Tiger returns to Torrey Pines as a caddie
He didnt have golf clubs, either.
Hopping from a cart, Woods walked up to 59-year-old John Abel, doffed his cap and extended his right hand. Hey, I hear youre looking for a caddie. Im Tiger Woods ' pleased to meet you.
Out of action since beating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff for his 14th career major, Woods came back to Torrey Pines to deliver on his end of the Tee Off with Tiger online sweepstakes sponsored by Buick.
Showing no signs of his season-ending knee surgery a week after the U.S. Open, Woods wore a green caddies bib inscribed with Abels name as he guided him around the back nine of the South Course, where he has won six times in the Buick Invitational and once in a U.S. Open he called his best ever.
Playing with torn ligaments in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his leg, Woods made a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to force an 18-hole playoff, made a 4-foot birdie on the 18th in the playoff to stay alive and finally won with a par.
Woods checked into the Lodge at Torrey Pines on Sunday night and noticed the pin in the same spot it was during the Monday playoff.
I opened the curtains and saw the 18th green, Woods said. I was like, You know what? That is pretty cool. A different atmosphere. You can actually see. They dont have the grandstands in the way. I saw where the pin was and was thinking, You know what? I remember that putt.
Woods was in character from the minute he drove up to the 10th tee, on cue from a video crew that recorded every one of Abels shots. Reporters and photographers from two media outlets, including The Associated Press, were allowed to watch on the 10th and 18th holes.
Woods drove the cart. He handed clubs to Abel, then wiped them off with a towel and put them back in the bag. He squatted to line up putts and tended the pin. He warned how fast the greens were, then chuckled as Abel five-putted the 10th for a quadruple-bogey 8.
Woods gave the best local advice anyone could ever hope to get on the tough course on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When they finished, a gaggle of onlookers that gathered near the clubhouse had a collective reaction.
It was fun, said Woods, who once caddied for former Stanford teammate Jerry Chang. This was totally cool. Ive caddied before many times. For me to be out here and to be able to do it again, its always fun. Johns a good guy. It was a fun day for me.
Abel, from West Berlin, N.J., said his round went better than expected.
I wasnt as nervous after maybe the third or fourth hole, he said. Nerves come into it, I dont care who you are, and these greens are unbelievable. Tiger was telling me that theyre actually 3 feet slower than what they played for the Open.
It was just such a hoot to play with him, said Abel, who regularly shoots in the 90s. He showed me things I never even thought about. Like when he walks into a sand trap, he feels with his feet. It was just so neat. it really was.
Seriously, imagine handing your fairway wood to Tiger Woods after a shot.
Thats the funny thing, Abel said. Im just so used to taking my club and putting it in the bag, and he keeps holding his hand out. Its like, OK. You dont want to. What else can you say? You just dont think about things like that.
The pin on 18 was moved Monday to where it was during the final round of regulation at the U.S. Open ' front right ' when Woods rapped that 12-foot birdie putt that bumped along toward the hole and swirled into the back corner of the cup without an inch to spare.
After Abel finished his round, Woods gave him a final treat by dropping the ball at the spot of his Sunday putt.
When they asked me, do you know what youre doing? I said, No, Abel said. When I was stepping up to it, they mentioned it. They said, This is his putt.
His putt probably broke another two inches more than what mine did, Woods said. Mine was more down in the valley. Slightly different putt.
Abel sensed that Woods enjoyed being back at Torrey Pines.
This might just be me watching, but he would look at certain spots and I was thinking, I wonder if thats where he hit the ball. A couple of times I was going to ask him, but then to be honest, I wasnt sure what I should ask him.
Abel said the one thing he took away about Woods was how much of a down-to-Earth guy he really is.
Abel said they talked about fatherhood, Woods knee and a couple jokes about how a couple more trophies would be nice, and how he feels he needs another green jacket. It was a little chilly and he said, Yeah, another green jacket would be nice and warm.
As for his caddie skills, It was all good, man, joked Woods, who enjoyed seeing Abel make a 20-foot uphill par putt on 17.
Abel played with a new set of Nike clubs. Woods wrote on the bib: Thank you for letting me caddie for you. Your friend, Tiger Woods.
Woods said his rehab is on schedule but that his return will be dictated by his doctors.
Im able to chip and putt now. I can start doing some more fuller rotational things toward the beginning of next year, he said. I can walk and do all this stuff. This is easy. But rotational stuff is going to be a little different.
Woods would love to be back at Torrey Pines in early February to defend his title at the Buick Invitational, where he has won four straight and six overall. But hes not sure if its realistic.
Thats the most frustrating thing for me, because I dont know, Woods said. I like having things planned out. I like understanding what I need to shoot for, but I dont know. And the surgeons dont know either, because theyve never dealt with an injury like this for a person who plays golf at an elite level. For an amateur, its no big deal, just come back nine months from now or 10 months from now. But for me, I dont know what the schedules going to be.
Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs
Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.
Everything before that, however, was far from routine.
That face when you realized you visa to the UK is expired the same day you were supposed to travel. La cara cuando te das cuenta que tu visa al Reino Unido está vencida el mismo días que viajas.pic.twitter.com/lztAcLUNN0— Jhonattan Vegas (@JhonattanVegas) July 12, 2018
Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.
He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.
"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.
How to watch The Open on TV and online
You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.
Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie
In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.
Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:
(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)
Monday, July 16
GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tuesday, July 17
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Wednesday, July 18
GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Thursday, July 19
GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)
GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Friday, July 20
GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Saturday, July 21
GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Sunday, July 22
GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)
GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)
GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.