Woods relaxed, upbeat heading into Phoenix Open

By Jason SobelJanuary 27, 2015, 6:24 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – If you're the world's most famous athlete and inherently image-conscious and were last seen in public missing a front tooth and you've got to speak with the media – the same meddling media that for two decades has asked you every question from "Was that a 7-iron or 8-iron that you hit from 205 yards to the tucked pin?" to "What did you have for breakfast this morning?" – there might not be a better time to schedule this interview session than at nearly the same moment as Super Bowl Media Day, where just across town behemoth football players embarking on one of the world's biggest sporting events were about to be grilled over deflated balls.

Call it a brilliant coincidence or an astute conspiracy theory – after all, Tiger Woods doesn’t make a habit of playing Tuesday practice rounds at non-majors, let alone a pre-dawn Tuesday practice round that left him finishing up right before the New England Patriots were taking to their podiums in nearby Glendale – but Woods unquestionably repositioned himself in a spotlight that any other place, any other time, would have been firmly affixed to his pearly whites.

Oh, right – about those. Woods showed up at TPC Scottsdale with all previous toothless gaps filled in. Despite appeals from the masses on social media to leave it be - or at the very least, replace the missing chicklet with a gold substitute in the most (OK, only) gangsta move in professional golf history – he returned to the public eye with all chompers in proper working order.

He also offered an explanation of the incident after girlfriend Lindsey Vonn’s skiing victory in Italy that was equal parts believable and amusing.

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“Yeah, that didn't feel very good,” he said. “I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was; trying to blend in, because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK? That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask, and then I came up above. I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down. Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth. He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask] so the blood is not all over the place.”

Those conspiracy theories that Woods was ducking additional attention seemed to wilt in the brisk desert air, as he spent 12 minutes largely showing off that reworked smile during a series of relaxed, engaging answers prior to his first start on the 2015 calendar.

All of which is just as well, because even though the Scottsdale scene looks like the perfect backdrop for “Hangover 4,” it’s not the kind of place which takes kindly to embarrassment. Tiger won’t have that missing tooth to provoke catcalls from what’s expected to be more than a half-million spectators this week, and he believes he’s cured himself of the embarrassing chipping woes which plagued his last competitive performance eight weeks ago.

“I was caught between techniques, between my old release pattern and body movement when I was working with [former instructor] Sean [Foley] and then my new release pattern,” he explained. “We had to basically just hit thousands upon thousands upon thousands of chips and just get it out of there, and now it's better.”

That’s not the only thing that’s better. As if to only refute those conspiracy theories even more – you know, the ones questioning why he’d be grinding away with the PGA Tour’s great unwashed on a Tuesday morning of non-major tournament – the explanation comes in the form of his health. For years, he’s insisted that he needs “more reps,” yet he’s simultaneously played less and, more telling, practiced less, especially in the days leading up to tournament rounds, when his fellow competitors are putting the final touches on their preparation.

Even though it was just a nine-hole practice round followed by another range session, it should symbolize Woods’ commitment now that his body is healthy enough to allow him to prepare the way he needs.

Or as he put it, in an economical use of words that might say everything about not just his impending season, but the current of electricity which for so long has run through the game when he is competing at his very best: “It’s going to be a fun year.”

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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.

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“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.”