Newsmaker of the Year, No. 2: Tiger Woods

By Will GrayDecember 18, 2015, 2:00 pm

From ski masks to surgeries, glutes to gravy, this was indeed a very strange year for Tiger Woods.

At least for the time being, Woods’ spot on this annual list of newsmakers appears etched in stone. No other player can create as many headlines or garner such attention, even without the meaningful on-course performance to match.

Woods put that maxim to the test this year, one in which he was barely relevant inside the ropes but remained one of the game’s most-discussed figures.

Never before have we seen a season for Woods which began with such promise fall apart so quickly. This was supposed to be the beginning of his Final Act, an opportunity to fervently renew his quest for the few career records not already in his possession.

Equipped with a new swing consultant and a clean bill of health, Woods embarked on 2015 with equal parts confidence and expectations. He was eager to put behind him an injury-plagued campaign and tackle a list of major venues that included two of his favorite haunts: Augusta National and St. Andrews.

What followed was a painful journey from one perceived bottom to the next, as a great champion was reduced to a shell of his former self.

The first red flag arose in Phoenix, where Woods’ short-game woes mushroomed into a full-blown case of the yips. Unable to execute a series of straightforward chips, he missed the cut in embarrassing fashion.

Woods leaned on some of his favorite buzzwords in the immediate aftermath at TPC Scottsdale, insisting that he was simply caught between swing patterns. He was quick to remind the world that he was not that far removed from a five-win season in 2013.

But then Woods abruptly withdrew the following week because of a back injury, limping off the course before offering his now-famous explanation from the Torrey Pines parking lot that he simply couldn’t “activate his glutes.”


Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list


That two-week debacle led Woods to take an indefinite leave from competition, the strongest indicator yet that something was seriously amiss.

“Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level,” Woods wrote on his website. “When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.”

That return proved to be at the Masters, where Woods’ T-17 finish offered a rare glimmer of hope. But that would turn out to be his lone weekend appearance at the majors, as Woods averaged nearly 76 swipes per round at Chambers Bay, the Old Course and Whistling Straits.

There was also a third-round 85 at Jack’s Place, Woods’ highest single-round score and one that led to a solo dew-sweeping appointment the following morning. While that effort at the Memorial proved to be Woods’ statistical low point, larger setbacks still loomed.

To be fair, there were also signs of progress along the way, hints that maybe this lost campaign could somehow still be salvaged. When Woods returned to action at the Masters, he seemed a different player than the one who had bowed out weeks earlier. He was lighthearted and candid in his pre-tournament pressers; he danced and listened to music while practicing on the range.

And there was eventually cause for optimism on the scorecard, too. He turned two good rounds at The Greenbrier Classic into three good rounds at the Quicken Loans National, which led to the high-water mark of the year at the Wyndham Championship.

After making an unexpected and last-minute commitment to the event, Woods took the tournament by storm before ever hitting a shot. He demonstrated control on a tight track, contending and even leading deep into the weekend. While he didn’t win, he left Greensboro with his first top-10 finish in nearly two years and seemingly had some momentum heading into the offseason.

But just a few weeks later, Woods announced that he had undergone a second microdiscectomy surgery on his injured back, and another follow-up procedure soon followed. When he showed up at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month, Woods’ comments took on a somber tone as he offered no timetable for his return and appeared devoid of optimism.

“Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know, so that’s been hard,” he said. “Hopefully the day-by-day adds up to something positive here soon.”

It was there, in a Bahamian sweatbox in front of dozens of media members, that Woods’ already disastrous year officially bottomed out.

Perhaps we should have known that Woods was in for a strange year when our first glimpse of him was high atop a mountain in January, donning a skeleton ski mask and missing a tooth. Perhaps each on-course struggle that followed should have been made somewhat less jarring by the one that preceded it.

But this was Tiger Woods. This was the most decorated winner of his generation, a man whose golf ball has been largely under his command and control for more than two decades.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

And yet, despite the struggles, we watched. And we read, and we commented. Woods is now ranked No. 413 in the world, but he is also the central figure in five of the 10 most-read stories on GolfChannel.com this year.

Fans care about Woods, both when he wins and when he misses the cut, and our “Tiger at 40” series has displayed Woods’ far-reaching impact on the game’s current landscape.

So while this year did not go according to plan for Woods, he still gave us plenty to talk about. And although his status for 2016 (and beyond) remains anyone’s guess, one thing appears certain: regardless of his performance, he’ll likely have a spot on this countdown next year.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.