Punch Shot: Birthday gifts for Tiger Woods

Monday is Tiger Woods' 38th birthday. To celebrate, our writers are handing out the one gift they would give the 2013 PGA Tour Player of the Year as he prepares for the year ahead. 


How about a healthy year?

If we could give that gift, we would give it to Tiger Woods for his 38th birthday. We all know the physical challenges he has faced. We remember him shaking his left arm in pain after shots at Merion during the U.S. Open back in June. We remember him crumpling to the turf in back pain at Liberty National during The Barclays in August, and we remember his back giving him problems near the end of the Presidents Cup in September. As Woods nears 40, those aches and pains aren’t suddenly going to disappear. If he’s going to step up his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, he’ll need healthy knees, a healthy neck, a healthy back, a healthy body.

If Woods is healthy, that history-making pursuit becomes intriguing for golf fans everywhere.


What do you get the man with 14 major championships? Fifteen major championships. Ba-da boom.

To celebrate Tiger Woods’ 38th birthday, however, perhaps a more esoteric answer is in order.

Depending on who you ask, maybe a more consistent putting stroke for the world No. 1 or better accuracy with his driver would be a suitable gift. But then he did win five PGA Tour titles in 2013 and his 11th Player of the Year award with what he’s got.

Following a colossally bad bounce on Friday at this year’s Masters, perhaps Woods just needs a little luck to end his recent 0-for-18 slide in the majors. But then you don’t play your way into the record books on the good graces of Lady Luck.

And, of course, Woods would welcome the gift of good health following an eventful few years on and off the disabled list. But he largely avoided the MRI machine in 2013 and, with the help of Sean Foley, seems to have honed a swing that is both efficient and sustainable.

No, for the man that appears to have everything the only gift that would resonate beyond his birthday is the desire to keep improving. It’s what drove him to 14 majors and will be the cornerstone for No. 15 and beyond.


What do you get for the man who has everything? Something he already owns - but still needs. 

That might sound like a riddle, but it's really not. On this Dec. 30, I'd sneak into Woods' garage, find that old Scotty Cameron putter that won him so many majors and slip it back into his golf bag. 

I've always bought into the notion of "it's the archer, not the arrow," and with five wins last year it's not as if Tiger can't roll the rock, but I'd like to see how he'd do when reunited with an old pal. 

Maybe that magic wand is out of magic and it's better left swapping stories of the past with those other old clubs in the garage. But anyone who watched Woods putt his way to so many major wins couldn't help but be intrigued by the possibility of seeing it come out of retirement for a little while. 

Hey, even the guy who has everything sometimes just needs a reminder of what he already has. 


It’s not sold in stores, and it has proved elusive for dimpleheads everywhere this holiday season, but for his 38th birthday I’d buy Tiger Woods some weekend mojo at the majors.

Yes, he’s been competitive, with six top-6 finishes in majors since the 2010 Masters. But in golf’s biggest events, 20 of Woods’ last 24 weekend rounds have been even par or worse – a startling figure for a world No. 1 who has won eight times in the past two seasons.

For whatever reason, the major magic has disappeared, at least temporarily. Some days, he looks spooked on the greens. Other times, he plays too conservatively.

Stuck at 14 majors for the past 5 1/2 years, Woods could receive worse gifts than a little weekend mojo to go along with his birthday cake. 

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson (2) J. Thomas (3) J. Rahm (4) J. Spieth
(32) K. Kisner (21) F. Molinari (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed
(38) A. Hadwin
(48) P. Kizzire (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li
(52) B. Wiesberger
(60) L. List (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama (6) R. McIlroy (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day
(30) P. Cantlay
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen
(46) C. Smith (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner
(53) Y. Miyazato (51) P. Uihlein (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman (12) T. Hatton
(26) D. Berger (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace (22) C. Hoffman
(33) K. Chappell (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson (36) B. Steele
(58) I. Poulter (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri (55) A. Levy
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren (14) P. Mickelson (15) P. Perez (16) M. Kuchar
(29) T. Finau (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland (27) R. Fisher
(39) T. Pieters (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson (47) Y. Ikeda
(61) K. Na (59) C. Howell III (50) S.W. Kim (54) Z. Johnson
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Els: Tiger playing well validates his generation

By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Tiger Woods has come close to looking like the player who ruled golf for the better part of 15 years, and Ernie Els is happy to see it.

Never mind that Els was on the losing end to Woods more than any other player.

He speaks for his generation of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and others. Els keeps hearing about the depth of talent being greater than ever, and he has seen it. But he gets weary listening to suggestions that Woods might not have 79 PGA Tour victories if he had to face this group.

''I'm just glad he's playing like I know he can play to validate me – validate me, Phil and Vijay,'' Els said. ''We weren't bad players. This guy was a special player. To see him back, playing special stuff again ... is great for the game.''

Generational debates are nothing new.

Every generation was better than the next one. Then again, Jack Nicklaus used to lament that Woods was lacking competition from players who had more experience winning majors, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

Mickelson, Els and Singh combined to win 12 majors. Els says Woods won 14 on his own because he was that much better.

Does it get under his skin to hear fans rave about this generation's players?

''It doesn't (tick) me off. Can you imagine how it must (tick) Tiger off?'' he said. ''He was leaps and bounds the best player. People forget very quickly, and then you see special players like we have now, the younger generation. But I know what I played against. You can't take anything away from anybody.''

Doug Ferguson is a golf writer for The Associated Press

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Tee times

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”