Pressure cooker

By John HawkinsDecember 5, 2011, 12:35 am

He beat 17 guys, several of whom came from the other side of the earth to play in his own Chevron World Challenge, so before we declare Tiger Woods as ‘back’ let us impart a breath of perspective at the risk of coming off like a frog in the punchbowl. That said, Woods’ 72nd-hole victory over Zach Johnson was inspiring stuff: a clutch 6-footer for birdie at the buzzer after holing at 15-footer for birdie at the 17th.

Coming off the final day at the Presidents Cup, where Woods demolished Aaron Baddeley in singles and clearly asserted himself as the best player on the grounds, we’re seeing positive momentum for the first time in two years. We’re seeing evidence that Eldrick Almighty has resumed his climb to the top of Mount Nicklaus, where 18 major titles has long resided as the game’s most glorious all-time record.

What looked like a formality ran into a wall of dysfunctionality. Woods’ 2 ½ year majorless streak basically matches the longest such drought in his remarkable career. Plenty of people will squeeze every last drop of optimism out of the Chevron triumph, which only suggests that hope is alive and well, and yes, Tiger’s chances of returning to golf’s pinnacle look much, much better than they did a few weeks ago.

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Still, he beat 17 guys. Almost six threesomes. All are decorated players, but the Chevron field is so small that awarding world ranking points at the event is both ludicrous and unfair. Maybe Tiger would have beaten 217 guys Sunday or maybe he would have finished third behind Y.E. Yang and Heath Slocum. The fact that he Woods excelled under late-Sunday pressure, chased down Johnson – one of the toughest competitors anywhere – and claimed a first-place check are all huge positives.

If you want to get carried away about future ramifications, knock yourself out. Tiger almost won this same tournament last year, finishing second only after Graeme McDowell broke out his Dude-in-the-Red-Shirt impersonation, and I distinctly recall hearing a strong ‘he’s back!’ reverb after that solid performance. I’d tell you it is what it is, but that line has been uttered to death. Besides, this is more than that.

Woods has finished the most disappointing season of his career on a very high note. He will celebrate his 36th birthday (Dec. 30) having won the last tournament in which he played, which should send him into 2012 emotionally refreshed and competitively invigorated. For the most part, he hit the ball nicely at the Chevron. He economized strokes over the weekend and didn’t let little mistakes become big ones.

He also reminded everyone how great he can be with the game on the line, how mental toughness is a bit like riding a bike. All good signs, all reasons to believe, but the road remains long, the mountain still luminous in the distance. I’ve always insisted on measuring Woods’ comeback by the standards he attained as the best player ever, not some scratch handicap with a couple of club championships. Out of respect to the guy with 14 big trophies and dozens and dozens of smaller ones, such a mindset isn’t just healthy. It is necessary.

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.

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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Sources: Woods returning to Wells Fargo

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods is expected to return to competition at next week's Wells Fargo Championship, according to multiple Golf Channel sources. The news of Woods' participation was first reported Thursday on "Golf Central."

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods has until 5 p.m. ET Friday to officially commit to next week's field. When reached for comment by, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, explained that Woods' plans were not yet finalized.

"We don't know right now (if Woods will play)," Steinberg said. "We'll know later this afternoon. We're working on a couple things."

A trip to Charlotte would be another sign that the 42-year-old is ready to return to a customary schedule, as next week's event would be followed by Woods' expected return to The Players for the first time since 2015. Woods has already committed to the U.S. Open, which will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major victory.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.