Small Stage for Biggest Star

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' So the man who does bigger better than Donald Trump glanced around the Oval Office and was struck by a undersized thought: Its a little bit smaller than you might think, the First Golfer said of his April 20 meeting with the new President.
On Tuesday, about as far away from the White House as one can get without a passport, Woods made his way around the front 9 at TPC Sawgrass and the same thought occurred regarding Pete Dyes swamp monster.
Just ask D.A. Points, an endearing Tour journeyman who was making the most of his first Players experience despite his status on the wrong side of the alternate line.
Ive lived 2 hours away (in Orlando) for eight years and have never made it up here, Points said. Its not as hard as I thought it would be. I expected driver-4-iron, driver-3-iron, but you find out tee to green its playable.
It was Points even-handed way of saying the Stadium is a bit smaller than you might think, and perhaps the best of all theories why after 11 professional attempts The Players remains the lone marquee event Woods hasnt owned. He hasnt even rented the joint, to be honest.
Woods TPC line is a 1-for-11 slide ' 2-for-12 if you count that U.S. Amateur title and 17th-green walkoff in 1994 ' that adds up to slump, no matter how you slice it.
In many ways golfs fifth major has become something of a fifth wheel for Woods. His current form notwithstanding ' as one scribe mused on Tuesday he seems to be missing with 1/14th of that prolific bag, at Doral it was his putting, ballstriking at the Masters and driving at Quail Hollow ' but this doesnt appear to be a course for this horse.
I haven't hit the ball well here, Woods said. The year I did, the last year I played it, I did, but couldn't make a putt. Just kind of typical how this year has been; I haven't really put all the pieces together, and you have to have that in order to win this tournament.
For Woods there has been less good (T-10, 2nd, win; 1999-01) and more bad (T-14, T-11, T-16; 2002-04) and ugly (T-53, T-22, T-37; 2005-07) on Floridas First Coast. In his last three Players starts hes ranked inside the top 30 in greens in regulation, fairways hit and putts just once (T-16 GIR in 06) and managed under-par cards in three of his last 12 trips around the flagship TPC.
If other venues have visions of Tiger-proofing there layouts, look no further. The Stadium mitigates Woods power advantage ' Phil Mickelson said he will hit driver on just three holes per round this week ' and requires the field to play from the same spot, democratic golf that has produced a diverse list of champions from Mickelson (2007), the bomber, to Fred Funk (2005), the plodder.
The Players is to Woods what Roland Garros was to Roger Federer, a statistical anomaly that defies explanation and makes United Kingdom bookmakers rich.
Of course it doesnt help that Woods competitive calendar has been slow to take off post-surgery. By his own account, Woods victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was ahead of schedule and his play on Sunday at Augusta National was inspired a little too little, too late. But his 1-for-5 start ' and, make no mistake, champions hardware is all that really counts in Windermere, Fla., bragging circles ' is his worst opening to a season since 2004, when he won just once on Tour all season.
The pop may be back in Woods swing, but sporting reality is that the Baltimore Orioles dont head into Fenway looking to end a four-game slide and perhaps it would be the acme of foolishness to think Woods would use The Players to put all the pieces together.
The Players is also Woods first back-to-back outing since last spring when he won at Bay Hill and followed with a fifth-place showing at Doral, a physical litmus test that will give Woods and the world a glimpse at how strong that rebuilt left knee really is.
Thats the unknown, Woods said. That's one of the challenges we were looking at at the beginning of the year, is how are you going to do back-to-back, because obviously we didn't know. I haven't had any setbacks so far this year. That's a big thing going into my second week playing in a row. You would think that's no big deal, but to me it is
But then, maybe the bigger deal is a changing dynamic when it comes to all things Woods, whether they be real or perceived.
Last Sunday at Quail Hollow Woods needed to shoot a 2-under 70 to force a playoff with Sean OHair and managed an even-par card. At Augusta National, Woods pars the last two holes to get to 10 under the mystique might bring out a different set of nerves for Angel Cabrera. Instead, OHair and Cabrera forge ahead.
Make no mistake, Woods armor is still nickel-plated and four out of five tools is no reason to consider early retirement, but 10 months of near inactivity seems to have forged a different set of rules among the supporting cast.
That air of invincibility has not been replaced, but the thought that anything can happen has crept in.
There has not been a course built that Woods cant win on, but some ballparks are bigger than others and, like the Oval Office, TPC Sawgrass may be a tad on the small size for the games biggest star.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
    Getty Images

    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

    Getty Images

    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

    Getty Images

    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”