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Punch Shot: Tiger Tracker weighs in on Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 29, 2017, 2:11 pm


Tiger Woods' return to competition means one thing: the return of GCTigerTracker. senior writer Rex Hoggard caught up with the man of mystery to discuss Tracker's expecations of His Man this week and beyond - as well as what Tracker does when he's not tracking.

Hoggard: OK, TT, glad to see you’re back at work. Now, you’ve had a chance to see Tiger for a couple of days, what are your expectations for him this week?

Tracker: First of all, Rexy, let’s acknowledge that you guys are letting me play inside the writing sandbox for this little article. Secondly, my expectations for him are the same that they are for me – to walk 72 holes pain free. It’s been awhile since either of us have done this. Your expectations of him are higher than that?

Hoggard: Yes, actually. There has been a lot of chatter about how far he’s hitting the ball. Combine that with dramatically improved health, I’m not sure I’ll be overly excited with a T-17, but anything inside the top 10 should be in his wheelhouse.

Tracker: I’d take that right now and move onto … well, where ever he plays next. This whole thing is difficult for me. I have no expectations, he doesn’t seem to have high expectations. But when we hear how long he’s hitting it – Tuesday we saw how long he was hitting it and, well, we have higher expectations. Top-10 would be tremendous. Just tremendous. To beat eight world-class dudes in this field would be huge. From watching him the past couple days what do you think he’ll do well, and what do you think he will not do well?

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Hoggard: You’re not too bad at this scribe gig. Ever think of moonlighting as a writer? Driving looks like it will be his strength (believe it or not). Short game may be an issue. He went straight to the short-game area after his practice round, which is an indication he’s not entirely comfortable on that front. Let’s get real for a moment, who wins the Round 1 two-ball – TW or JT?

Tracker: Lower myself to the level of a scribe? Never. I just don’t know how you can go against JT in this case. He’s so fired up to play with Tiger, who asked him about the pairing a couple weeks ago. JT said he wants to “kick his a**” and I believe him. I respect Tiger for jumping back into the mix and opting to play with JT. He could’ve picked someone lower profile, but he went with the dude who smoked everyone all year (#respect). From asking that question, you actually think TW has a chance against JT?

Hoggard: After watching JT drive the ball for nine holes today, I don’t think it would be impossible, but Tiger needs a lot of things to go right. On another note, what do you do when you’re not tracking?

Tracker: Ha ... you don’t really want to know. But one thing I do is gain weight quicker than any human alive. If gaining weight was an Olympic sport you’re looking at your gold medalist in a landslide. I mean to go from walking so much to not moving? Then trying to lose it all so I can actually follow the main man is brutal. Other than that ... you miss me or something?

Hoggard: Sure, we all missed you ... and the other guy. Let’s forget expectations this week. What’s more likely, Tiger qualifies for the playoffs or Jordan Spieth three-putts from 2 feet at Augusta National?

Tracker: Damn, you're digging deep here, Rexy. Remember, me don’t write that good at all. Neither is happening, and I think you know that. But I’ll play your silly little game – Spieth three-putting from 2 feet at Augusta National is more likely. Only because there is still so much unknown from Tiger and how he’ll play, where he’ll play and if he plays. No?

Hoggard: Look, man, you’re the all-Tiger, all-the-time guy. How’s your schedule shaping up? Thinking Torrey Pines, L.A., Honda, Bay Hill. Anything booked after that (hint: if Tiger remains healthy you may want to join a hotel and airline rewards program)?

Tracker: Sounds about right. I wish he’d stay away from Torrey, but it won’t happen. And I loved Dubai earlier this year but I just think the optics of going there again would be awful. So, if healthy, give him the four majors and The Players, the four you listed, the Memorial, The (sponsorless) National and maybe something like the Wyndham and we’re getting well into the double digits if he doesn’t qualify for the playoffs. That seems like crazy talk, considering two months ago he didn’t know if he’d ever play again.

Hoggard: OK, let’s finish strong here. Of everything Tiger said on Tuesday, what gave you the most encouragement going into the first round?

Tracker: Simple, that he’s pain free. I haven’t believed him in the past when he’s said that because I’ve seen his face, I’ve seen him wince. This week, so far, I’ve seen none of that so I tend to believe him. He looks in great spirits, is smiling on the golf course with his buddies and I think that, more than anything, bodes well for a solid four days.

Hoggard: Agreed, although I also liked how he seems to be coming off that “second sucks” mentality. This road will be long and Tiger, and Tiger Tracker, will need to be patient. Good opening act, TT. Catch you on Thursday.

Tracker: Cool, thanks again for letting me tag along. Henceforth, I'll stick to tracking.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."