Els, Scott, Woods rise from the professional ashes

By Rex HoggardJuly 23, 2012, 3:25 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Sunday’s epic collapse aside, the final tally from the 141st Open Championship offered a cautionary tale stripped across the top of the marquee.

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the final Lytham leaderboard – Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods, respectively – had all been written off to varying degrees over the past three years – left for dead by an on-demand society that requires results and eschews the long view. Yet there they were on Sunday as the wind and pressure grew.

Els, at 42 a Hall of Famer with a rebuilt left knee and a frightening aversion to 4-footers, won Sunday’s show, while Scott may have lost the claret jug but he may have gained a final measure of recognition for a competitive U-turn few figured he could pull off not long ago. As for Woods, his tie for third probably ranks somewhere just north of a wasted week – remember, second sucks – but it is, by any definition, progress.

Sobel: Els' epic journey

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But if Sunday’s finish proves anything – beyond the worn-out axiom that anything can happen in major championship golf – it is that golf defies instant analysis and premature judgment. How else could one explain the trifecta of reclamation projects atop the card?

In our collective rush to judgment, some in the golf world had figured all three either finished or rapidly closing on their sell-by dates, and yet there they were vying for Open glory. It is equal parts a testament to each player’s gumption and the evergreen nature of golf.

Putting, specifically the addition of a long putter, has been the tonic for Els and Scott, while Woods’ resurgence is a combination of a healthy body and an increasing level of comfort with his Sean Foley-inspired swing.

It was only fitting that Els would collect his fourth major and second claret jug thanks to the long stick, charging in a 15-footer for birdie at the last that would turn out to be the surprise winner.

Lost in the post-championship glow was how far the Big Easy had fallen in recent years.

He needed a late-season rally (T-30 at the Wyndham Championship) just to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and spiraled to 68th in the world ranking earlier this season to miss the Masters for the first time since 1993.

We weren’t talking about Els winning majors anymore, we were talking about whether he’d even qualify.

But if the golf world had given up on Els, the South African was clearly not ready for his golden years.

“For some reason I've got some belief this week,” Els warned on the eve of the final round at Lytham. “I feel something special can happen. I've put in a lot of work the last couple of years, especially the last couple of months. So something good is bound to happen.”

Until this season, message boards across cyberspace have been filled with debates about whether there was anything good in Woods’ game. The scandal of 2009 begat two injury-riddled seasons and a swing change that, like his three previous changes, was slow coming.

Late last season, Woods swooned to 58th in the world, he needed not one but two captain’s picks to make the 2010 Ryder Cup and last year’s President Cup team and he finished outside the top 25 in earnings on limited starts in both 2010 and ’11 for the first time in his Hall-of-Fame career.

Is he finished? Is he back? The debate raged, but throughout it all Woods, at least publically, never questioned the fact that there is an ebb and flow to even historic careers.

“It's part of golf,” Woods said on Sunday. “We all go through these phases. Some people it lasts entire careers. Others are a little bit shorter. Even the greatest players to ever play have all gone through little stretches like this. When your playing careers last 40 and 50 years, you're going to have stretches like this.”

But if Woods’ slump, be it real or perceived, can be dismissed as media-driven drivel, Scott’s slide was palpably real.

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone in the golf world not named Greg Norman had written off Scott, the one-time prodigy turned project.

In 2009, the Australian slumped to 65th in the world ranking, finished 108th on the PGA Tour money and Norman was questioned for making him a pick for the Presidents Cup.

Since being plucked from mediocrity by Norman in ’09, the ultimate toxic asset has enjoyed a slow yet steady climb back to relevancy. In order, he changed caddies (Steve Williams), putters (long) and his schedule in an attempt be better prepared for the majors, where his pedestrian performance was glaring.

In his first 39 majors, Scott posted just four top-10s and never seriously contended. Since 2011, when he embarked on his grand plan, he’s matched that top-10 total (four) and finished second twice (2011 Masters and last week’s Open).

“He’s working harder than anyone would have imagined on his golf game,” said Geoff Ogilvy late Sunday as he watched his friend at Lytham. “Something lit a fire in him a couple years ago. Maybe it was that bad batch of play in ’08 and ’09.”

Unlike any other sport golf defies declaratives, the realities of longevity won’t allow it. As Sunday’s final leaderboard proved, when it comes to careers it’s almost always too early to call.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”