Woods continues to be defined by majors

By Doug FergusonJuly 2, 2012, 4:05 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – For all the endless parallels between the so-called new Tiger Woods and the old one, this was one comparison he didn't mind.

Winning at Congressional made it seem like 2009 all over again.

Woods returned from a significant leg injury back then amid questions whether he could be the same golfer he once was. He answered by winning Bay Hill, Memorial and the AT&T National in the first half of the season, and he wound up winning six times on the PGA Tour, seven worldwide.

This time, he is coming off a year in which he sat out three months and two majors to allow left leg injuries to fully heal. Halfway through the season, he has won those same three tournaments, so perhaps he is headed toward another year like 2009.

''Well, I had a good year that year. I think I won six times that year. That would be nice if I could get that same total,'' Woods said, pausing to smile before adding, ''with a couple of majors in there.''

Therein lies the difference - and the challenge.

It's all about the majors, isn't it?

Tour events should not be dismissed. Congressional was tougher than it was for the U.S. Open last year. An argument could be made that no other golf course on U.S. soil did a better job identifying who played the best that week. It was the 74th career win for Woods, moving him past Jack Nicklaus into second place, leaving him only eight Tour wins short of Sam Snead's record.

Even so, that's one of the few times Woods and Nicklaus are mentioned together when the topic is not major championships.

Majors are said to be the toughest to win, though that can be debated. The conditions tend to be so extreme they expose and eliminate those who don't have full control of their game and their emotions. That's what Phil Mickelson suggested in 2001 at the PGA Championship when he was frustrated by not having won a major at that point in his career, and Adam Scott raised the same point early last week at Congressional.

''I still think majors are every good player's best opportunity to win a tournament,'' Scott said.

Woods has not been a factor in the first two majors, another parallel to 2009. He tied for 40th at the Masters, and after sharing the 36-hole lead in the U.S. Open, he stumbled on the weekend and tied for 21st. While his performance looked fine on paper in 2009, he was never a factor in the first two majors - seven shots behind going into the last round at Augusta National, nine shots out of the lead on the last day at Bethpage Black.

The next stop for Woods is Royal Lytham & St. Annes, but not before he heads to The Greenbrier Classic this week in West Virginia.

The odds makers have installed Woods as the favorite for the British Open, just as they did for the Masters and the U.S. Open. And it's still a good bet. Luke Donald remains No. 1 in the world, with Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood not far behind. Even with his win at Congressional, Woods stayed at No. 4 in the world. That's only because of the math, and the fact the world ranking is based on two years instead of what happened yesterday, or even the last three months.

No matter. The score that will get everyone's attention at Lytham will belong to Woods.

''I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on Tour this year, is that correct?'' Bo Van Pelt said after taking Woods the distance on Sunday only to finish two shots behind. ''On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now.''

The better measure of Woods' standing is that he is leading the Tour money list for the first time since September 2009, when he won the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and capped off a season that topped $10 million in earnings.

To the golfing public, that's just window dressing.

When it comes to Woods, the majors are really all that matter at this stage in his career. The notion of whether he is ''back'' from physical and emotional scars has been answered by now. He is capable of winning whenever and wherever he plays.

Even so, the conversation among the CBS Sports analysts as Woods walked toward the 18th green at Congressional shifted to the majors and rightfully so. Until he reaches Snead's record, the focus will be where it always has been - on the four biggest prizes in golf.

Woods now has won 27 percent of his Tour events, a rate never seen for a guy who's been around for 16 years. To break that down, he has won 28 percent of his regular Tour events, compared with 24 percent of his majors. That translates to one major a year over the course of his career.

But he has gone four years without one, dating to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines when he played on a left leg that had two stress fractures and shredded knee ligaments that had to be rebuilt the day after he won.

Woods was practically gloating Sunday evening about those who dared to even suggest earlier this year he might not win again. One reporter mentioned he had won three of his last seven starts and asked which parts of his game have come around.

''Pretty much everything,'' Woods said. ''I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again. Here we are.''

When the issue of media skeptics was raised later in his interview, Woods talked about overhauling his swing and that not being able to practice essentially put him a year behind. But once he became healthy, he could see the progress.

''It was just a matter of time,'' he said. ''I could see the pieces coming together. ... Give me a little bit of time, and I feel like this is what I can do.''

He's doing what he once did with frightening regularity, which is to pose with the trophy. This is the 12th time in 16 seasons that Woods has won at least three times. Nicklaus had 14 seasons of at least three wins, though he never won more than seven in a year. Woods has had three seasons of at least eight wins.

There's that Woods-Nicklaus comparison again, but it's not the one everyone thinks about.

Including Woods.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”