What's the best possible storyline come Sunday night?

By Jason SobelApril 4, 2012, 11:50 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – I’m often asked this question in advance of major championships and this week’s upcoming Masters is no different: “So, who are you rooting for?”

My answer is unfailingly consistent: “The best story.”

What are the best possible stories at the conclusion of this edition of the tournament? Here are five that I would love to write come Sunday evening:

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Golf has a few magic numbers. Eighteen is the all-too-familiar number of major victories for the all-time leader, Jack Nicklaus. Fifty-nine is the lowest score recorded in an official PGA Tour event. And then there’s 63, the lowest total posted in a major, a record shared by 25 players. Until Sunday, that is, when one man took advantage of soft greens, firing at flagsticks all day to shoot the first-ever 62 at a major and claim the Masters title.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – One year ago, the 10th hole served as Rory McIlroy’s personal Waterloo, his tee shot hitting a tree branch and caroming toward rarely seen cabins, from which he posted a triple-bogey en route to dropping from first on the leaderboard to T-15 when it was all over. So it was sweet revenge when McIlroy hit his approach shot on the very same hole Sunday to within tap-in range for a birdie that vaulted him into a lead he would never relinquish on his way to clinching the green jacket.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fifteen years ago, Tiger Woods burst onto the major championship scene in a big way, winning his first as a professional by a whopping 12 strokes. This time, he was hardly a newcomer and not unaccustomed to winning majors, but the differential remained the same, as Woods cruised to yet another 12-shot victory for his fifth Masters title, putting him just one behind all-time leader Jack Nicklaus.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – If you think about it, it’s actually surprising that this doesn’t happen more often. After all, so many proficient professional golfers, so tightly packed on the leaderboard, playing the same holes for four straight days. And yet, more often than not, one player is deemed the winner after 72 holes; on occasion, two or three players will tie and head to a playoff. But this many competitors? Their names all dead even atop the leaderboard when regulation was complete? This was a groundbreaking day, indeed.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was officially Turn Back the Clock Day during the final round at Augusta National Golf Club. Sure, names like those of Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington on the leaderboard certainly helped, but this was all about two other guys. Tom Watson and Fred Couples were both thought to have their best years behind them, but playing in the final pairing together on Sunday, they looked anything but old-timers, producing a two-man race for the ages – literally – that concluded with the oldest major champion ever slipping into the familiar green jacket at day’s end.

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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”

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Woods on busy schedule: 'It's about pacing myself'

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

At the beginning of the year, Tiger Woods was anxious to see how his fused back would hold up to tournament play.

Now he’s in the midst of one of his busiest stretches in years.

With the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup likely to be added to his schedule over the next few weeks, Woods could play seven events in a nine-week span.

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

“That is a lot of golf,” he said Tuesday at The Northern Trust. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things this year has been finding the right balance. As the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch.”

Woods has already played 14 events – his most since 2013, when he had 16 starts.

He’s committed to playing the first three playoff events, beginning with this week’s event in New Jersey. There’s a week off after the BMW Championship, and at No. 20 in the FedExCup standings, Woods doesn’t need to do much to punch his ticket to East Lake. He’s also virtually assured of being a U.S. captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, held in France the week after the Tour Championship.

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Tiger Tracker: The Northern Trust

By Tiger TrackerAugust 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Tiger Woods begins his FedExCup Playoffs run at this week's Northern Trust. We're tracking him at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.

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Stock Watch: Will Bjorn buy or sell slumping Sergio?

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 12:07 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Sneds (+9%): It doesn’t always happen, a Tour player shooting 59 and then finishing it off with a W, so it was satisfying to watch Brandt Snedeker go wire to wire at the Wyndham. An in-form Sneds now should edge out Kevin Kisner for one of Jim Furyk’s final captain picks.

Viktor Hovland (+6%): Watching the Oklahoma State junior maul the field at the U.S. Amateur, a question arose: How does the fifth-ranked player in the world not win more often? The U.S. Am was just his second title, anywhere, outside of Norway. That could all change, after he proved to himself that he could handle the best field and the stiffest challenge.

Lexi (+4%): She once again was penalized – for playing preferred lies in a different fairway – but Thompson still shot 17 under and tied for 12th in her first start since a self-imposed break to recharge her batteries. In the media tent she was refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a 23-year-old superstar who never went to college and whose life is consumed by golf. Here’s hoping she can find a better balance (like, say, Michelle Wie) over the next few years.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): The world rankings don’t reflect it, but McCumber is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. In his past four starts on the Canadian circuit, he’s gone win-win-3rd-win and shot 90 under par with a scoring average of 65.88 and just two rounds higher than 68.

Nick Taylor (+1%): Playing for his Tour card, Taylor shot a bogey-free 63 Sunday at the Wyndham – with an eagle and birdie in his last four holes – to jump from 129th to 119th in the standings. That’s clutch.


Billy Hurley III (-1%): A winner two years ago at Tiger’s event, Hurley is now headed back to second stage of Web.com Q-School after finishing 201st in the standings – by a point. A tough break for one of the game’s good dudes.

Kevin Stadler (-2%): He reminded us of the dangers of slamming clubs, after the head of his 7-iron flew off and struck a spectator in the head, requiring stitches. It was a scary scene – “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood,” said playing partner Shaun Micheel – that could have been even worse.

Sepp Straka (-3%): There were plenty of stories of heartbreak at the Web.com Tour regular-season finale, perhaps none as crushing as Straka, who went 5 over for his last seven holes (including three consecutive bogeys to finish) to drop outside of the top-25 bubble.

Sergio (-4%): At last, some signs of life – his tie for 24th in Greensboro was his best finish on Tour since March – but he still didn’t make the playoffs, and it still might not be enough to sway Thomas Bjorn. For the captain it may come down to a question like this: Who would you rather have in Paris, Sergio or Russell Knox?