What Next for Prime-Time Golf Show
The national rating from the 'Battle at the Bridges' was 4.6 with an 8 share, the lowest in the five years since ABC Sports began televising the prime-time exhibitions.
Does this mean the end of hit-and-giggle golf under the lights?
Not if Ernie Els has a vote.
'We want revenge,' Els said after he and Woods -- the best two players in golf -- never led in a best-ball match and lost, 3 and 1, to Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.
This was the first of a three-year contract with the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, where the views from the foothills north of San Diego are spectacular, the houses look like palaces and memberships start at $325,000.
Plus, Woods has a deal with Disney-owned ABC to broadcast the matches.
The trick is finding either a format or group of players more appealing.
This one brought together the best players in golf at the end of last year. Woods, Mickelson, Els and Garcia were all ranked in the top four.
That changed by the time the first tee went into the ground Monday night. Woods and Els were Nos. 1 and 2, with a combined nine victories this year. Mickelson dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in more than five years (No. 11), while Garcia is No. 14.
Neither of them had won this year -- until Monday night.
Garcia, who gave Woods his only other loss in prime time three years ago at Bighorn, made a 6-foot birdie putt to halve the 14th hole, then hit a 3-wood under the lights, over the water and into 30 feet for eagle on the 16th to effectively close out the match.
Mickelson did his part with a deft short game to protect the lead.
'Obviously, Sergio and I have not played to our level of expectations, and I don't know what to say about that,' Mickelson said. 'On any given day, anyone can beat anybody. Sergio and I played well, and we beat the best two players in the world.
'Hopefully, this will give us confidence the rest of the year.'
What this does for the next 'Battle at the Bridges' remains to be seen.
Despite the increasingly lower ratings, they are still higher than most regular PGA Tour events that Woods doesn't play.
And unlike Monday Night Football in the preseason, Woods does not come out after the first couple of holes and gets replaced by Andrew Magee.
The national rating a year ago was 5.1, when Woods and Jack Nicklaus beat Garcia and Lee Trevino in a clash of the generations at Bighorn in the California desert.
The year before, Woods and Annika Sorenstam defeated David Duval and Karrie Webb in a mixed-team match that lacked personality and quality golf in an alternate-shot format.
Woods hand-picked this year's teams, wanting to modernize 'Challenge Golf' from decades ago, when Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were a formidable team.
'I was the American. Ernie was the South African. We took on anybody,' Woods said. 'And we got waxed.'
The made-for-TV exhibitions began in 1999 when Woods and Duval, at the time jockeying for No. 1 in the world, played at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Woods won, and the national rating was 6.9.
It moved to Bighorn under a three-year deal, and Garcia made a birdie putt on the final hole to beat Woods. That was highest national rating at 7.6.
'They've all been different,' Woods said. 'That's been the fun part to play in a special event like this. It's different every year, and it's a different challenge.'
The next challenge is finding something -- or someone -- that will give the ratings a boost. Either that, or giving Els and Woods a shot at revenge.
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
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
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
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.
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.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
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.
“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.”