Tiger: Greatness lurking or just one of the guys?

By Joe PosnanskiApril 11, 2015, 12:19 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – If you had followed Kevin Streelman around the golf course on Friday, you would have seen him hit some spectacular shots.

You would have seen him hit a marvelous bunker shot at No. 2, an astounding approach at No. 15, a glorious sand save on the 18th. You would have seen him hit drives that split fairways and irons that stopped on greens. The reason for this is that whether you have heard of him or not, Kevin Streelman is one heck of a player.

And it is Kevin Streelman who reminds you of just how daunting the challenge is for Tiger Woods to become a great player again.

Oh, it was fun to watch Woods play on Friday. It’s a gift of his: He is fun to watch play this sport. He hit a few terrific shots, unleashed a few strong drives, displayed a touch around the greens that many feared he never would again. Those of us who have spent much of our adult lives writing about the wonder of Woods worried, honestly worried, that he would falter out there – Johnny Unitas getting sacked in a Chargers uniform, Willie Mays falling down in the outfield, Micheal Jordan cranking fadeaway jumpers for Washington. But he played quite well; so well, in fact, that you could almost hear the “Tiger Woods is back” calls echoing through the Augusta pines.

Thing is: Woods is 12 shots behind Jordan Spieth.

Thing is: Woods trails his old friend, Mark O’Meara, by a shot … and we do mean “old friend” because O’Meara is 58.

Thing is: The question has never been, “Will Tiger Woods play well again?” The question is: “Can Tiger Woods, closing in on 40, rebuild his game to the point where he is again special?”

And that’s a tougher thing because Tour players can really play. Charley Hoffman is a 38-year-old who has never finished top 25 at any major championship … but he can play, man. He is 10 under par at the Masters, the only guy threatening Spieth at the moment. He has hit great shot after great shot and made a bunch of birdies. You watch him and realize that he’s 500-times better than the best golfer you know. And Hoffman has won one tournament in the last four years.

Kevin Na can really play. He has a magical short game. He hit amazing shots all day long and shot a 66. Na has been on Tour for more than 10 years. He has won one tournament.

Dustin Johnson – holy cow can DJ play. I had a golf insider tell me once that no one – not Tiger, not Rory McIlroy, not Phil Mickelson, not anyone – has the raw talent of Johnson. He can hit the ball miles, he can drop balls around the flag, he has preposterous feel around the greens when he’s right. He made three eagles Friday. Johnson has won exactly zero major championships.

And there’s O’Meara, who last made the Masters cut 10 years ago, who hasn’t even won a Champions Tour event since 2010, who is now older than Wilford Brimley was when he was in “Cocoon” or Marlon Brando was when he was in “The Godfather.” O’Meara found a bit of magic because he’s a guy who knows the game and has earned more than $20 million playing it.

And so on. As much as we all celebrated the young Tiger for his domination of golf, the truth is we probably still underestimated what he did by winning 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour events in such a short period time. There are so many brilliant players who play every week. There are so many challenges in the game. The level it takes to win even one event is not just high but soaring.

On Friday, Tiger Woods played well. So did Streelman and O’Meara and Na. What we don’t know – can’t know – is if Woods can find that next gear, that higher level. What we don’t know – can’t know – is if he can be that good for four straight days.

What we don’t know – can’t know – is if Friday’s fine round is a harbinger of good things or a wisp of smoke from a career gone by. He is fascinating to watch but the hard truth is that a lot of guys shot good rounds on Friday. We just happened to be watching Tiger

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.