Not Out of the Woods

By Rex HoggardMay 31, 2011, 7:28 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – From Jack Nicklaus’ vantage point there is, at least as it applies to Tiger Woods’ dogged pursuit of his major championship record, nothing to see here.

On Tuesday during his annual, and infinitely informal, “State of the Golden Bear” address to the media, the Memorial host, homebody and historic benchmark was asked if he thought the fans were writing Woods off too early.

“That’s ridiculous,” he grimaced. “The fans aren’t, it’s the media. The guy is injured. He’s hurt and hasn’t been able to play. It all gets pushed so far.”

If the media, and maybe the game in general, has taken to feeling like the sky is falling when it comes to Woods, consider Nicklaus a sunny optimist, a man who lives in a place, Columbus, Ohio, where the sky may actually be falling following a particularly wet spring and the Monday resignation of Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel.

From Nicklaus’ perspective, and based on each players’ major milestones, Woods is right on track to match and perhaps surpass the Golden Bear’s record of 18 major championships.

Nicklaus won his first major at 22, his last at 46 – the golden years, if you will – and when he was 35 years old, Woods’ current age, he had won 14 Grand Tilts, the same number that Woods currently holds.

The difference, of course, is that Nicklaus was considered a “young” 35, while Woods has looked AARP-ready in recent years. Earlier this month he limped to a front-nine 42 and withdrew from The Players Championship a year after bolting early from TPC Sawgrass with a neck ailment.

By comparison, Nicklaus said he withdrew from two PGA Tour events – the 1980 World Series of Golf and 1983 Masters – because of injury his entire career. Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee, while Nicklaus avoided the scalpel until he was 44, to repair a tennis-damaged left knee, no less.

They may be at similar sign posts on the road to 18, but there is no escaping the fact that Nicklaus was healthy and happy, by nearly all accounts, for the downwind run of his Hall of Fame career.

Nicklaus won two majors in 1975, the year he turned 35, but, as Woods is learning, the last four are always the hardest. Nicklaus needed 40 more Grand Slam starts to land his last major at the 1986 Masters.

In fact, Nicklaus was stuck on 17 for 20 majors, from the 1980 PGA to the ’86 Masters, the second longest Grand Slam drought of his career after a 12-major slide that ended at the 1970 British Open. Woods’ longest is his current 0-for-10 slide that started after the 2008 U.S. Open – even though he did not play in the '08 British Open and PGA Championship due to injury.

So if Nicklaus sounds more bullish on Woods’ chances than the mainstream consider it the voice of a singular perspective. The ground the two cover is exclusive territory, and no one knows it better than Nicklaus.

Yet the optimist is also every bit the realist. Nicklaus quickly admits he was “lucky” in his career at avoiding the DL, but he had a different swing during a different time.

“My swing never caused an injury for me. I think Tiger's swing, and I think a lot of the swings of today, are far more violent at the ball than some of the old swings,” Nicklaus said. “The game today is far more an upper body game, and we used to play more from the ground up.”

Following Woods’ ’08 Open victory at Torrey Pines and subsequent knee surgery Nicklaus offered him some unsolicited advice, “I thought he was having a problem getting his weight to his right side.”

A year later Nicklaus was paired with Woods during a Wednesday Skins Game at Muirfield Village and “It was the best I’d ever seen him swing. He was getting to his right side.” Woods won his fourth Memorial title that week with a tee-to-green clinic, hitting 49 of 56 fairways and 53 of 72 greens in regulation on the season’s third-toughest non-major course.

Maybe it’s an intimate knowledge of the subject matter, or the man. Either way, the only player who knows what it takes to get to 18 majors has little interest in declaring the game’s most meaningful benchmark safe. And why should he?

It’s what Woods – who will have 42 majors, not counting next month’s U.S. Open, to play before his 47th birthday – alluded to last week when asked his chances of catching Nicklaus.

“It took Jack over what, 24 years, 23 years to do what he did. It takes time. I still have plenty of time, and I feel that going forward I'm excited about playing major championships and playing golf again,” Woods said.

Maybe adversity is part of the process. Is it storybook or historic if the walk appears, at least outwardly, effortless?

Nicklaus may have avoided major injury in his historic career, but he did deal with his share of adversity. There were the chipping yips in 1979 and, even worse, a loss of motivation at 39. Each time he changed his technique and his take on life and each time he overcame. Maybe that’s what Nicklaus sees in Woods, a kindred competitor who craves the moment more than the mementos.

“I told Tiger, which is the same thing I've said to him a thousand times, ‘Tiger, nobody ever wants records to be broken. That's obvious. I don't care who it is,’” Nicklaus said. “But I certainly don't want you not to be healthy and not have the opportunity to play to break records. I want you to get yourself healthy, do what you have to do to go play, get your golf game back in shape, and I wish you well.”

So if Nicklaus seems overly optimistic consider the source. The only man who can relate to Woods’ plight has no interest in seeing the outcome influenced by the technicality of injury.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1