Woods shows softer side ahead of difficult Players

By Randall MellMay 5, 2015, 7:46 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods continues to reveal a side of himself we haven’t seen.

He’s still hugging folks like PGA Tour events are more family reunions than heavyweight title bouts.

Sean Foley, Woods’ former coach, got a warm embrace on the back of the driving range Tuesday with Woods preparing for The Players Championship.

In his news conference after nine practice holes, Woods gave media the equivalent of hugs. Instead of stiff-arming questions, he embraced them. He dropped his guard, just like he did at the Masters a month ago. He continued to give us more revealing answers than we grew used to hearing in bygone days. He even showed the kind of vulnerability he would never have shown in his prime.

“It does affect me,” Woods said when asked indirectly about his breakup earlier this week with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, his girlfriend of three years. “It is tough. There’s no doubt.”

Woods relayed how this time of year is tough on him, anyway. He and Vonn announced their split on Sunday. Woods reminded us that the news came out on the ninth anniversary of the death of his father, Earl.

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“I haven’t slept,” Woods said.

By the time Woods left the stage in the interview area at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, you wondered if he needed a hug.

“It’s been, these three days ... just brutal on me,” he said.

Leaving the news conference, Woods stopped beside a disabled reporter in a wheelchair. He stopped to give a one-one-one interview. He leaned over to better hear the reporter, and he leaned in with his answers.

Moments before, Woods was asked by another reporter if he was hoping to build on the momentum he created playing the Masters, where he tied for 17th. That was Woods’ first tournament appearance since he limped away from the Farmers Insurance Open two months earlier with both his body and game broken down. The question about momentum was aimed at Woods’ play at Augusta National, but it could have been aimed at the change in his public persona. Woods may still guard his private life, but not quite as intensely. He did, after all, make his return to the Masters Par 3 Contest with his two young children on very public display in caddie uniforms beside him.

This Tiger Woods 3.0 leaves a lot of new questions in his wake.

“He’s a much softer person now,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller said. “His relationships matter to him, and he’s much friendlier. I’m not sure that’s great for his golf game, but it’s sure nice to see.”

Miller made that observation in an NBC/Golf Channel conference call before the breakup with Vonn was announced. Who knows what happened in the relationship, but with Woods’ children so obviously close to Vonn, people care.

What does all of this have to do with golf?

Miller wonders, too.

The TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course is a ruthless inquisitor. Come Thursday, it’s going to be asking Woods all the hard questions about his game. Who knows how a man’s inner life gets channeled into tests like this. There’s no telling. What we will quickly discern is how Woods’ swing changes continue to evolve. Pete Dye’s unforgiving design will expose flaws in brutish fashion.

Woods made a nice return at the Masters. He answered questions about the state of his short game, which appeared in shambles before his arrival. He fixed his chipping, and he was thrilled about it. The Stadium Course’s questions are a lot different than Augusta National’s. The interrogation will turn harder to Woods’ ball-striking this week.

“I've never really seen anything like it,” Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee said of Woods’ radically improved short game at the Masters. “I've never seen anybody overcome that sort of problem in their pitching game. If you just look at what he accomplished there, and you don't consider anything else ...”

But if you look closer, if you look harder at Woods’ swing ...

“Tiger hit the fewest fairways he's ever hit in his career at Augusta National,” Chamblee said. “He's never driven it worse in his entire career than he drove it this year at Augusta. And only one time in his entire career has he ever ranked worse in greens in regulation. Augusta National is a place where he could get away with some errant drives, and he could get away with missing it in the right spot, and his scrambling was so good that he was able to save himself. But if he hits the ball the way he did at Augusta at The Players, The Players will eat his lunch.”

Woods played his practice round Tuesday with Jason Day. According to folks who followed them, Woods didn’t hit the ball very well. Day adeptly tiptoed around a question about how Woods played, but his answer was revealing nonetheless.

“We were both out there just ... I mean ... I wasn’t really watching too much,” Day said. “He hit a few squirrely ones here and there, but once again, it was just practice. He didn’t look like he was concentrating too much, just kind of going around having a look at the course.”

Day loved the chance to play with Woods. They arranged it before this week. They laughed easily coming up the ninth fairway at the end of their practice round, and again leaving the green. Day said Woods seemed in good spirits.

“Everything seemed all right to me,” Day said. “I don’t know where he’s at mentally. I don’t ask him about personal stuff. It’s none of my business to ask about that stuff.”

Day knows the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course will ask the tough questions of Woods and everyone else come Thursday. Dye’s design usually leaves everyone pretty much wanting a hug when they’re done playing.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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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.

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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.