. side’s first playing captain in the biennial matches since 1994 and he said nothing on Tuesday at Bay Hill to suggest he’s interested in any other outcome.

In fact, he went so far as to bring it up in what we can only assume was an exceedingly abbreviated interview for the job with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

“I just wondered if that was an opportunity and he said that there's nothing in the bylaws that say that I can't do it,” Woods said, before adding, “I would like to get to a point where I would have to make that decision, get to where I'm playing well enough where I could make the team on points. But I wouldn't want to have the conversation [to be a captain’s pick] and go, ‘Self.’ I don't really want to have that conversation.”

If anyone could pull off moonlighting it would be Woods, who has taken an active role in U.S. team play in recent years. He was an assistant captain for Davis Love III at the 2016 Ryder Cup and last year at the Presidents Cup. He’s also on tap to be one of Jim Furyk’s vice captains this year in Paris, which he also suggested could well be a playing gig.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

In many ways this is a new chapter for Woods, who electrified the golf world last week with his runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship. While his playing fortunes continue to improve, his decision to take his turn as captain of the U.S. team, be it as a playing skipper or otherwise, is born from a side of his greatness that has gone largely unseen.

Simply put, Woods’ attention to detail is every bit as acute as his focus and fierce competitiveness.

“He gives so much more thought into the details than people could ever imagine. He’s really into it, much more into it than you could believe,” said Howell, who was a teammate of Woods’ on the 2003 and ’07 Presidents Cup teams. “I think people are just getting a glimpse of it. The years when we were hanging out together he didn’t miss a trick.”

The golf world has seen tidbits of that zeal throughout the years that may well border on the obsessive, but it’s a side of him that makes Tiger particularly well-suited to lead a team with endless moving parts.

 “Just the intensity, the knowledge. He does his homework. That’s one of the attributes he never gets credit for is how much he works off the course,” said Glover, a teammate of Woods’ at the ’07 and ’09 Presidents Cups. “The stories of him watching Masters tapes to see how putts break, he’s going to do his homework on the guys and know their personalities and know who plays well in what format.”

Woods’ intensity has become particularly legendary in his role as an assistant captain in recent years.

At last year’s Presidents Cup, he spent countless hours poring over details with Stricker, and at the ’16 Ryder Cup then-captain Love figured he spent more time on the phone with Woods in the months leading up to the matches than he did with his wife.

“His knowledge about certain golf shots, about certain feelings, what you are going through,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played for the ’16 Ryder Cup team that included Woods as a vice captain. “The ability to say something completely off the wall when you need something off the wall, and the ability to hear something encouraging when you need something encouraging, he’s a way better communicator than people give him credit for.”

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double role of playing captain remains to be seen, but what’s certain is how adept he’s already proven himself as a leader.

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Luiten (wrist) withdraws from WGC-Match Play

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:38 pm

Joost Luiten was one of the last men to qualify for this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but he's the first one out of the tournament after withdrawing because of a wrist injury.

Luiten, who won the European Tour's Oman Open in February, posted on Instagram about his withdrawal and also wrote a lengthy explanation in Dutch on his website.

"Very disappointed to say that I have to withdraw from the WGC Dell Match Play because of a wrist injury," Luiten wrote. "Gutted because I love playing match play! I will be back strong."

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Luiten explained that the injury is on his left wrist, which was previously operated on in 2010. The exact cause is unknown, but he started to experience pain while at home in the Netherlands the week before the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Luiten went on to play in Mexico City, finishing T-37, and he tied for ninth the following week at the Hero Indian Open. But his wrist pain continued to increase, and when it didn't respond to treatment over the weekend he decided to withdraw.

Luiten will now be replaced in the field by world No. 72 Julian Suri. Bill Haas is now first alternate, while Brandt Snedeker is second alternate.

Golf Channel will air a live selection show from 7:30 to 9 p.m. ET Monday to determine the four-player pods in Austin, with round-robin matches beginning Wednesday.

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Rory inside OWGR top 10; Tiger near top 100

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 2:20 pm

Rory McIlroy is back inside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking after rallying to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy shot a final-round 64 at Bay Hill to race past Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau for a three-shot victory, his first on the PGA Tour in nearly 18 months. As a result, he jumped six spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings, his highest position since October.

DeChambeau finished alone in second place, jumping 34 spots to No. 61 in the world. Justin Rose remained No. 5 after finishing third, while Henrik Stenson moved up one spot to No. 14 after finishing fourth.

Tiger Woods finished T-5, his third top-12 result in as many starts. As a result he's up another 44 spots to No. 105, his best ranking since April 2015. Woods, who started the year ranked No. 656, was 388th before a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship.

The top 50 in next week's world rankings will qualify for the upcoming Masters, meaning there are 13 players currently in the field for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play who could sew up an invite to Augusta National with a strong finish in Austin, including No. 47 Chez Reavie and No. 50 Cam Smith.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week, followed by Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Rose. Hideki Matsuyama remains at No. 6, with McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

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Denied relief, Reed jokes: 'Guess my name needs to be Spieth'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:45 pm

A rules controversy broke out during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational involving a player dressed in red and black, but it had nothing to do with Tiger Woods.

Patrick Reed was playing in the group in front of Woods for the second straight Sunday, and he became embroiled in a situation after launching his approach into an area of trees behind the 11th green. As captured by a fan video, Reed got into a lengthy discussion with an on-site rules official before being told that he would not receive the free relief he was requesting.

"I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys," Reed said, drawing laughs from a few gallery members.

Spieth and Reed have a successful history together as Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup partners. But last summer Spieth was at the center of the biggest rules decision of the year, when he dropped on the driving range during the final round of The Open after taking an unplayable lie from an errant drive.

After taking a penalty drop, Reed ended up making double bogey on No. 11 en route to a 1-under 71. He finished the week in a tie for seventh at 8 under.

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Ketel call: McIlroy toasts to Arnie, media at API

By Nick MentaMarch 19, 2018, 1:09 pm

Standing in the Doc Giffin media center Sunday night following his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy made a gesture that would have made Arnold Palmer proud.

Wearing his newly won red cardigan and handing out cups filled with the King's favorite, Ketel One vodka, McIlroy issued this toast to the assembled media:

"To Arnie!" McIlroy began his toast. "To Arnie, I guess. Thank you. Thanks to everyone. Thanks for covering. Thanks for making us seem better than we are. And, cheers. Thank you."

Nice to hear someone say something nice about the media. Back atcha, Rors.