Bunker Shots Hello and Goodbye - COPIED

By Randall MellMay 3, 2010, 3:00 am

Blasting into the week ahead, from Tiger Woods’ return to the regular stage to Lorena Ochoa’s goodbye as a tour regular ...

PGA Tour (75x100)PGA TOUR

Quail Hollow Championship

How about if we pick up where we left off at the Masters?

With Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim and Lee Westwood in the field, the cast that created so much weekend drama at Augusta National is back together at Quail Hollow.

The focus on Woods promises to be about more than golf yet again. This marks the first time he’ll tee it up in a regular PGA Tour event since news of his marital infidelities rocked the golf world. He’ll meet the media again Wednesday a little after noon Eastern time. The traditional golf media outlets will be joined this week by news crews from CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC. The entertainment news media, however, won’t be there. Inside Edition and Extra were among gossip-style programs that were denied credentials after missing April 2 deadlines for applying to cover the event.

Bunker shot: Nobody’s watching Woods more closely than his fellow Tour pros. At Doral, Graeme McDowell said what most players are thinking. He said players would be looking for signs of vulnerability when Woods returned. They would be looking to see if Woods appeared to have lost any of the intangible gifts that have made him so dominant his entire career. He said if Woods doesn’t win quickly, players would begin to believe his “force field” has weakened. McDowell, though, also said he expects Woods will quickly assert himself. What ought to worry Woods’ peers is how terribly rusty Woods looked in his return at the Masters, specifically at the start of the final round, and yet still managed to threaten with a Sunday push. He looked just a couple dabs of polish from regaining his winning form.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Tiger Woods. Contender – Phil Mickelson. Darkhorse – Jason Dufner.

  • Course: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte. N.C. Par 72, 7,447 yards. (Designed by George Cobb in 1961, modified by Arnold Palmer in 1986 and redesigned by Tom Fazio in 1997 and ’03).
  • Purse: $6.5 million (winner’s share, $1,170,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m. (ET)
  • Last year: Sean O’Hair (11-under, 277) came from three shots back starting the final round to win, finishing a shot ahead of Lucas Glover and Bubba Watson.

LPGA Tour _newLPGA

Tres Marias Championship

Lorena Ochoa’s farewell as a full-time player is this week’s big story.

Ochoa, who announced her retirement Friday, won’t return to the LPGA again until she plays in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November. The love that Mexico will pour out on its favorite daughter will be palpable. The perfect ending would be an Ochoa victory, and it wouldn’t constitute a fairy-tale finish, but definitely a feel-good finish. Ochoa is still the No. 1 ranked player in women’s golf and a favorite this week. She’s the defending champ.

Bunker shot: The week’s subplot is nearly as compelling as the main storyline. Who wants to step up as Ochoa’s successor? It’s the question even LPGA pros are asking. The favorites to assume the No. 1 ranking are all foreign born. South Korea’s Jiyai Shin, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen were challenging even before Ochoa announced her retirement. Japan’s Ai Miyazato has shown strong signs she’s game and willing. Among Americans, the curiosity centers on Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie. Kerr, 32, is the most decorated American with a chance, and she fiercely desires the crown, but Wie, 20, is the great American hope with all that potential working for her. Paula Creamer, out mending a thumb injury, will be looking to work herself into the conversation with her return expected in June and Angela Stanford has the tools. There’s a statement waiting to be made this week.     

Mell’s picks: Winner – Lorena Ochoa. Contender – Suzann Pettersen. Darkhorse – Vicky Hurst.

  • Course: Tres Marias Country Club, Morelia, Mexico. Par 73, 6,539 yards (Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2004).
  • Purse: $1.3 million (winner’s share, $195,000).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Lorena Ochoa (25-under 267) finished a shot ahead of Suzann Pettersen.


2009 European TourEUROPEAN TOUR

Open de Espana

No Spaniard’s won the national event since Sergio Garcia in 2002.

There’s no shortage of Spanish contenders for the title with Miguel Angel Jimenez, Alvaro Quiros, Pablo Martin, Pablo Larrazabal, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Rafael Cabrera-Bello in the field.  

Bunker shot: With European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie playing, there will be bids to win his favor. For the first time since 1995, a European captain will have more than two picks to fill out his team. Montgomerie will have three. If the teams were decided today, here’s who is in, based on points: Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Ross McGowan, Martin Kaymer, Simon Dyson, Paul Casey and Oliver Wilson. Here’s who would be out and in need of the captain’s favor: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell, Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari and Alvaro Quiros. The tougher the choices, the better Montgomerie’s team will look. And this looks like a formidable opponent for the Americans come early October at Celtic Manor.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Francesco Molinari. Contender – Alvaro Quiros. Darkhorse – Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

  • Course: Real Club de Golf de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain. Par 72, 7,140 yards (Designed by Jose Maria Olazabal and opened in 1991).
  • Purse: $2 million euros, about $2.66 million (winner’s share 330,330 euros, about $443,000)
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 9:30-12:30 a.m. (ET); Saturday-Sunday, 8:30-11:30 a.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Thomas Levet (18-under 270) finished two shots better than Fabrizio Zanotti.


Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic

Looking for their best form, Champions Tour pros have just two events before the major championship season begins.

The Senior PGA Championship is the first of their five majors and will be played May 27-30 at Colorado Golf Club.

Bunker shot: When Tiger Woods doesn’t play your event on the PGA Tour, it’s disappointing. It’s compounded on the Champions Tour when the top draw doesn’t just pass on your event but plays in a competing event in the United States. That’s what’s happening this week with Fred Couples playing at Quail Hollow on the PGA Tour. 

Mell’s picks: Winner – Bernhard Langer. Contender – Jay Haas. Darkhorse – Mike Reid.

  • Course: Fallen Oak Golf Club, Saucier, Miss. Par 72, 7,054 yards, (Designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2006).
  • Purse: $1.6 million (winner’s share, $240,000).
  • TV times: Friday, Golf Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (ET); Saturday, Golf Channel, 6:30-9:30 p.m. (ET); Sunday, Golf Channel, 7-9:30 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: This is the inaugural event.


Stadion Athens Classic at UGA

Australian Ewan Porter rocketed from dead last on the Nationwide Tour money list ($0 in earnings) to No. 6 with his victory at the South Georgia Classic last week. His first cut made this year was a victory. A quarter into the season, he’ll be working to remain in the top 25 in money and earn a promotion to the PGA Tour next year.

This marks the fifth straight year the Nationwide Tour stops in Athens, Ga., but its first at the University of Georgia Golf Course.

Bunker shot: If you like rooting for the working class man, Matt Peterson’s your guy. He’s moonlighting big time. He’s got three jobs this week, including trying to win the tournament. Peterson is the head professional at the UGA Golf Course. He’s also the assistant tournament director. His third job is as a player. He played his way into the field through a local PGA qualifier.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Chris Kirk. Contender – Bobby Gates. Darkhorse – Miguel Angel Carballo.

  • Course: University of Georgia Golf Course, Athens, Ga. Par 71, 7,240 yards (Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., opened in 1968).
  • Purse: $550,000 (winner’s share, $99,000).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Patrick Sheehan (14-under 274) birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Michael Sim at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic.
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Woods' final round is highest-rated FEC telecast ever

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 9:05 pm

We've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods doesn't just move the needle, he IS the needle.

Here's more proof.

NBC Sports Group's final-round coverage of Woods claiming his 80th career victory in the Tour Championship earned a 5.21 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs and the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast in 2018 (excluding majors).

The rating was up 206 percent over 2017's Tour Championship.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Coverage peaked from 5:30-6PM ET (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion. That number trailed only the 2018 peaks for the Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28). The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 PM ET) posted a 4.35 overnight rating, which is the highest-rated Tour Championship telecast on record.

Sunday’s final round also saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (up 561 percent year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports Sunday round (excluding majors) on record.

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Randall's Rant: Woods' comeback story ranks No. 1

By Randall MellSeptember 24, 2018, 8:40 pm

We’re marveling again.

This time over the essence of the man as much as the athlete, over what Tiger Woods summoned to repair, rebuild and redeem himself, after scandal and injury so ruinously rocked his career.

We watched in wonder Sunday as Woods completed the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

That’s how we’re ranking this reconstruction of a champion. (See the rankings below.)

We marveled over the admiration that flooded into the final scene of his victory at the Tour Championship, over the wave of adoring fans who enveloped him as he marched up the 18th fairway.

This celebration was different from his coronation, when he won the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, or his masterpiece, when he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots in 2000, or his epic sweep, when he won at Augusta National in ’01 to claim his fourth consecutive major championship title.

The awe back then was over how invincible Woods could seem in a sport where losing is the week-to-week norm, over how he could decimate the competition as no other player ever has.

The awe today is as much over the transformed nature of the rebuilt man.

It’s about what he has overcome since his aura of invincibility was decimated in the disgrace of a sex scandal, in the humiliation of a videotape of a DUI arrest, in the pain of four back surgeries and four knee surgeries and in the maddening affliction of chipping yips and driving and putting woes.

The wonder is also in imagining the fierce inventory of self-examination that must have been grueling, and in the mustering of inner strength required to overcome foes more formidable than Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and today’s other stars.

It’s in Woods overcoming shame, ridicule, doubt and probably some despair to rebuild his life outside the game before he could rebuild his life in the game.

Woods may never let us know the detail or depth of those inner challenges, of what helped him prevail in his more spiritual battles, because he’s still fiercely private. He may never share the keys to rebuilding his sense of himself, but he’s more open than he has ever been. He shares more than he ever has.

As a father of two children, as a mentor to so many of today’s young players, there’s more depth to the picture of this champion today. There also is more for fans to relate to in his struggles than his success. There’s more of the larger man to marvel over.

The greatest comebacks in the history of sports:

1. Tiger Woods

Four back surgeries and four knee surgeries are just part of the story. It’s why Woods ranks ahead of Ben Hogan. Woods’ comeback was complicated by so many psychological challenges, by the demon doubts created in his sex scandal and DUI arrest. There was shame and ridicule to overcome on a public stage. And then there were the chipping yips, and the driving and putting woes.

2. Ben Hogan

On Feb. 2, 1949, a Greyhound bus attempting to pass a truck slammed head on into Hogan’s Cadillac on a Texas highway. Hogan probably saved his life throwing himself over the passenger side to protect his wife, Valerie. He suffered a double fracture of the pelvis, a cracked rib, a fractured collarbone and a broken ankle, but it was a blood clot that nearly killed him a few weeks later. Hogan needed 16 months to recover but would return triumphantly to win the 1950 U.S. Open and five more majors after that.

3. Niki Lauda

In the bravest sporting comeback ever, Lauda returned to grand prix racing 38 days after his Ferrari burst into flames in a crash in a race in Germany in 1976. Disfigured from severe burns, the reigning Formula One world champion was back behind the wheel at the Italian Grand Prix, finishing fourth. He won the world championship again in ’77 and ’84.

4. Greg LeMond

In 1987, LeMond was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident. Two years later, he won his second Tour de France title. A year after that, he won it again.

5. Babe Zaharias

In 1953, Babe Zaharias underwent surgery for colon cancer. A year later, she won the U.S. Women’s Open wearing a colostomy bag. She also went on to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year.

6. Monica Seles

Away from tennis for two years after being stabbed with a knife between the shoulder blades during a match in Germany, Seles won in her return to competition at the 1995 Canadian Open. She was the highest ranked women’s tennis player in the world at the time of the attack.

7. Lance Armstrong

After undergoing chemotherapy treatment in a battle with potentially fatal metastatic testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong recovered and went on to win seven Tour de France titles. Of course, the comeback wasn’t viewed in the same light after he was stripped of all those titles after being implicated in a doping conspiracy.

8. Mario Lemieux

In the middle of the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins star underwent radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease and missed 20 games. Making a start the same day as his last treatment, Lemieux scored a goal and assist. The Penguins would go on a 17-game winning streak after his return and Lemieux would lead the league in scoring and win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

9. Peyton Manning

Multiple neck surgeries and a spinal fusion kept Manning from playing with the Indianapolis Colts for the entire 2011 season. He was released before the 2012 season and signed with the Denver Broncos. He won his fifth NFL MVP Award in ’13 and helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in the ’15 season.

10. Bethany Hamilton

A competitive surfer at 13, Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack in Hawaii. A month later, she was surfing again. Less than two years later, she was a national champion.

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Woods' win makes us wonder, what's next?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 24, 2018, 6:35 pm

The red shirt and ground-shaking roars.

The steely glare and sweet swings.

The tactical precision and ruthless efficiency.

If not for the iPhone-wielding mob following his every move, you’d swear that golf had been transported to the halcyon days of the early 2000s.

The Tiger Time Machine kicked into overdrive at East Lake, where Woods won for the first time in 1,876 days and suddenly put two of the sport’s most hallowed numbers – 82 and 18 – back in play.

“I didn’t understand how people could say he lost this and lost that,” said Hank Haney, Woods’ former swing coach. “He is so good. He’s Tiger Woods. He’s won 79 times. If he can swing, he can win again.”

The only disappointing part of win No. 80 is that Woods will have to wait four months for another meaningful chance to build upon it. That’s a shame, because all of the pieces are in place for him to make a sustained run, and the Tour Championship might just be the start of an unimaginable final act.

A season that began with questions about whether a 42-year-old Woods could survive a full schedule with no setbacks ended with him saving his best for last, when his younger, healthier peers seemed to be gassed. Taking his recovery week by week, Woods ended up making 18 starts – his second-heaviest workload since 2005 – and never publicly complained of any discomfort, only the occasional stiffness that comes with having a fused lower spine.

Remember when Woods’ tanking world ranking was punch-line material? Now he’s all the way up to No. 13 – not bad for a guy who was 1,199th when he returned to competition last December at the Hero World Challenge. Nowhere close to reaching his 40-event minimum divisor, he’ll continue to accrue points and charge up the rankings, putting the game’s top players on notice.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The victory at East Lake moves Woods only two shy of Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour wins record (82), a goal that seemed unthinkable a year and a half ago, when he was bedridden following the Hail Mary fusion surgery. And for those wondering whether he’s capable of chasing down Big Jack, remember that Woods almost picked off two majors this summer, at Carnoustie and Bellerive, with a body and swing that was constantly evolving. 

Indeed, in an era of TrackMans and coaching stables designed to maximize a player’s performance, Woods has refreshingly gone back to his roots. It always seemed incongruous, watching the game’s most brilliant golf mind scrutinize down-the-line swing video, and so this year he has been a solo act, relying on old feels to guide his new move. The credit for this resurgence is his alone. 

Sure, there were growing pains, lots of them, and for months each tournament turned into golf’s version of Whack-a-Mole, as yet another issue arose. The two clubs that most consistently held Woods back were his driver and putter, but recent improvements portend well for the future.

After wayward tee shots cost him the PGA, Woods changed the loft and shaft on his TaylorMade driver. For years, even while injured, he violently attacked the ball in a vain attempt to hang with the big hitters. But these tweaks to his gamer (resulting in lower swing speed and carry distance) were a concession that accuracy was more vital to his success than power. His newfound discipline was rewarded: He ended the season with four consecutive weeks of positive strokes gained: off the tee statistics, and on Sunday he put on a clinic while Rory McIlroy, one of the game’s preeminent drivers, thrashed around in the trees. Woods is still plenty long, closing out his victory with a 348-yard rocket on 18, and from the middle of the fairway he can rely on his vintage iron play. 

His troubles with the putter weren’t as quick of a fix. Frustrated with his inconsistent performance on the greens, Woods briefly flirted with other models before rekindling his love affair with his old Scotty Cameron, the trusty putter with which he’s won 13 of his 14 majors. It’s exceedingly rare for a player to overcome the frayed nerve endings and putt better in his 40s than his 30s, but Woods was downright masterful on East Lake’s greens.

“It’s more satisfaction than anything,” said Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava. “People have no idea how much work he put into this.”

By almost any statistical measure, Woods’ season-long numbers suggest that he’s already back among the game’s elite – even after struggling to walk and swing for the past four years. He’s the best iron player in the game. He finished the season ranked seventh in strokes gained: tee to green. And after his normally stellar short game went MIA for a few years, his play around the greens appeared as sharp as ever.

And so on Sunday, while watching Woods school the top 30 players on Tour, even Johnny Miller got caught up in the latest edition of Tigermania.

“He’s not looking like he could win a couple more,” Miller said. “He’s looking like he could win A LOT more.”

Where Woods’ story is headed – to No. 1 in the world, to the top of Mt. Nicklaus, to the operating table – is anyone’s guess, because this comeback has already defied any reasonable logic or expectation.

He’s come back from confidence-shattering performances at Phoenix (chip yips) and Memorial (85) and even his own media-day event where he humiliatingly rinsed a series of wedge shots.

He’s come back from four back surgeries and pain so debilitating that his kids once found him face down in the backyard; pain so unbearable that he used to keep a urine bucket next to his bed, because he couldn’t schlep his battered body to the bathroom.

He’s come back from an addiction so deep that in May 2017 police found him slumped over the steering wheel of his Mercedes, five drugs coursing through his system, a shocking and sad DUI arrest that was the catalyst for this clear-eyed comeback.

All of the months of unhappiness and uncertainty nearly came pouring out afterward – the culmination of a remarkable journey from turmoil to redemption that ranks among the most unlikely in sports history. Woods fought back tears as thousands formed a big green mosh pit and chanted his name, a surreal scene even for this larger-than-life legend. Hugging LaCava, Woods said into his caddie’s ear, over and over: “We did it! We did it! We did it!” 

“He’s pumped up,” LaCava said later. “I’ve never seen him this excited.”

And not just for this moment, but for the future.

The prospects are as tantalizing as ever. 

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DJ may keep cross-handed grip for Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 4:29 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – As he’s proven in the past Dustin Johnson isn’t averse to switching things up when it comes to his putting, but this was extreme even for him.

Johnson switched to a cross-handed grip on the sixth hole during Saturday’s third round at the Tour Championship and continued to use the same grip through the final round.

It was the first time he’d putted cross-handed in competition and the first time he switched his grip mid-round.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“I did it a few times on the putting green. Sometimes I do it on the putting green just to get my setup a little bit better because it just levels out my shoulders,” said Johnson, who closed his week at East Lake with a 67 and finished alone in third place. “I was putting well. I hit some bad putts for the first five holes, so after I hit a really bad putt for eagle on 6, the next one I tried it, I made it, so I kept it going.”

Johnson, who moved back into the top spot in the World Golf Ranking thanks to his third-place finish, was encouraged by his putting on the weekend but he was vague when asked if he planned to putt cross-handed this week at the Ryder Cup.

“We're going to stick with it for now. We'll try it,” he said.