Tiger People Are Talking
Meanwhile, it turns out all kinds of people are talking about Woods.
Over the weekend GolfChannel.com got a private audience with Annika Sorenstam near her Lake Nona, Fla. home and one of the subjects discussed was Tigers injury. Specifically, Annika was asked if she thought Tiger would be able to stay on top of mens golf when he returns even if the knee forced him to change his swing in any significant way.
Absolutely, Sorenstam said. Hes a very smart guy. One of the things that I was impressed with him is that he can imitate a lot of golf swings. He reads a lot, he watches a lot of TV, and he can just pick up a tip and try it. For him, if his knee is not perfectly healed ' even if he slows down a little ' hell still be very long. But powers not everything; he can do without the power and still be able to play.
Next, GolfChannel.com got into a discussion with Texas native Scott Verplank on why Woods has played just once (1997) at Colonial on the Texas Swing. Verplank said he wasnt sure why but said he had heard that Woods had once said Colonial was not a great golf course.
The only dumb thing Tigers ever said, Verplank said. Verplank added that Colonials test, although not a long one, calls for a full examination of shapes and trajectories and that it would be perfect Woods versatile arsenal.
Wish that all the rest of us could say we had only said one dumb thing in our entire lives.
Finally, rookie Kevin Streelman was a virtual one-man publicity machine for Woods at Disney last week.
I think any event he plays in is good for the U.S. Tour, Streelman said. And its good for the world of golf. This was a pretty cool year for him (not counting the injury). Ill vote for him for Player of the Year. I think he played six times in 2008 and won four. And the other two were top 5s.In my opinion its pretty evident whos Player of the Year.
MORE MAN OF STREEL
Streelman, who tied for sixth at Disney and wound up 35th on the season-ending money list, calls himself a huge golf nerd.
Asked to define huge golf nerd, Streelman said, .Courtney (his wife) sometimes has to cut me off and say, you cant watch the Golf Channel anymore, I want to watch a movie.
The fate of the Fall Series next year is not on the front burner up in Ponte Vedra right now. But it's a definite priority.
The problem is an economy that has weakened many of the financial institutions that serve as Tour title sponsors. That same economy isn't expected, according to the experts, to rebound any time soon.
When I asked PGA Tour executive VP Ty Votaw if there might be contraction next fall from seven events to a lesser number, his text messaged reply was: Still working on that. Will have definitive answers when we announce the Fall Schedule.'
The good news here for the Tour is that the amount of money it contributed to charity in 2008 is expected to surpass the $123 million it reported, across all three Tours, for 2007.
To be sure, the optimism is cautious at best. When I asked Votaw if he expected the Tour's charity contribution number to increase again in '09, his three-word reply was, 'We don't predict.'
The best golf played, by anybody, this year was authored by Tiger Woods in June at Torrey Pines South where he won his third U.S. Open.
The best year turned in by anybody this year was the one produced by Sergio Garcia, who climbed al the way to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings with his recent HSBC victory in China.
Garcia won The Players Championship in May and finished his PGA Tour season with four top 5s in his last five events.
Having stated all of that:
The Player of the Year for 2008 is Padraig Harrington. You can debate this all you want. And it all makes for great bar talk. But the plain fact remains: Two major championship wins in one year trumps all. Harrington won the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. Case closed.
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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.