One year after Greensboro, wait for Tiger continues

By Will GrayAugust 23, 2016, 12:00 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Walking around Sedgefield Country Club, you can still feel the echoes.

If you close your eyes, you can still envision the throngs that gathered a year ago, the thousands that packed this cozy layout on the off-chance they might see him walk by for an instant – a blur of red, black and swagger.

It was exactly a year ago, on Aug. 23, 2015, that Tiger Woods took the Wyndham Championship by storm. He started the final round two shots off the lead, in search of a win that would end a two-year drought and serve as an emphatic coda to an otherwise disappointing season.

After bombing out at the PGA Championship the week prior, Woods made a last-minute decision to add Greensboro to his schedule for the first time. It was a surprising choice, but one that seemed to kick-start his idle game.

There were stingers. There were club twirls. There were birdies by the handful, and there were crowds the likes of which only Woods can deliver, as the people of Greensboro flocked to watch a man who once again seemed comfortable in his element.

“I’m just guessing, but we had to have had 20,000 people following our group,” said Scott Brown, who played with Woods in last year’s final round. “It was 10-deep, wrapped around every hole. It was unbelievable.”

He was back. And just like that, he was gone.

Sure, we’ve seen Woods make a handful of appearances since. There was the Zapruder-level analysis of his simulator 9-iron back in February, and the disastrous outing at Quicken Loans National media day in May.

But 365 days have passed since Tiger’s last competitive swing. A hiatus once measured in weeks and months has stretched to include an entire year, and it may not end anytime soon.

“It’s tough to ignore that the golf world is a little different, a little quieter without him,” said Graeme McDowell. “We’re not ready to talk about a post-Tiger world, but everyone’s starting to think about that.”

Woods announced a pair of back surgeries in the weeks that followed his T-10 finish at last year’s Wyndham, and the resulting wait-and-see left legions of fans hoping he would turn up again at Augusta, or maybe Quail Hollow, or perhaps Royal Troon – only to be disappointed each and every time.



“While I continue to work hard and get healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open or Quicken Loans National,” Woods wrote on June 7, the most recent health update posted to his website. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for competition.”

When that return to competition might occur remains the subject of much conjecture. Some hold out hope that he’ll tee it up at the season-opening Safeway Open, while others target the limited-field Hero World Challenge in December or even tournaments in early 2017, at which point Woods will be 41 years old.

When reached for comment Monday, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg offered little insight.

“No update at this time,” Steinberg said via email. “He continues to make progress.”

Whenever Woods does get back inside the ropes, it’s not even clear what equipment he’ll be using. Nike’s recent decision to get out of the golf equipment space means that Woods is shopping for a potential suitor, adding yet another variable to the growing equation.

“He and I have discussed at length a plan for that, and feel comfortable with what we’re going to do going forward,” Steinberg told GolfChannel.com earlier this month. “But clearly, there’s likely going to be a change.”

While so much surrounding Woods’ status remains uncertain, the impact of his lengthy absence on the PGA Tour is quite evident.

“You look at tournaments like Bay Hill, the tournaments that he’s accustomed to playing like San Diego. The crowds they get, that they get for him, it’s not the same,” Billy Horschel said. “It’s disappointing that he’s not out here playing. It’s disappointing that you don’t feel the energy. Still a lot of energy, but that extra special energy when he’s in the field, especially near the lead, isn’t there.”

There was strong fan support this year at the Wyndham, as spectators flocked to local favorites like Webb Simpson and Bill Haas as well as another surprising tournament newcomer, Rickie Fowler.

But the modest crowds that gathered around Sedgefield’s tees and greens only highlighted the fact that the mass influx sparked by Woods’ appearance last year won’t be seen here again anytime soon.

“Tiger is still the biggest draw in our game. No one else compares to him,” Horschel said. “Fans like to argue with me on Twitter about it, but they don’t get it. I understand that they look at Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and they get big fans, but Tiger’s in a different level. He’s in a level that few have ever been.”

Much has changed in golf over the last year. Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have become major champions. Day has cemented his status as the world’s best player, while another promising crop of young guns has found its footing.

The biggest figure in golf, however, remains stuck in neutral.

“Obviously, we’d love to see him back. We’d love to see him come back and potentially start winning events again,” McDowell said. “He’s been so great for the game. But we know he’s got health issues, and time could be against him now.”

The images from Woods’ surprise detour to Greensboro still seem vivid. But one year later, the buzz that overtook Sedgefield has slowly faded away.

All that remains are the memories, along with the fervent hope that we’ll someday be able to witness it all again.

“I hope he comes back. I hope he’s healthy,” Horschel said. “I’d just like to see him give it one last good shot. If that’s what he wants to do, I want to see it.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

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.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

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."

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.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

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