The practice

By John HawkinsOctober 3, 2011, 6:13 pm

So Tiger Woods broke Greg Norman’s course record at Medalist GC last weekend, leading some hearty optimists to believe his post-hydrant struggles as a golfer are about to become a thing of the past.We’re talking about a man who held all four 72-hole, major-championship scoring records concurrently for more than a decade, a guy with 14 major titles.

Practice-round scores don’t make my radar screen, hombre.

The fact that Woods was playing – much less writing numbers in those little boxes – is really what matters here. This week marks the first time in ages, perhaps ever, that the Dude in the Red Shirt has deviated from his very predictable schedule to play in a tournament. Not only that, he has something to prove. More than the leap of faith taken by U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, whose selection of Woods as a wild-card pick has evoked opinions of ample strength on both sides, Tiger is running out of comebacks.

Almost two years at the crossroads. That’s a long time to be standing there, doing nothing.

He proclaimed himself fully healthy in August, then stunk it up at a pair of premium-field events, lending credence to the theory that it wasn’t all the knee, but the golf swing, and whatever lingering personal issues Woods might still be enduring. Tiger’s struggles are almost certainly due to a combination of factors: physical, mental, mechanical. You can’t be that good for that long, then fall off so dramatically, for just one simple reason.

That said, he’s still Tiger Woods, and at the Open, he’ll do his best to remind us of that. Oddsmakers have installed Red Shirt as a 6-to-1 favorite – ridiculously low odds considering pro golf’s what-have-you-done-lately nature. This is not some college tournament or a Nationwide Tour gathering with a field full of minor-leaguers. The bookies are the ones with the financial stake, not me, but 16-1 sounds more reasonable.

I am among those who definitely thought Woods should be on the Presidents Cup squad, which isn’t to say I think he’s anything more than an average Tour pro right now. His greatness, however long in hibernation, still exists – and could return for an extended stretch at any time. That alone makes Tiger more valuable than, say, Rickie Fowler or Keegan Bradley. As I said on last week’s “Grey Goose 19th Hole,” every pro golfer has a ceiling: the absolute highest level at which they can perform.

Every golfer, that is, but Woods. He has done stuff nobody else has ever done – stuff a lot of knowledgeable people thought never would happen in our game. Do I think he’ll dominate again someday? No. Do I think he can? Perhaps. To me, a lot depends on how long he continues working with swing coach Sean Foley, whom some experts see as a bright young guy with a swing method wholly incompatible with Woods’ mechanical DNA.

One could even see how this week is as big for Foley as it is for Tiger. At some point, the results are all that matter, and Woods hasn’t been getting them with this swing. He hasn’t played well in back-to-back rounds in ages. He hasn’t contended on Sunday since the Masters, and even that was after going out early, making a ton of noise on the front nine, then cooling off when he had to stay blazing hot.

The good news? He’s playing. The really good news? He’s working at it. Reality? Ain’t no guarantees, folks. They call it “golf” because all the other four-letter words were taken, and nobody knows four-letter words better than Tiger Woods.

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.

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Watch: Dufner makes six (!) fist pumps after birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 4:53 am

Jason Dufner makes Ben Stein seem like Jonathan Winters. Dufner often looks mighty miserable for someone who plays golf for a living.

But not on Friday at the CJ Cup!

Dufner made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and “celebrated” with one-two-three-(pause)-four-five-six fist pumps. There could have been more, but the camera cut away.

That was Dufner’s third birdie on the back nine, which offset a triple bogey at the par-3 seventh, en route to an even-par 72. Good times.

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Watch: Paul C-ace-y makes hole-in-one at CJ Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 2:35 am

Par-par-par-par-par-par. It was a boring second round over the first six holes for Paul Casey at the CJ Cup.

And then he aced the par-3 seventh.

Casey's tee shot from 176 tracked straight towards the hole and rolled in near the final revolution. That got him to 2 under par for the tournament. He was five off the lead, held by Chez Reavie, but bogeyed the ninth and 10th holes to give back those two strokes.

Hey, it's a no-cut event and a guaranteed paycheck. Drinks on Casey!