We'll finally get to see the real Tiger

By Will GrayApril 29, 2015, 7:42 pm

Never have 138 characters felt more like an avalanche.

Tiger Woods is a creature of habit, and while his typical tournament schedule reflects that fact, rarely does he offer his plans far in advance. He committed to the Masters six days before the opening round, and only publicly announced his plans to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass 13 days before the start of The Players Championship.

Then came Wednesday’s tweet, and in the span of a few keystrokes Woods booked his summer tour. Much like his jovial mood (and earbud use!) at Augusta National signaled the turning over of a new leaf, a five-event flurry of commitments from Woods is almost unheard of.

There will be familiar venues – namely Muirfield Village, where he has won five times, followed by the Old Course at St. Andrews, which Woods calls his “favorite course in golf.” But the itinerary also includes some less familiar stops. Woods has never played Chambers Bay (U.S. Open), his lone trip to the Greenbrier resulted in a missed cut in 2012 and his last competitive shot at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (Quicken Loans) came at the 2005 Presidents Cup.

If nothing else, Woods’ announcement signals that the issues with which he struggled earlier this year – both in terms of health and short game – are things of the past. After subsisting on a week-to-week basis for nearly three months, he now feels physically and mentally confident enough to plan three months in advance. That is a good sign, both for Woods and the game in general.

This also means that a pivotal season for Woods, one that failed to get off the ground in Phoenix and San Diego, can begin – again – in earnest. Starting next week in Ponte Vedra Beach, the 39-year-old will play six events across a 13-week span – a significant stretch considering he has completed just 19 competitive rounds since July.

It’s also a schedule that could become even busier in August. Woods is No. 116 in the world, but should he crack the top 50 in the rankings by Aug. 3 he would earn a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won eight times and the site of the most recent of his 79 PGA Tour wins.

If Woods tees it up at Firestone and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, it would mean three tournaments in three weeks – a trifecta of productivity he last pulled off in March 2013.

Make no mistake, the landscape currently facing Woods is far different from the one he saw in ‘13, when he won five times and took Player of the Year honors. Rory McIlroy has asserted himself as a clear No. 1, with Jordan Spieth hot on his heels. Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have combined to win nine times since Woods’ last victory.

He faces an uphill climb to re-join the game’s elite, but Woods’ T-17 finish at the Masters shows that while he’s no longer No. 1, he’s not playing like No. 116, either. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the more golf he plays, the more accurate his ranking will become.

For more than 15 months, Woods’ game has been shrouded with questions. He has shown flashes of his old form, only to be derailed by injury or betrayed by his wedges. While some of those questions will still linger when he tees it up next week and beyond, at least now we know where to expect the roars.

Plan your schedule accordingly. 

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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.”