Bunker Shots Tiger news looms large South Africa looks to repeat
Tiger Woods isn’t playing the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla., but he’ll be the big news yet again this week.
He’s guaranteed to do one of two things that will irritate his PGA Tour brethren.
He’ll either commit to playing next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, or he won’t.
The deadline for committing is Friday, though Woods will likely commit earlier if he’s going to play.
If Woods commits, fellow PGA Tour pros will be annoyed because it will detonate a news story that will dwarf anything that occurs at Innisbrook. They know it will set into motion plans for the hostile invasion of their world, a raid by paparazzi, supermarket tabloid reporters and entertainment news media. But it’s what they don’t know about who or what’s coming that they really dread.
If Woods commits, somebody may as well pitch a big-top tent over Bay Hill because the circus is coming to town.
“I think we’re all looking forward to having him back,” Jim Furyk said. “He’s our best player, and we need him back. We’re just looking forward to when it’s business as usual, not the circus.”
If Woods doesn’t commit, it will prolong speculation about when he’ll finally return, speculation more and more PGA Tour pros are finding as tolerable as a skin rash.
Of course, there’s the possibility Woods commits to playing the Tavistock on Monday and Tuesday at the Isleworth development where Woods lives outside Orlando. That news still dwarfs the action at Innisbrook while prolonging speculation as to when Woods will play a real tournament.
Stance: Woods has never played in the Transitions Championship, but his shadow’s there this week.
Takeaway: A strong field takes to Innisbrook this week with Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh and Stewart Cink scheduled to tee it up. There’s also a nice contingent of under-30 talent looking to make headlines with Dustin Johnson, Sean O’Hair, J.B. Holmes, Adam Scott, Ryan Moore, Michael Sim, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Andres Romero and Justin Rose in the mix. David Duval and John Daly will be among the most popular draws as they continue to work on returning to their best forms.
Bunker shot: Retief Goosen goes for a rare double-double this week. He’ll be looking to make it two victories in a row on the PGA Tour for South Africans after Ernie Els’ victory last week at the WGC-CA Championship. Goosen is also the defending champ looking to repeat.
And around the world . . .
European Tour: After a solid tie for 14th at the WGC-CA Championship, Italy’s Francesco Molinari leads the field at the Trophee Hassan II tournament in Morocco. Paul McGinley, the former European Ryder Cupper, is the other notable news there. He’s making his first start in more than three months after undergoing knee surgery.
Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener
The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.
Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.
According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"
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News got out last week that I was dealing with an oblique injury the past two tournaments...it was confirmed yesterday, via MRI, that I have a partial tear in my right oblique...my team and I feel like it’s best not to play next week in the Northern Trust...I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!
Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.
Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.
Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas
Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.
Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.
Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.
Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.
It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.
While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.
One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.
Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days
Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.
But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.
Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.
A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:
Another week, another set of missing golf clubs and lost baggage with @AmericanAir & @British_Airways. Any chance you could help find all of my luggage and send it to me before my tournament this week?! Need them for work!! Thanks— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 13, 2018
So the comedy continues, @British_Airways have managed to now lose 5 suitcases and 2 sets of golf clubs in 10 days!— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 14, 2018
Decided to bring my only backup set of clubs on this morning's flight to the Nordea Masters in case my other lost set don't arrive and BA have also now lost these! pic.twitter.com/V6QPXzAaBk
Just reached 50,000 followers on Twitter and was going to do a bag giveaway, but @British_Airways has lost them all a href="https://t.co/WwiPqD9bql">pic.twitter.com/WwiPqD9bql— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 14, 2018
After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.
He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.
For those that are asking about the Bag Giveaway, that’ll be done next week as promised... once my luggage isn’t left behind again— Thorbjørn Olesen (@Thorbjornolesen) August 15, 2018
Details to follow! pic.twitter.com/3AVMgE02HU
Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks
Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.
A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.
Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.
Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: