Woods' game showed more promise than pitfalls

By Rex HoggardAugust 23, 2015, 11:19 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – There were no last-minute heroics, no distinct Tiger roars – except for on the third hole on Sunday, but that was for playing partner Scott Brown’s hole-in-one. There were no turn-back-the-clock performances and, finally, no more chances.

The end of the 2014-15 PGA Tour road awaited Tiger Woods late Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, a journey that at times has felt like a test track with as many twists and turns as he’s had to navigate this season.

He did not go quietly.

The game’s most high-profile enigma turned back the clock with an opening 64, teased us on Friday with a 65, and even showed flashes on promise on Day 3 with a 68, considering how many birdie opportunities refused to drop.

After more than two winless years, Woods’ decision to play the Wyndham Championship appeared inspired, a spirited final swing to prolong a season that in all honesty would probably be best left in the rear view.

He needed something magical, something straight out of the memory banks, to survive the FedEx Cup playoff cut. Instead, he got more of the same on Sunday.

Woods played his first six holes with all pars on a Sedgefield Country Club layout that is more mad dash than major test in terms of scoring. He then turned where he’d started the day, at 13 under and three shots out of the lead.

A birdie at the par-4 ninth offered a glimmer of hope, but he ping-ponged across the 11th green on his way to a triple bogey-7 and an early off-season.

He needed to win – or to finish alone in second place with a monsoon of help from those around him – to secure himself a spot in next week’s playoff opener in New Jersey. He tied for 10th.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Instant analysis demands a hard appraisal of Woods’ season – 11 starts, five missed cuts and just one top-10 finish – but there is no ignoring how far he has come since February, when he played just 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open before "deactivated glutes” and a defective short game drove him into a self-imposed hiatus.

The troubling trifecta of back surgery, a major swing overhaul and a suddenly absent short game prompted him to miss two months while he searched for answers in the south Florida dirt.

When he did return, things weren’t much better with Woods missing the cut at the year’s final three majors.

But the Wyndham Championship provided hope even before he ignited the North Carolina faithful with a chip-in birdie at his opening hole on Thursday.

Woods’ decision to play an event outside his wheelhouse was a sign that, deep down in the recesses of an admittedly complicated mind, he believes he is as close to regaining his form, as he has regularly suggested.

“I just couldn't get anything out of my rounds and a couple lucky bounces here, take advantage of those opportunities. It's just the flow,” he said on Friday. “It's so close to going either way and this week I've done a pretty good job of handling it and positioning my golf ball around the golf course.”

Baby steps aren't what the golf world wants from the former world No. 1 – as an aside, his tie for 10th place at the Wyndham did move Woods into the top 250 in the World Golf Ranking – but even the most jaded observer must acknowledge that his week in the Piedmont Triad was progress.

Not that the week transpired without a few bruises. The short-game woes from earlier this season surfaced again at the 11th hole in his final round, and he appeared to be moving gingerly the last two days.

“It’s not my back, no,” he said when asked his health status. “Just my hip.”

For a player who has been sidelined for all number of reasons in his career, any health issue is troubling. It's also worth considering that the Wyndham marked only the second time this year he’d played back-to-back weeks.

But that likely isn’t an immediate concern for Woods, with his schedule now clear until the Frys.com Open to start the 2015-16 in October, followed the next week by the Bridgestone America’s Cup in Mexico.

On Sunday, Woods’ focus was on a week that showed more promise than pitfalls.

“I gave myself a chance and I had all the opportunity in the world today to do it. I didn't get it done,” Woods said. “I had some makeable putts early I missed. I just wasn't able to get any kind of roll early.”

Maybe expecting a ninth-inning walk-off from a player who has resided below the Mendoza Line for two years was too big of an ask.

It’s similar to how every fan clings to the notion that next season is when things turn around for the home team. Woods’ long-term competitive fortunes after a solid, though not spectacular, week suddenly don’t seem so bleak.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.