C. Woods' Oz win proves she's more than just a name

By Randall MellFebruary 9, 2014, 4:50 pm

Cheyenne Woods looks so comfortable in her own skin.

That’s no small triumph given her name, her legacy and the burden of expectations that come with trying to follow her famous uncle into professional golf.

It’s what strikes you most about her, even before her breakthrough win Sunday at the Australian Ladies Masters.

Woods’ sense of herself, her quiet assurance in who she is beyond being Tiger Woods’ niece, is what gives her a fighting chance to be the best player she can be, whether that’s as a Tigress, or a one-shot wonder, or something in between.

And make no mistake, Cheyenne Woods, 23, looked like a Tigress closing out her first professional victory outside a tiny Florida mini-tour event.

She looked nerveless holding off her challengers on the back nine Sunday, making birdies at two of the final four holes, three of the last seven to beat 17-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee by two shots with Lee applying all kinds of pressure by making three consecutive birdies on the front nine.

After drilling her final tee shot deep down the middle of the 18th fairway, Woods quickly plucked her tee from the ground and marched resolutely to her bag. She wasn't wearing a power-red Sunday shirt like her uncle does, but she radiated with confidence and purpose throughout the back nine, dressed in all white with a splash of pink in her shirt.

With her cover-girl looks and a smile that bears a striking resemblance to her famous uncle’s, Woods has the gift of a dynamic presence. And she possessed it long before she won Down Under.

“I've been a pro for two years, and for the majority of it, people just think of me as Tiger Woods' niece,” Cheyenne said after hoisting the Aussie Ladies Masters trophy. “So, now I have a game of my own, and I have a title now, a win, which is exciting.

“It's nice now to say to people that I can play, and I'm not just a name.”

Photos: Cheyenne Woods through the years

There was no resentment in those words. If you’ve followed Cheyenne Woods since she turned pro two years ago, you’ve seen the humble gratefulness for opportunities she knows her name created. She gets it. She also gets that fellow players will ultimately respect only the name she makes for herself. She’s doing that the way most young players must do it, trying and failing as they work their way up the developmental ranks.

Yes, of course, Woods’ name has helped her with sponsorships since she graduated from Wake Forest. Yes, she has benefited from playing a limited number of LPGA events on sponsor invites, but after failing to qualify for the LPGA’s tour, she earned her Ladies European Tour card. She grinded away on the smaller foreign circuit as a rookie all of last year, finishing 78th on the LET Order of Merit. She’s still looking at playing the LET and LPGA Symetra Tour this year.

Honestly, if you were looking for signs of something special in Cheyenne’s game since she turned pro, you had to look beyond the scores and numbers. After grabbing the first-round lead at the Spanish Open last year, she followed it up with a 78. There have been a lot of those kind of disappointments in her pro career, which only makes her breakthrough more satisfying.

When Cheyenne Woods shoots 78, you can be sure there are snickers.

“Growing up with the last name of Woods, there is a lot of expectations and pressure and spotlight on you, but I always knew that I was able to win,” Woods said. “I always knew I'd be able to compete with these ladies, so now it's kind of a weight off my shoulders, because now everybody knows, not just me.”

Yes, this wasn’t an LPGA event Woods won Down Under, but it was no mini-tour event, either. She beat a field in a tournament co-sanctioned by the LET and Australian Ladies Professional Golf. She beat a field that included Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who was going for a record ninth title in this event. She beat a field that included Jessica Korda, who won the LPGA season opener in the Bahamas two weeks ago. She beat a field that included Caroline Hedwall, the Solheim Cup star who last year helped the Europeans win for the first time on American soil, and a field that included England’s Charley Hull and former Rolex world No. 1 Yani Tseng. 

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's win, Cheyenne said she had yet to check her text messages when asked if Tiger sent a congratulatory note. She did say Tiger texted her earlier in the week, encouraging her.

Cheyenne choked up at the trophy presentation when talking about her family.

“I know my mom will have shed a million tears,” Woods said. “Every day, I was getting texts from back home, from family, and I knew my mom and dad were watching the tournament online.”

Cheyenne is the daughter of Earl Woods Jr., the oldest son of Earl Woods Sr., Tiger’s late father. Earl was among three children born in Earl Sr.’s first marriage.

Tiger doesn’t talk about his siblings. He doesn’t let us in on his relationship with that side of the family. ESPN’s Rick Reilly painted a cold picture of it in a story before the Masters last year. He wrote back then that Tiger has had no contact with his siblings since his father died in 2006. Cheyenne, though, reports a good relationship with her uncle, gratefulness for the help Tiger has offered her over the years.

“I’ve asked Tiger for advice, here and there, so he’s great to have for that,” Cheyenne said earlier this week. “But pretty much, I’m just out here doing my own thing.”

The temptation now will be to ratchet up the expectations, to project what Cheyenne Woods could mean to the women’s game if she becomes its Tigress. Given her name, her looks and her dynamic presence, she possesses the intangibles that no player outside Michelle Wie possesses in being able to raise the women’s game to another level.

Now that’s a load of pressure to heap on anyone’s shoulders, especially a player who worked so hard to break through and win for the first time on a major tour.

The upside is Woods has lived with those expectations most of her life and managed to look so comfortable doing so. There’s something to admire in that alone.

Update: Tiger sent out a congratulatory tweet Sunday afternoon:

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”