Woods' 73 could have, should have been better

By Rex HoggardMay 8, 2015, 12:18 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There were 20 tee shots hit into the loch that surrounds the 17th hole on Thursday, which would be tournament golf’s version of “dog bites man.” Much more newsworthy on Day 1 at The Players was the single tee shot that found the abyss that fronts the par-3 eighth hole.

Man bites dog.

Of the 1,903 tee shots played at No. 8 during The Players since 2003, only 11 had found the water hazard that sits some 35 yards short of the putting surface and is roughly the size of a small pool. That number ballooned on Thursday when Tiger Woods laid sod over his 4-iron tee shot and bounced his effort into the mud and the murk to make it a cool dozen into the drink at No. 8.

That’s a .6 percent average since ’03, but then what else would one expect from a player who has been a “one percenter” his entire career?

“I’ve never seen it [the water hazard],” said Woods of the eighth’s water hazard. “I didn’t know it was there until now. I don’t think my ball actually touched grooves, put it that way.”

Adam Scott, who was paired with Woods on Day 1 at The Players, smiled sheepishly when asked about what could only be considered a once-in-a-lifetime tee shot.

“Occasionally everyone hits a shot they are embarrassed about,” Scott said. “I’m sure he was with that one, but you have to laugh it off.”

The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos

For many the wildly miss-hit attempt will be the lasting image from Woods’ opening day at the 2015 Players, but it’s what happened after his adventure at No. 8 that provided a glimpse into the state of the 125th-ranked player’s game.

As messy as the eighth was, his opening 73 was the sum of many parts.

“It’s probably the highest score I could have shot today,” said Woods, who was tied for 77th place after his third over-par opening effort at TPC Sawgrass in his last six starts. “I didn’t get much out of that round. I hit the ball better than the score indicates.”

Numbers do lie - even the Tour’s ShotLink number crunchers - and there is something to Woods’ claim that things could of, should of, been better.

For starters, he hit 8 of 14 fairways on Thursday which was middle-of-the-pack for the day statistically, but a vast improvement over his tee play at last month’s Masters.

For all the focus on Woods’ short game, which was awful, heading into the year’s first major, it was his driving – he didn’t hit a fairway on Sunday at Augusta National until the 13th hole – that caused him the most trouble.

At the Stadium Course on fairways that resemble hallways compared to those at Augusta National, Woods was much more prolific, particularly with his driver.

By the time he reached the 18th tee Woods had scrambled into red numbers (1 under) thanks to birdies at Nos. 14, 16 and 17, the latter courtesy of a 14-foot chip in after another tee shot narrowly missed a watery fate.

But Woods tried to hit a “low, hard cut 3-wood” that rode the wind into the water and led to a closing double bogey-6 and a grumpy player.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s both,” said Woods when asked if he was encouraged by his swing or discouraged by his score. “I should have shot in the 60s easily today and hopefully tomorrow I can get it done.”

Maybe this was a two-part plan all along.

Drill down and fix a short game that was just south of sorry to start the season and then tinker with the remaining issues afterward. But putting out fires can be distracting and often times counterproductive.

The good news for Woods is that short game that needed so much work appeared, if not fixed, then at least functional. The bad news is the rest of the package is still a work in progress.

Woods was able to narrow a two-way miss earlier in the week into a tee shot that although favored the left side of the fairway on occasion was at least functional, even on a claustrophobic layout like the Stadium Course.

For Woods, Thursday at TPC Sawgrass wasn’t about a shocking 4-iron as much as it was showing signs that things are starting to move in the right direction.

“It’s only one bad swing, one bad shot,” he explained. “I had to fix what I had starting out the round with more importantly. [No.] 8 just, I just happened to make a bad swing, so what, move on. But I had a bad pattern starting out and I rectified that, which was nice.”

Unwilling to let his round be defined by his adventure at the eighth, Woods, as he has done so many times in the past, took the long view – one bad swing, one step closer to competitiveness.

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

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

Getty Images

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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?

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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