Story 1 - Tigers Season Short but Sweet

By Rex HoggardDecember 31, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesHistory will count 2008 as one of Tiger Woods greatest campaigns. But then the historian never had to toil on a central Florida couch, keeping time with a cocktail of ice and pain relievers while the world forged ahead without him.
In short, 08 was the best abridged season since Ben Hogan won five of six events he played in 1953, including the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. But then Woods four-of-six haul can be misleading, a disjointed calendar of brilliance mixed amid emotional challenges and physical pain.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' season ended in June, but not before collecting a 14th major trophy. (Getty Images)
Essentially, 2008 was a tale of two Torreys for Woods. One filled with promise and prompting hushed comparisons to his 2000 masterpiece, the other a 91-hole limping exhibition. Both played out on the same sprawling seaside public park, providing perfect synergy to the imperfect season.
In February Woods dismantled the softer, kinder version to win his sixth Buick Invitational and send a chill as palpable as any June Gloom down the backs of the collective challengers who would return to SoCal for the U.S. Open.
Woods lapped the Buick field by eight, led the pack in putting and was tied for second in greens in regulation. I knew I could attain another level, and here we are, was Woods frighteningly clinical assessment.
He followed Torrey Pines Part 1 with a commanding performance at the WGC-Match Play Championship and a walk-off birdie at the 72nd hole to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the fifth time in his last nine starts.
I think we need to slice him open and see whats inside there, said Stewart Cink, Woods 8-and-7 final-match speed bump in Tucson. Maybe nuts and bolts.
The world soon discovered the machine needed maintenance. Two days after Woods finished three shots behind Trevor Immelman at Augusta National - the byproduct of a balky putter more so than a misfiring swing - he walked into a Park City, Utah, medical facility to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. It was the second operation in five years on the same knee and would bench the world No. 1 for at least two months.
Although he missed The Players and Wachovia Championship, where he was the defending champion, his return to Torrey Pines combined with the buzz of a contrived uber-pairing that would feature Woods, San Diego native Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott in Rounds 1 and 2 to create a pre-championship frenzy. The affair had a Fab Four feel to it as the Southern California masses encircled the first tee to get a glimpse at history.
For the better part of two days, it failed to live up to its billing.
Mickelson ballooned to a 75 in Round 2 to drop out of the hunt. Scott nursed his way to matching 73s. And Woods knee, if not his air of invincibility, suddenly seemed frail.
He played his first 27 holes in 3 over par, missed more fairways (12) than he hit (nine) and had already recorded twice as many three-putts (two) as he did during his last Grand Slam tilt (2007 PGA), when he stepped to the South Courses first tee (his 10th of the day).
After penciling in a double bogey-6 at the par-4 opener on Day 1, Woods began an almost flawless nine holes with a birdie. He one-putted five of his final nine holes and signed for a 68 to head into the weekend one back.
Wincing with almost every swing and walking tenderly from tee box to green, Woods continued the exhibition on Saturday, rolling in a pair of eagles at the 13th and 18th holes to assemble the type of 54-hole lead he rarely gives away.
This time, however, Woods failed to deliver from the front of the pack. He doubled No. 1, bogeyed the second and needed a twisting 18-footer for birdie at the last to match Rocco Mediate at 1 under and push the bout to extra innings and one of the most memorable Mondays in recent history.
Oh my God, that was ridiculous, said Mediate, the 45-year-old endearing antagonist who pushed Woods to the 91st hole. He's hard to beat. I threw everything I had, the kitchen sink, everything right at him.
There would be more histrionics: Woods two-putt from 40 feet for birdie at the 18th extra frame to extend the Monday that wouldnt end, and ultimately a moment of rare anticlimax when Woods won the 108th U.S. Open with tap-in par at the final hole.
I think this is probably the best ever, Woods said of his 14th major keepsake. All things considered, (I) don't know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you.
It was a long week, a lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week. And here we are 91 holes later.
Six months and one major surgery later, the episode still maintains an instant classic quality. Whether it was enough to ease Woods transition from fearless champion to compliant patient is up to the man on the couch. The historians will take care of the rest.
Related Links:
  • Top 10 Stories of the Year archive
  • Getty Images

    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

    Getty Images

    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

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

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

    Getty Images

    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

    Getty Images

    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”