Wells Fargo lacking buzz despite Phil, Rory in field

By Randall MellApril 29, 2014, 10:55 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A major championship-like test awaits this week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

You draw that conclusion looking at Quail Hollow Golf Club’s refortified defenses.

You don’t draw the same conclusion, however, looking at this week’s field.

This pretty much looks like the field list for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, not a bad field at all, but not the elite turnout you would expect for the caliber of can’t-miss event this was blossoming into.

Just two of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, and four of the top 20, are in this week’s field.

In 2007, every player in the top 10 in the world was here, with 18 of the top 20 showing up.

The OWGR strength of field rating is 341 this week, which projects to be the lowest since the event made its debut in 2003.

“There are some scheduling issues,” said Kym Hougham, executive director of the Wells Fargo Championship. “We aren’t a brand new tournament anymore. Guys play where they think they can play the best, and there are some players who don’t think this course fits their eye, whether it’s too long, or you have to hit it right to left, or hit it high, whatever. We’ve matured into that kind of golf tournament, where they’ve decided I’m only going to play 20 times, and I don’t play very well there.”

The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the entire story.


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Tiger Woods was expected to return to Quail Hollow this week, but, of course, he’s out recuperating from back surgery. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are playing this week. If Woods were here with them, nobody would care what the OWGR strength of field numbers said.

“If Tiger plays, we aren’t having this conversation,” Hougham said.

Jason Day would likely be here this week, too, but he’s out with a thumb injury. Jason Dufner and Ian Poulter played in China last week, and they’ll be in The Players Championship next week. Jordan Spieth will tee it up at The Players Championship next week, and then he has two Texas events around his hometown, with the Memorial to follow. He isn’t going to play five events in a row.

There are some other complicated issues, as well. The RBC Heritage and Zurich Classic are played the two weeks leading into the Wells Fargo Championship. They’re all banks. RBC has endorsement deals with Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk. Els and Furyk are the only players among them teeing it up at the Wells Fargo Championship. Zurich has an ambassador program. Are endorsement loyalties a factor? Maybe, maybe not.

While problems with the greens last year also may be a factor in this year’s turnout, the changing nature of worldwide scheduling is definitely a factor.

“It’s clearly a global sport,” said Joe Ogilvie, who’s in this week’s field. “There are just a lot of opportunities now. Europe pays [the equivalent of appearance fees]. The strength of tournaments has just gotten better and better, and guys have to take a week off. Traditionally, they don’t take this week off, but when there are a lot of changes to a golf course, they may be waiting to see how the changes work. I think guys are going to rave about the changes here, and I think next year you will see a stronger field, more typical for Charlotte.”

The Quail Hollow Golf Club has invested $6.5 million in club renovations as it prepares to host the 2017 PGA Championship, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The changes over the last year include significant course work by architect Tom Fazio, who also oversaw the original renovations in ’03.

“It’s the best I’ve seen it,” said Webb Simpson, who has been a member at Quail Hollow since 2009. “The greens have come a long ways.”

A year ago, Quail Hollow’s greens were in poor condition, damaged by an unusually cold winter. As part of the renovations, all 18 greens were rebuilt, with MiniVerde Bermuda grass planted. Some of the more severe contours were softened.

“This year, the greens are unbelievable, and they’re only going to get better and better,” Hougham said.

There were also changes to Quail Hollow’s “Green Mile,” the three famed finishing holes. There’s a new 16th green, built 80 yards left of the old one, with a new fairway configuration. There’s also a new 17th tee box at the par 3 there, allowing the hole to be played from 217 yards.

Simpson expects it all to add up to a major championship test.

“I think it's going to play really tough,” Simpson said. “My guess would be single digits wins this year, even if we have good weather, just because the rough is a little longer and thicker than I've seen it, and the greens are, like I said, really tough to hold.”

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Woods now listed as Masters betting favorite

By Will GraySeptember 24, 2018, 12:03 am

Now officially a winner again on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has become a popular bet for folks thinking about next year's Masters.

The trip down Magnolia Lane is still seven months away, but Woods' breakthrough victory at the Tour Championship has led bettors to flock to the window to lay down cash on the four-time champ to add green jacket No. 5 next spring at age 43.

Woods was listed at 12/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook when odds opened after the PGA Championship, behind only 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. That's where he remained for the subsequent six weeks, but after a stirring performance at East Lake Golf Club he's now listed as the 9/1 betting favorite for the first major of 2019.

Here's a look at the latest odds via the Westgate, as many of the top contenders head to Paris for the Ryder Cup:

9/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Jordan Spieth

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

16/1: Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Jon Rahm

20/1: Jason Day

25/1: Bubba Watson

30/1: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Tony Finau

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Woods: Support from Tour friends 'meant a lot to me'

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 11:54 pm

ATLANTA – As Tiger Woods approach the 18th green on Sunday at the Tour Championship, with thousands of fans – literally – breathing down his neck, Davis Love III crouched down inside the ropes, on top of a mound to take it all in. He was joined by Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

Rickie Fowler was waiting. Tommy Fleetwood was watching from the clubhouse balcony. Paul Casey was there. So, too, were Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

They all wanted to witness Woods win for the first time in five physically debilitating, at times personally destructive, years. They wanted to congratulate, not just a peer, but a friend.

What that meant to Woods, well, he tried to describe. But words don’t do justice what the support of others means to someone who has been through so much.

“The people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” Woods said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”


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Of course, all of these players have one thing in common: They are all headed to Paris for this Ryder Cup, either as players or vice captains.

There were 17 Ryder Cup players in the 30-man Tour Championship field – 11, including Woods, on the U.S. side.

The Americans were set to take a charter flight to France on Sunday night. That means everyone aboard will get to partake in the celebrations. And Tiger will get to enjoy the camaraderie, something lacking from the years when he won 79 PGA Tour events.

“Flying tonight with the guys, it’s going to be fun,” Woods said.

“I think we’re all going to sleep well.”

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TT Postscript: Finally, officially, Tiger Woods is back

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 11:47 pm

ATLANTA, Ga. – He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Here are some things I think I think after watching Tiger Woods end a five-year winless drought and capture his 80th career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Tour Championship.

• There’s only one place to start. That walk down 18. Tiger Woods leading throngs of maniacs (and me) into an arena only he can create, only he can star in, only he can thrive in. That was a security nightmare, and I’m sure whatever entities hold the insurance policies on Tiger and Rory were pulling their corporate hair out, but that was a scene you can’t really stage. A scene you can’t recreate. Not like that. Not with that level of exaltation. Every single person who has followed Tiger Woods’ career – every single person who loves the game of golf – felt like they were following Tiger in that crowd up 18. Regardless of whether you root for him or against him, you know no one else in the game can create a spectacle like that. After the surgeries, and the scandals, and the personal demons, Tiger Woods teared up, tapped in, put his arms in the air, and soaked in a kind of redemption none of us will ever fully understand.

• He admitted he almost cried twice on the way in. He almost cried in the crowd en route to the front bunker, and he almost cried after Rory McIlroy ceded the stage on the 72nd green. For years, he was invulnerable. Impenetrable. That was his aura. That aura was later shattered at too many different points along the way. There was a popular thought that Tiger Woods couldn’t be Tiger Woods without that same air of invincibility – that edge. But on Sunday, the golf world and Tiger himself saw that he could be vulnerable and a champion. Notah Begay perhaps put it best when he suggested on Golf Central that Tiger could, moving forward, strike a balance between playing with an edge and playing with a sense of gratitude.



• That gratitude seems genuine, too. He thought he was done. More than that, at his lowest point, he didn’t know what was going to be left of his life.

“Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn't want to live that way,” he said in the interview room. “This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It's going to be a tough rest of my life. And so – I was beyond playing. I couldn't sit. I couldn't walk. I couldn't lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg.”

Now the roars, the support, the embrace, the victory – it all means a little more. Tiger Woods seems like a guy who took everything he had for granted, faced down the possibility of losing it all, and came out on the other end.


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• As for what exactly he really went through, maybe we’ll never know. Maybe we’ll never know how deep and dark that hole went. But clearly there’s an inner circle that knows. And that includes some of Tiger’s colleagues on Tour.

“You know, the people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” he said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”

• Tiger has been the face of golf for the last two decades. And that’s why it’s so weird to think that anyone can conceive of him as anything other than the most dominant player in the history of the game. But his kids are young enough that they really don’t know. Hearing him discuss his family Sunday night was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

“I think they understand a little bit of what Dad does now. I hadn't won any tournaments in which they can remember, so I think this will be a little bit different for them. … A lot of times they equated golf to pain because every time I did it, I would hurt, and it would cause me more pain. And so now they're seeing a little bit of joy and seeing how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

• So where do we go from here? To Paris, where Tiger through a wry smile suggested that everyone is going to sleep well on the U.S. plane tonight. Uh huh.

• But what’s next in that big-picture sense? Does he pass Sam? Does he catch Jack? Hell, I don’t know. I never thought we’d get to this point again. And neither did he. Maybe it’ll never get any better than this. But you know, it just might.

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With 80 wins, Woods eyes 'chipping away' at Snead

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 11:38 pm

ATLANTA – Round numbers just feel better than the crooked ones.

80.

It’s only one more than 79, but it’s prettier and more historically significant.

“Eighty is a big number,” Tiger Woods said after winning the Tour Championship to reach that amazing tally in Tour wins. “I’ve been sitting on 79 for about five years now, and to get 80 is a pretty damned good feeling.”

Not since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational had Woods hoisted a trophy. And in those five winless years, he endured multiple surgeries; more personal turmoil; and doubt that he’d ever live a comfortable life, let alone play professionally.

80.

That puts him two wins from tying Sam Snead on the all-time PGA Tour wins list. What once seemed like a lock, then appeared unlikely, is attainable once again.


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This is more than just a nice, round number, however. More than an opportunity to be called the winningest Tour player ever.

For Woods, this is a recognized and appreciative product of grace and good fortune.

“To kind of get to the 80 mark is a big number," Woods said. 'Sam is still ahead of me. I've still got, I feel like, a chance to play some more golf and maybe I'll keep chipping away at that number and maybe surpass it. 

“But I just think that what I've gone through and what I've dealt with, I've gotten lucky, to be honest with you. I've gotten very lucky. I'm not playing a full-contact sport or I've got to move people around in that regard. At 42 years old with a fused lower spine; that's not going to happen.

“But in this sport, it can. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to have the people around me to have supported me and worked through this process with me, and I've ground out a chance to win golf tournaments again.”