Tiger Woods at the 2018 Valspar Championship. Getty Images

Tiger in the mix: Seems like old times

By Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2018, 12:35 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – For months, every millennial with a PGA Tour card has pined for the days when Tiger Woods’ name atop a leaderboard was akin to a national holiday.

On Sunday at the Valspar Championship, they’ll get their fill.

On Saturday, in a scene that could have been ripped from any number of mid-2000s highlight reels, Tiger did what Tiger does best, answering ever challenge and sending an unmistakable jolt across the Copperhead Course.

For players of a certain age, Day 3 had a time-capsule feel to it, with Woods' every move tracked by thousands and the 14-time major champion giving the masses plenty of reasons to shake the pine trees on his way to a third-round 67.

“You could tell some of the roars were for him, for sure,” said Steve Stricker, who joined the Tour a year before Woods. “It’s fun to see again. Everybody is excited and he brings so much attention to our game.”

Woods rolled in a 21-footer for birdie at the third hole, added another at the par-5 fifth and threatened to break the internet when he chipped in from behind the green at the ninth. That gave him a share of the lead with Brandt Snedeker and the most unlikely of opponents, Corey Conners, who has fewer rounds on Tour (64) than Tiger has Tour victories (79).

Attendance records have already been shattered this week, ratings have been through the roof and anticipation, both real and manufactured, has no boundaries.

On Friday when he moved to within two strokes of the lead, Las Vegas installed Woods as the third favorite to win this year’s Masters. At this rate officials may simply cancel the game’s most exclusive member-member at Augusta National in April and simply give Tiger his fifth green jacket.

Under the best of circumstances in recent years Woods has been little more than a curiosity who more often generated headlines for all the wrong reasons. Fans flocked to the occasional tournament to catch a glimpse, social media continued to declare him the game’s G.O.A.T. and a generation of young players familiarized themselves with his accomplishments via YouTube videos, but there were precious few reasons to cheer.


Full-field scores from the Valspar Championship

Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Before this season, the last time Woods had any chance anywhere on a Sunday was at the 2015 Wyndham Championship, but on that day he succumbed to a 50-year-old Davis Love III. He managed just a single start on Tour last season before being sidelined by fusion surgery on his lower back and the closest he’d come to greatness in recent years was as an assistant captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup and ’17 Presidents Cup.

But on Saturday at a Copperhead Course that was filled to capacity, hopeful optimism gave way to bona fide fervor. If he can maintain this pace and win on Sunday, imagine how much confidence he would take to next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he’s won eight times?

And what would this mean for the Masters, where he would have arrived amid a wave of expectations regardless of his recent form?

“He's a huge draw and he plays good this week and the excitement going into the Masters is going to be massive because I don't know if any of us were really thinking he was a true favorite there and he might be after one more round of golf,” Adam Scott said.

Predictably, Woods took a slightly more measured approach to the hyperbole that swirled through the cool air on Saturday. This comeback has been too long in the making for Tiger to jump the shark, even if the subject is Augusta National.

“There are so many guys who played their way back up into this tournament. [Scott] played well, he got it up there. [Justin Rose] has been playing well,” reasoned Woods, who was tied for second place and a shot off the lead held by Conners. “There's a lot of guys up there, myself included. I have to go out there and really play well again.”

Yes, yes. Stay in the process. Ignore the distractions. Focus on the next shot, not the next tournament or next major. Nobody maintains his distance behind a mental firewall better than Tiger. But as the crowds grew in size and spirit on Saturday it was impossible to ignore the possibility.

Imagine the pre-Masters buzz as Woods and Phil Mickelson, who won last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship for his first victory in over four years, motor down Magnolia Lane with true momentum.

For all the 20-somethings who’ve spent their careers wondering what it would be like to play against Tiger at something approaching his best, the passing answer could be heard, and felt, with every cheer.

“I was walking down the sixth and looked over to the fourth green. I said to my caddie, ‘Have you ever seen those crowds?’ eight deep back there,” Rose said. “It was a view that certainly wouldn't have been the same had he not been playing. He's on the leaderboard and challenging for the lead. Now that makes it really exciting.”

Now it all seems so real.

When Woods returned to the competitive fray in December at the Hero World Challenge, which could best be described as a rehab start, he spoke of his dramatically improved health and a genuine desire to be back on Tour.

Even as he made his way through the West Coast swing with mixed results, he remained optimistic; and when he moved to within a field goal of the lead on Sunday at the Honda Classic the buzz was palpable.

But this week along the Gulf Coast of Florida he’s irrevocably turned back the clock. All of the millennials who wanted to know what it was like when a red shirt on a Sunday was more than just a fashion statement are about to find out.

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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 golfodds.com.

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