My 2014 moment: Tiger arrives at the PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 23, 2014, 1:30 pm

(Editor's note: This is part of a series in which staff reveal their favorite or personal moments of 2014.)


Just how focused is Tiger on catching Jack? You decide.  

This story begins on the Sunday prior to the PGA Championship, during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone. Tiger Woods injured his back while hitting a fairway bunker shot on the second hole at Firestone and withdrew after nine holes. With just days until the final major of the season, the golf world wondered if Woods would be able to compete at Valhalla, where he won in an epic playoff over Bob May in 2000.

Having already missed the Masters and U.S. Open, and finishing five shots behind 64-year-old Tom Watson at the British Open, that 15th major looked more and more elusive with every passing minute.

While there was no decision excepted from Woods and his ailing back until Tuesday, at the earliest, our first hint that he might give it a go came when his caddie, Joe LaCava, was spotted charting the greens early Monday morning. Why take the time if you know your guy is out?

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As Tuesday was coming to a close, so too was the deadline to register for the 96th PGA and there was still no word from the Woods camp. Then, just before "Live From" was set to air, we received word that Tiger had requested an extension to register for the event. Hint No. 2 that he was going to play.

Business went on as usual on Wednesday, with the long-drive competition making a comeback and the world’s No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy, out for an early practice round. Just as Rory was finishing (and walking to the 10th tee just to take part in the long-drive competition) word surfaced that Tiger was expected to arrive and play a practice round in the early afternoon. Instantly the mood, the feel and the buzz around the event all changed.

Within 10 minutes, a large media scrum assembled around his empty parking space in the past champions' lot.

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The media was so locked in to Tiger’s arrival, so oblivious to everything else going on, that the eventual winner of the event - and arguably the hottest athlete on the planet – walked out of the clubhouse, claret jug in hand. Not a single member of the media noticed (except for Golf Channel, of course):

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As soon as Tiger put his Mercedes in park and exited the vehicle, a shockwave of electricity was sent across the property. 

He wasted little time getting to work, and when he made it to the range there were people 40-50 deep just to watch him warm up. One can only imagine it was the same for Babe Ruth taking batting practice back in the day.

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After a 35-minute warmup, Woods, Steve Stricker, Davis Love III and Harris English went to the first tee.

There was a deafening silence as Tiger put his peg into the ground, so much uncertainty as to what to except from his golf and from his health. He then proceeded to pipe a small draw down the center of the fairway. In that moment, one thought, maybe, just maybe, there was a chance he could pull it off. He is Tiger Woods, after all.

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Woods ended up missing the cut, pulling out of the Ryder Cup, firing Sean Foley and hanging it up until December to focus on healing his back. Now, more than ever, the question that was once 'When will Tiger catch Jack?' has become 'Will Tiger catch Jack?' and it looks less and less likely with each passing major.

One thing is certain, however: When Woods (good, bad or ugly) tees it up in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major victories, the golf world comes to a screeching halt to watch. 

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.

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Bogey-free Moore shares Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Amid the swirling winds on a difficult track at the Valero Texas Open, Ryan Moore has yet to blink.

Moore was one of only two players among the 156-man field to go bogey-free during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, and he's now the only player still boasting a clean scorecard after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and the rest pars. At 9 under, the veteran shares the lead with Zach Johnson and was three shots clear of any other player at the end of the morning wave.

"Really, around this golf course what matters is the right distance," Moore told reporters. "You can get in some pretty tough spots if you're long and short. So I kind of hit it the right distance all day, gave myself plenty of good birdie opportunities and didn't stress myself out too much with too many up-and-downs."

While many players struggle to find a true offseason, Moore took nearly three months off between starts at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and Waste Management Phoenix Open. During that time he shed nearly 20 pounds thanks to changes to his diet and teamed up with a new swing coach, Drew Steckel, in December.

The results have been solid if not spectacular, as Moore tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished T-16 last week at the RBC Heritage.

"It's been solid golf, especially the last few weeks. I haven't got a ton out of it," Moore said. "The putter just wasn't there. So this week, just got a little more comfortable with the putter and knocked a few putts in that kind of matter early in my rounds, and it's going in. That's kind of what's been missing lately."

Moore had a breakthrough season in 2016 that included his victory at the John Deere Classic and spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he hasn't sniffed career win No. 6 since a T-3 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 16 months ago. Should he keep a clean card this weekend in San Antonio, his chances to end that victory drought appear bright.

"I played some really nice golf yesterday, I just controlled the ball nicely all the way around and was bogey-free yesterday, so thought, 'Let's go try and do that again,'" Moore said. "So to play in tough, windy conditions, to go bogey-free (again), it was some good solid golf."

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Former champ Z. Johnson surges at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 7:31 pm

Midway through his opening round at the Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson appeared far closer to a missed cut than a spot on the leaderboard.

Johnson initially struggled in the winds at TPC San Antonio, playing his first 13 holes in 3 over. But he eagled No. 14 and closed with three more birdies to post a 2-under 70, then went unconscious during a second-round 65 where he made six birdies over his first 10 holes.

It added up to a 9-under total at the halfway point, and instead of packing his bags the two-time major champ now shares the lead with Ryan Moore.

"You just never know. That's the beauty of this game," Johnson told reporters. "I didn't have anything going putting-wise. I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. Shoot, I made some good pars all while being 3 over. You just never know."

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009, but that was when it was held across town at La Cantera Golf Club. Since the switch to TPC San Antonio in 2010, he has only one top-10 finish and two missed cuts, including last year's early exit with consecutive rounds of 74.

But Friday he played like a man unaware of the venue shift, with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 and a hole-out eagle from the greenside bunker on the par-4 fifth hole. His closing bogey on No. 9 was his first dropped shot in the last 25 holes.

"The confidence is there, and when you can step on the tee with this kind of wind, you trust your clubs and trust your ball, that's pretty important," Johnson said. "I felt good. It was hard, I'm not going to deny that. That was one of the better 27-hole stretches that I've had in a long time."

Johnson's 65 was his first sub-70 score since an opening-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a span of 12 stroke-play rounds. The veteran has made every cut in 11 starts this season, but his T-8 finish at the RSM Classic in November remains his only top-10 finish.

"I felt really good coming into the week," Johnson said. "Confidence was there, it just wasn't showing up on the scorecard."