Westwood moving forward, eyes first major

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2013, 7:58 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – It was signature Westy, delightfully dry with just enough subtle honesty to leave both the questioner and the queried feeling vulnerable.

Less than 48 hours removed from a closing 73 at the European Tour’s flagship event, Lee Westwood was asked his level of disappointment of having come up short at the BMW PGA Championship, again.

“Gone now,” he offered with a sheepish grin. “Only lasts about three beers.”

It was straight out of Worksop, England, and perfectly dovetailed with that most profound British axiom – just get on with it.

The man most-often tabbed with the dubious title “Best player without a major championship” has had a lifetime of moving on. On eight occasions he’s finished fourth or better at a Grand Slam stop only to walk away empty-handed.

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Sunday’s shortcoming at the European circuit’s faux major, which Westwood has never won, was just the most-recent near miss, but even in the fog of jet lag he played to the high side of the second-guessing game.

“I’m playing pretty consistently,” Westwood understated.

He’s finished in the top 10 in his last five events, hasn’t missed a cut anywhere in the world since last year’s PGA Championship and came within a single misstep on Quail Hollow’s famed green mile of his third-career PGA Tour victory earlier this month.

In the grand scheme of things, Westwood’s grand plan has proceeded almost perfectly.

Westwood decided to uproot his family this year and move to South Florida and focus his efforts on playing the PGA Tour. The weather was better, the jet lag was mitigated and his practice more intense.

“He is playing a lot of social golf in Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.). He never did that in Worksop . In England he was always practicing and never really played money games, but it’s allowed him to work hard on his short game,” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s manager with International Sports Management. “He’s enjoying life and his wife and family are happy.”

The “money games” at Old Palm and The Floridian have drastically improved Westwood’s short game, which has long been considered his Achilles’ heel. He ranks 87th on Tour this year in strokes gained-putting, up from 175th and 138th in that category in 2012 and ’11, respectively.

If anything, Westwood’s ball-striking, considered a benchmark on Tour, is not as sharp this year relative to his normal efficiency, Chandler said. In many ways, that fact makes Westwood’s climb back into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (No. 10) that much more impressive.

While it hasn’t produced the wins some thought it would, by almost every measure Westwood’s relocation to warmer climes – he just recently completed the sale of his home in England, the “last piece of the jigsaw,” Chandler said – has been a success.

“It’s made my life way easier,” Westwood said. “Not having jet lag – or as much jet lag – and being able to come home on Sunday night (instead of) not come home until Tuesday morning. There’s really not been an adjustment for me to make.”

All of which brings the discussion back to his missing major.

After two rounds in April, Westwood was just three strokes off the lead at the Masters before a third-round 73 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard; and next month’s U.S. Open at Merion, considered a ball-striker’s ballpark, has the look and feel of a perfect fit for the Englishman.

Westwood hasn’t finished worse than 23rd at the national championship since 2008 and he crafted his schedule, last week at Wentworth and this week’s cameo at Muirfield Village, with Merion in mind (he had a scouting trip planned to the Philadelphia-area gem on Monday but canceled at the last minute).

In 2008 at Torrey Pines, Westwood posted a 2-over 38 on his closing nine to miss the playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate by a stroke. The next season he nearly completed the “near miss” slam, finishing tied for third at the British and U.S. Opens and runner-up at the 2010 Masters.

Bringing his talents to South Beach, or thereabout, has helped, but Westwood has come close enough times to know nothing is guaranteed.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said when asked about his missing major. “I don’t think it’s one of those things you can force. … I suppose if I won a major championship now, would it make my career a great career? I don’t know. That’s for other people to decide.”

For now, the newly minted 40-year-old from Worksop is content with the road ahead. Just get on with it.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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