Here's when Woods will be 'back'

By Rich LernerJune 12, 2012, 8:36 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – He shot a Sunday 62 at the Honda Classic. He won convincingly at Bay Hill.

But he still hadn’t blown your mind with a preposterous hole-out, the kind that made him the greatest show in sports, the kind they replay over and over, the kind that trumps windmill dunks and diving catches on top-10 plays of the day, the week and the month.

And then it happened at the Memorial on the 16th hole, Jack Nicklaus calling it the best shot under the circumstances he’s ever seen. Ever. Jack’s seen his share over half a century. That one staggered him.

So Tiger Woods is close. But he’s not truly back, all the way back, until he’s winning majors.

That’s all that’s left now.

“I think even if I do win a major championship it will still be you’re not to 18 yet or when will you get to 19,” said Woods, the chip on his shoulder as sharp as any he’s hit in practice rounds at Olympic. “I’ve dealt with that my entire career, ever since I was an amateur and playing all the way through and to professional golf, it hasn’t changed.

“Jack did it at 46, right? So I’ve got 10 years. And that’s the great thing about staying in shape and lifting weights and being fit is that playing careers have been extended.”

Steve Stricker likes what he sees.

“It looks like Tiger’s getting a little bit of his swagger back,” Stricker said. “He’s gaining confidence and it’s good to see.”

Keep in mind, though, that expectations were nearly as high for Tiger heading to the Masters off his Bay Hill victory. But then he played poorly at Augusta National.

“I got back into a lot of my old patterns,” he explained. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out. But that’s what made playing Muirfield so nice is that I had those shots and I was doing it the correct way. And I had the compression, hitting the ball high and hitting it long. That was fun.”

Thursday figures to be fun for sports fans with Tiger and Phil Mickelson in the morning then LeBron James and Kevin Durant at night. And while Tiger can’t jump as high as LeBron he can make the television ratings go through the roof. Tiger’s Sunday Memorial victory spiked 138 percent over the previous year’s final round with Stricker winning.

“You know the day after Memorial in the paper USA Today had him on the front page” Stricker said. “So that tells you what he brings to our sport. Even if he plays poorly, people are tuned in to see what he’s doing. It helps when he plays well.”

Tiger played Tuesday with his old Stanford teammate, Casey Martin, in what may have been one of the most photographed practice rounds in history.

“You just look at Casey and he’s always so happy,” Tiger said. “It’s very easy to go the other way and be very bitter. But I think that’s what makes him so special. He has such a strong will and such a strong spirit.”

Martin coaches the golf team at the University of Oregon. He’s on the recruiting trail for the best young talent in the game.

“I get to go and watch all the top players come up,” Martin said. “I watch them when they’re young and no disrespect to anybody that I’ve seen, but there’s no one even close that was like Tiger.”

Unquestionably, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson have considerable game. We’ve seen that. But they simply don’t have the extra gear that Tiger had or the consistent focus.

Will we see it again? Will we ever see what we witnessed the last time he won a major, four years ago at Torrey Pines, when he made two eagles on Saturday? Suddenly it doesn’t feel like a remote possibility.

Tiger likes the way Olympic sets up with a premium on shaping shots. But as is so often the case, his success will likely hinge on how well he putts. Can he make 6-footers for par? That’s what he always did so well. That’s what wins U.S. Opens.

That’s what will bring Tiger all the way back, back on track to Jack.

“I’m excited about playing,” he said. “I’m excited about this golf course.”

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”