Tiger attempting to play way out of slump at Wyndham

By Rex HoggardAugust 19, 2015, 6:07 pm

It was impossible to watch the brief scrum and not appreciate the fact that the soon-to-be-40 year old seemed to be enjoying himself outside of his normal comfort zone.

You know the deal – old cat, new tricks.

But there it was, the 286th-ranked player in the world smiling and laughing and talking optimistically about the week ahead – as if the last two years had never transpired.

Tiger Woods will set out on Thursday at 7:50 a.m. ET at the Wyndham Championship, one of 14 current PGA Tour events that he’s never played, with long odds and an even longer view.

“It’s kind of fun,” Woods smiled. “This is like a small-town atmosphere. [The fans] come out and support the event for years and Davis [Love III] says he’s played this thing forever and even sees the same people each and every year.”

It’s safe to say there will be even more people about Sedgefield Country Club this week thanks to Tiger, who enters the week the lowest he’s ever been ranked as a professional. But then, when it comes to Woods, he is always much more than the sum of his world ranking parts.

Woods signed on to play the final regular-season event because of his spot in the FedEx Cup ranking (187th) and what could only be described as an 11th-hour effort to play the postseason, which begins next week at The Barclays with the top 125 players on the season-long points list.

“I started to build, I need to get more consistent with everything and start stringing together not just holes, not just rounds but tournaments,” he said. “That’s why this tournament is important to me. Hopefully I can win and get in the playoffs and start playing a bunch of golf.”

Given his play the last 24 months – he doesn’t have a top-10 finish and the scorecard includes more missed weekends (10) than not (seven) during that stretch – his chances of a walk-off this week waver somewhere between slim and none. That doesn’t mean, however, his trip to the Piedmont Triad is a lost cause.

For some time, critics have lamented Woods’ schedule, for decades a relatively set lineup of majors, World Golf Championships and assorted top-tier stops where he’d had success in the past, like the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open.

More “reps,” the thinking went, may be the only way to play his way out of his current swoon.

In his own particular way, the Wyndham Championship is Woods’ acknowledgement, however begrudgingly, that the status quo simply isn’t working.

Had Woods not added the Wyndham Championship, his next Tour start would likely have been October’s Frys.com Open to begin the 2015-16 season. That would have been eight weeks of relative inactivity.

Sure, he’d be on the range in South Florida looking for answers, but it has become clear over the past few weeks that whatever it is he is working on back home has been slow to translate to red numbers on a Tour scorecard.

When Woods committed to the Wyndham field last Friday, a procedural deadline required by the Tour, many opined that Sedgefield, a classic Donald Ross layout, would be just what he needed. He could take his driver out of his bag and dissect the tree-lined course with long irons and the occasional fairway wood.

But recent heavy rain in the Greensboro, N.C., area seems to have dictated another plan.

“From what I’ve been told, it’s going to be a lot of irons off the tee but it wasn’t the case because it’s so wet,” Woods said.

But even that soggy reality doesn’t change the fact Woods’ decision to venture beyond his well-defined schedule is encouraging, maybe even inspired.

There seems little chance Woods’ last-minute playoff push will be successful. When asked his motivations for playing this week, he seemed to suggest as much.

“If not, then I got a big break and some overseas stuff to do later this year,” said Woods, who needs to win this week or possibly finish alone in second place to secure a spot at The Barclays. “Basically, I’ll have my offseason early and start getting ready for a lot of my tournaments that I go to overseas as well as in the [United States].”

Woods said last week at the PGA Championship that his focus isn’t necessarily on this season or even this year as much as it is a long-term plan to play his way back into relevance.

His place in the field at the Wyndham Championship is a sign that at this point he knows better than anyone else that playing is his only way out of his current slump.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

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

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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.

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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.”