Tiger, Rory in constant praise of one another

By Jason SobelAugust 19, 2014, 12:09 pm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – As Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy met the media for a Nike product launch at Liberty National Golf Club on Monday evening, more than one attendee noted that the Statue of Liberty looming in the background could have symbolized not only freedom and independence, but a not-so-subtle passing of the torch.

This was not long after the world’s erstwhile No. 1 and its current top-ranked player traded barbs during a taping of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” with McIlroy landing a seemingly innocuous blow to Woods’ dominance by painting it in the past tense.

This night, though, wasn’t about any sort of budding rivalry between Generation X and Generation Next.

If anything, it once again shined a spotlight on a developing camaraderie between two of the few golfers who know what it feels like to walk in the other one’s spikes. It was a reminder that Woods has served in the same big brother type of role for McIlroy that players like Mark O’Meara and John Cook did for him when he was in the midst of becoming a mega-superstar.

Wearing matching black hats imprinted with the word “VAPOR” – Nike’s newest line of three sets of irons – Woods and McIlroy flanked emcee Fallon on a stage set with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. They spoke in concert about the benefits of the clubs, from hitting them longer distances to dialing in more preferable spin rates.

Mostly, though, it was a two-way dalliance between two men who were repeatedly referred to by their equipment sponsor as not just golfers but “elite athletes.”

Following a brief Q&A session with the late-night host, it was time to give the new product its first public test drive. With Tiger playing the role of judicious observer – he later divulged that because of his back injury, he won’t swing a club for at least another month – Rory and Fallon took a few hacks of predictably varying degrees.

Rory and Tiger on Monday night's "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"

Even during this time, though, the praise never left its alternate shot format.

When Fallon waxed poetic about a towering McIlroy 9-iron to a 150-yard target, Woods echoed the rave review. For his part, the young Northern Irishman simply deflected the compliments. “That’s a Tiger shot right there,” he offered in a tone more sheepish than boastful.

He has reason to gloat, of course. McIlroy captured the year’s final two major titles, which likewise captured the attention of the man who owns 14 of them.

Like the rest of the world that witnessed Rory’s recent dominance, Tiger was also unduly impressed.

“It was just a matter of time,” he explained. “We’ve seen him have runs like this before. He made a wholesale equipment change and also at the same time made a few changes in his swing. It’s tough to make all those changes work at the same time, especially at the elite level.

“When he puts it together, he can get on hot streaks and runs like this. To win two major championships and a World Golf Championship, that’s tough stuff. That’s not easy to do and not many people have.”

In a way, McIlroy foreshadowed his latest run in generalities months earlier.

When asked at one point earlier in the year as to whether golf needed a dominant player, he suggested that he would like to – and possibly could – fill that void while Woods was sidelined by injury.

“As a sports fan, I like to see dominance,” McIlroy said in qualifying that statement. “I like to see people achieving great things and dynasties in sports. That’s what I enjoy watching.

“I wasn’t saying that golf is crying out for a new Tiger Woods. Just a few people to put their hands up and say they’re going to challenge for majors these next few years. I felt like I was part of that group. It’s obviously worked out well for me this summer. I have put my hand up. I have been that dominant player the last few weeks. Now it’s at a point where I want to continue doing that and hold on to that position.”

This was the narrative that flowed throughout the evening, as McIlroy and Woods appeared more like teammates than rivals.

It was a company’s product launch masked as a meeting of the mutual admiration society, a fact that was never clearer than when Rory was asked about shouldering the weight of being the so-called “next Tiger.”

“It’s a huge compliment for me to be compared with Tiger,” he said. “But I'll never be able to do what he's done for the game.”

Here in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, where on Monday evening one could look across the harbor and confuse the symbolism, this was no passing of the torch. It was just two players in matching hats, effusively praising each other and the equipment manufacturer which brought them together.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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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.”