Woods: Fine line between major victory and defeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2013, 11:45 am

GULLANE, Scotland – Maybe it’s as simple as an untimely bounce. Maybe the only thing you need to know about Tiger Woods’ major drought is that the line between winning the big one and not is as fine as a sliver of Scottish fescue.

“It’s just a shot here and there. It’s making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce here, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there,” Woods explained on Tuesday at Muirfield.

From there the world No. 1 offered this year’s Masters to explain his Grand Slump, which has now reached five years and counting. Somewhere along the way in April at Augusta National – chances are good it was during his Saturday 73 – he didn’t get the kick from karma he needed to maintain his momentum.

“I really played well, and a good shot ended up having a bad break,” said Woods, who tied for fourth at the Masters. “It's a shot here and a shot there. It's not much. It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day.”

In fairness to Woods, it’s not as though he’s been a non-story since last winning a major in 2008. His 0-for-16 slide features just two missed cuts (2009 Open Championship and 2011 PGA) and six top-five finishes.

There was the close call at last year’s Open when he finished with a 73 and was four strokes behind champion golfer Ernie Els, and at the ’09 PGA when he was outdueled by Y.E. Yang.

But it’s not Jack Nicklaus’ record of 19 runner-up finishes in majors that Woods had hanging on his wall in the family home in Southern California; it was that haul of 18 victories that has driven him from high chair to the game’s highest stage.

Woods was asked about the “slump” on Tuesday, as he always is when the world gathers for major moments, and if the extended drought is eating at him he is internalizing it well. He was not short, as he can be when asked an unsavory question, nor defensive. He was realistic.

Chances are good it was Muirfield where those uncontrollable variables of championship golf began to manifest themselves in Woods’ psyche.

Woods arrived at Muirfield for the 2002 Open looking to win the third leg of the single season Grand Slam, played his way into a tie for ninth place through two rounds and was within two strokes of the lead when Saturday’s epic storm blew him to a third-round 81 and out of contention.

“The worst I’ve ever played in,” Woods said of that stormy Saturday.

The theory that the week’s best is often decided by the best bounces, however, was put to the test in 2006 when Woods bunted his way (he hit just one driver all week) to a two-stroke victory at a particularly crusty Royal Liverpool.

That Muirfield, which has been groomed by a dry Scottish spring, will play to a similar shade of bouncy yellow this week was not lost on Woods as he begins his quest for his fourth Open victory and 15th major championship title.

“This golf course is playing similar to that. It's quick. And so far I've played a couple of days now, three days, and I've only hit a couple of drivers here,” he said. “Some of the holes, 4-iron was going 280, 3-iron is going a little over 300 yards. So it's quick. That's on this wind. Obviously it could change. Like what we had in ’02, it could come out of the northeast and it could be a totally different golf course.”

Or, it could remain brown and bouncy, which given his penchant for hitting fairway woods in recent years would at least partially explain Woods’ status as a 7-to-1 Open favorite.

He’d likely be an even more commanding bookmaker darling if not for the elbow injury he sustained this year at The Players that prompted him to skip the AT&T National. On Tuesday he said the elbow is fully mended, although he has limited his practice to truncated nine-hole rounds this week.

“It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it,” Woods said. “The main reason was that coming over here the ground is going to be hard. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good.”

The rest, at least for Woods, is up to the bounces, of which there promises to be plenty along the Firth of Forth.

Armchair analysts have vilified everything from Woods’ putting to his driver to explain one of the game’s most mystifying droughts, but for Woods – who is not predisposed to second-guessing – the needle has been stuck on 14 since the ’08 U.S. Open as a result of the rub of the green. Maybe there is more to it than that, but Woods is either unable or unwilling to go any deeper.

On this it’s best to defer to Woods as the singular source, and it seems only apropos that on Thursday Woods sets out in need of a fortunate bounce at one of the game’s most hallowed trampolines.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."