Lost in the Woods

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2010, 10:26 pm
Tiger Woods lost more than consciousness after hitting that fire hydrant and tree in his neighbor’s yard a year ago.

The scandal the accident exposed, the tales of marital infidelity it shook loose, led to one staggering loss after another. The accident led to losses of treasures both tangible and intangible.

It will be remembered as the year the greatest winner of this generation was humbled by all he lost.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has had a rough year both on and off the course. (Getty Images)
Woods lost his No. 1 world ranking and a 14-year streak of winning at least one PGA Tour title.

He lost his swing and his clutch putting stroke.

He lost millions of dollars in endorsements.

He lost the favor of much of sports fandom. His Sports Q Score as measured by the research firm Marketing Evaluations showed his fall from the top of its list of most “likable” athletes for the first time in a decade. Woods plummeted to 25th in the rankings.

Woods also lost his wife and his marriage in a divorce.

“I feel for him, I really do,” three-time PGA Tour winner Chris DiMarco said. “What he did, I’m disappointed. From a moral aspect, I feel disappointed. But for him to have to go through it like he’s going through it in the public eye, it’s tough. I don’t think anyone deserves that. He’s a great asset to the PGA Tour. He kept this train rolling for years and years. He’s made a lot of us a lot of money. There’s no doubt that when he’s at his best, he drives everything, ticket sales, TV network ratings, everything.”

Woods’ losses didn’t just change his life, they changed golf.

At his best, Woods left little room for the opposition to thrive.

His giant shadow darkened the careers of so many of his foes, stunting growth and choking possibilities.

Woods didn’t just beat his would-be rivals. He beat them down. He won majors by 15, 12 and eight shots. Where might Sergio Garcia be today if Woods wasn’t there blocking so many pathways to major championships? How many more majors might Ernie Els have won?

Nobody since Jack Nicklaus possessed a game as intimidating as Woods.

That’s changed, dramatically.

While Woods appears to have lost the confidence that made him so formidable, his competition’s gaining it.

We’ve heard it in the boldest terms the last few months.

“I would love to face Tiger,” Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy said in the weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup. “Unless his game rapidly improves, I think anyone in the European team would fancy his chances against him.”

While expecting Woods will come back and win more majors, PGA Tour veteran Scott Verplank followed up last week on the bravado he’s sensing from fellow tour pros.
 
“All I know is that the world’s a lot different than it used to be,” Verplank said. “As talented as Tiger is, I would suspect he’s going to find his golf game. But I think his shield of invincibility has been dissolved. I think it’s been dissolved some on the golf course, too. I don’t think guys are really all that worried about him.”
 
This Thanksgiving holiday will mark the one-year anniversary of Tiger Woods' SUV accident and when his personal and professional lives unraveled. We take a look back on the past year in this photo timeline:  Tiger's Year in Review
DiMarco, Els and others say they fully expect Woods will regain his winning form, but he’ll have to beat an emboldened opposition to do so.
 
When Woods veered into his neighbor’s yard a year ago, he was No. 1 in the world with a ranking of 15.937 average points. Phil Mickelson was a distant second, almost seven points behind. The point differential between Woods and Mickelson back then was the same as between Mickelson and the 70th ranked player in the world.

What Woods lost, others are lining up to gain. The territory Woods once occupied is now open to the challenge of new dominions.

England’s Lee Westwood took over at No. 1 in the world rankings last month with Woods’ latest streak at the top ending after a record 281 consecutive weeks.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open), South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (British Open) and Germany’s Martin Kaymer (PGA Championship) won the last three majors of the year.

Without Woods carrying the banner for the PGA Tour, the European Tour is thriving on the verge of what could be its new golden era.

Westwood, McDowell, Oosthuizen and Kaymer all helped the European Tour raise its stature.

At the start of the 2008 season, just two Europeans ranked among the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and England’s Justin Rose. Today, six of the top 10 hail from Europe.

A new youth movement in Europe, Asia and the United States is poised to make its mark without Woods there to squash it.

Kaymer just won his major at 25, Oosthuizen at 27. American Dustin Johnson looks like he could join them before turning 26 next year. The popularity of 21-year-olds McIlroy and American Rickie Fowler is growing swiftly. Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa (19) and Italy’s Matteo Manassero (17) may find more room to be major factors with Woods failing to challenge.

Matt Kuchar enjoyed a career year and is a candidate to win PGA Tour Player of the Year despite winning just once this season.

Jim Furyk won three times this year and claimed the FedEx Cup and will be the PGA Tour’. Player of the Year if Kuchar isn’t.

There was so much more to be won this last year without Woods appearing to win everything, but it’s a year that will be remembered for what was lost. More than anything, it’s a year defined by what Woods lost.
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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.