Someone Finally Stopped Tiger
'Nice and sunny,' quipped Andrew Coltart in his distinctive baritone brogue, a steady rain pelting his cap. 'I just hope it doesn't rain tomorrow.'
A good soaking rendered Muirfield uncharacteristically soft, but dry weather is expected later in the week, though never, ever guaranteed off the Firth of Forth.
'It's probably the softest I've seen in an Open Championship with the fairways this lush,' said Tiger after his early morning practice round. 'But the rough is obviously up and you've got to keep it in play in order shoot some good numbers.'
Tiger teed off at 6:40 AM Tuesday with Mark O'Meara, John Cook and Adam Scott. A couple hundred fans followed quietly, in marked contrast to Tiger's boisterous, early week practice rounds at Bethpage Black.
'He looks a lot tighter swing-wise, a little more on his game than at the U.S. Open,' offered Cook in a sobering assessment for the rest of the field. But yet, Cook, who came so close to winning here in 1992, believes Tiger's challenge is far tougher than at Bethpage Black.
'This is a golf course on which the Nick Prices and the Mark O'Mearas and John Cooks can compete with the Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson,' said Cook.
Nearly every player we encountered echoed that sentiment as length is not a pre-requisite at Muirfield. 'The premium's on hitting the fairway,' added Rocco Mediate.
Funny, Monday morning delivered a humorous and positive omen for those seeking to stop Tiger. As he made his way to the range, a female security guard who didn't recognize Tiger blocked his path. A colleague stepped in to rectify the situation.
'She was following it by the books,' explained the most famous athlete in the world of the least interested golf fan on the planet. 'I didn't have the proper credentials.'
And what did Tiger say in response?
'I just said I won this tournament two years ago.' The episode should at least allay any security concerns.
Nick Faldo cracked that only a woman indeed could derail Tiger.
'Who is she? Where is she? And how much can we pay her?--not in that sense!--but we've got to wear him out somehow haven't we?' said the man who has won twice here.
Apparently, Faldo hasn't seen Elin Nordegren, Tiger's beautiful girlfriend. She is 0-2 in the 'wear him out for the majors' department.
Alas, it'll be up to the old gal named Muirfield to deal with Tiger. And so much of what will happen depends on the wind.
In the words of one Scottish caddie, if the wind does not blow they'll destroy it. It's simply too short by modern standards. But if, as is often the case, the wind comes from the west, it'll be a challenge. If it rolls in off the North Sea, it will be, according to author Curtis Gillespie, whose detailed account of Muirfield was just published in a new book, Playing Through, ugly and cold. And, he added with a diabolical laugh, 'fun.'
Ultimately, the prevailing sense is that if Tiger is going to win the third leg of the single-season slam, at least make him really sweat. Take a cue from the security guard, fans seem to be saying. Don't just let him walk on through.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
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
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
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.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
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."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
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.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
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