Woods possibly on his way to 100 PGA Tour wins

By Damon HackJanuary 29, 2013, 2:00 am

For his 50th PGA Tour victory, the folks at the Buick Open gave Tiger Woods a cake. It was huge, big enough for a family of about the same number.

Tiger took a swipe of the frosting and sampled it. His grin was a mile wide.

“It took me 10 years to get here; hopefully I can continue playing well over the next 10, 20 years,” Woods said back in August of 2006, smack dab between winning the Open Championship at Hoylake and PGA Championship at Medinah.

On Monday, an older, more fragile Woods won his 75th PGA Tour event at the Farmers Insurance Open, throttling the field in a style both familiar and brand new.

Tiger holed bunker shots and chip shots and he buried putts that bounced along poa annua. He threw darts with his wedges. He ran away from the field, pushing his lead to eight before settling for a four-shot win.

Even when Tiger hit wild shots off the tee (he historically is iffy with the big dog) he got by with his skill and imagination (best combination the game has ever seen).

The win along the rugged Pacific coastline pulled Tiger within seven of tying Sam Snead for the all-time record for wins on the PGA Tour.

There was no cake, but no matter. The victory – so old-school Tiger – brought up something even sweeter: the specter of a race to 100 victories.

I hadn’t even considered the number attainable until Tiger slammed the door at Torrey Pines, where he has won eight times as a professional (including the 2008 U.S. Open) and stands to win a few more.

Tiger has more happy places in golf than anyone. Bay Hill (seven victories). Akron (seven). Memorial (five). Augusta National (four). Like Torrey Pines, none of those tournaments is going out of business any time soon.

The odds for Tiger reaching 100 are favorable.

Even as his winning rate has slowed – it took him 10 years to reach 50 victories and another 6 ½ to get 25 more – there are many reasons to believe he can get to that magic number.

The farther away from the dark days of 2009-2010 he gets, the more comfortable he looks. His swing changes have come together and his short game is sharp. He’s also as healthy as he’s looked in years.

Then there are the less tangible forces, the outside motivation that always fuels him. The ascendance of Rory McIlroy has Tiger’s attention, not to mention his nearly lifelong quest to upend Jack’s major record of 18.

Don’t underestimate fatherhood, either. Tiger has video of his son Charlie’s swing on his phone and has been showing off the little guy’s move to his Tour pals.

You don’t think Tiger wants his kids to see the old man as No. 1 in the world?

Beyond being a mythical number, 100 could be a game-changer in the argument for who is the greatest of all time, even if Tiger fails to catch Jack.

Tiger has already passed Jack for PGA Tour titles, 75 to 73. Score a point for Tiger. But Jack had 19 second-place finishes in majors (Tiger has six). Point for Jack.

But Tiger won six straight USGA Amateur titles (three junior amateurs, three amateurs) from 1991-1996 to Jack’s two U.S. Amateurs in 1959 and 1961. Point for Tiger.

Jack had better competition, more Hall of Famers to take down. Tiger had the cut streak. Jack has a better Ryder Cup record.

And back and forth it goes.

Tiger vs. Jack is the game’s water-cooler debate that just won’t go away (and what will happen if those two face off in the golfchannel.com Ultimate Match Play competition? Could happen.)

But Tiger with 100 victories would add a huge wrinkle to an argument with so many textures.

One hundred wins, as Tiger might say, would be pretty good.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”