Tiger's impending return sparks interest, intrigue

By Rex HoggardSeptember 7, 2016, 7:23 pm

Since Tiger Woods last hit a golf shot that mattered on the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson won a U.S. Open, Jordan Spieth lost a Masters and Nike Golf lost interest in making equipment.

It will be 417 days between the time Woods putted out at the 2015 Wyndham Championship and his next shot at the Safeway Open in October.

During that span, Woods turned 40, was named a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team and watched as golf’s landscape transitioned to a star-by-committee.

But the most interesting element that arose from a busy Wednesday in golf was that over the last 13 months Woods has developed an impressive amount of patience.

What else would explain his measured approach to return to the game following two back procedures last year? How else could one interpret Wednesday’s news that Woods hopes to play not one, but three events before the end of the year?

“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” said Woods, who plans to play the PGA Tour’s season-opener, a European Tour event in Turkey and his own Hero World Challenge before the calendar expires. “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.”

“Hope” was the key portion of Woods’ message.

At this point in his career, at this point in what has been an eventful decade, Woods seems resigned to the unseen hand of fate.

Things have clearly been moving in the right direction back home on his private practice range in Jupiter, Fla. – by most accounts he’s not spending much time playing in public – but after more than a year on the DL he’s not dismissing the prospect of a wrong turn.

It was a subtle part of Woods’ otherwise positive message on Wednesday.

After spending far too much time ignoring his doctors, Woods seems to have become a model patient either by necessity or choice, not that it really matters if he was forced or arrived willingly at his current crossroads.

Whatever Woods has become over the last 13 odd months, he’s still a competitor driven to push himself and his game against the world’s best, and sitting on the sidelines watching the world move on couldn’t have been easy.

The new guy, let’s call him Tiger 4.0, clearly didn’t like being a bystander to history, but he didn’t have many options.

“It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it,” Woods said in a statement. “I missed competing.”

The record is rather clear on this, 417 days is, if not cautious, then at the least cautionary even for a player who has endured three back procedures since March 2014.

If the facts aren’t enough to convince you, then listen to those closest to Woods.

“He seems a little more reasonable about [his expectations],” Notah Begay said of Woods on “Morning Drive.” “There is going to be a certain level of maturity and forgiveness.”

Woods’ careful approach to this most recent comeback was also evident in what was a surprisingly detailed announcement that he was returning to his day job.

The Safeway Open, which will be played Oct. 10-16 in northern California, opens the 2016-17 season but, like nearly all of the post-Tour Championship fall events, doesn’t have the deepest field. It’s not exactly a “rehab start,” but it certainly has the feeling of a soft opening.

Similarly, the Turkish Airlines Open, which will be played Nov. 3-6, will have a deeper field but no cut, assuring Woods 72 holes against an elite field; and his Hero World Challenge in early December will be played on his home course in the Bahamas against another short-but-strong field.

All things considered, Woods appears to have checked all of the right boxes this time around.

Healthy? Yep.

Smarter? On it.

Realistic expectations? Well, Woods may have his head straight on that front but it seems doubtful the masses and media would allow him much of a honeymoon.

Perhaps the more pressing question, that’s assuming Woods’ health isn’t an issue, is whether the former world No. 1 can reinvent himself?

Since Woods tied for 10th place on Aug. 23, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C., the golf landscape has changed dramatically. The conversation is no longer about who could possibly replace Tiger; that question has been answered by a collection of players from Jason Day and Spieth to Rory McIlroy and Johnson.

How Woods fits into the current clubhouse depends on how competitive he can be after such a long layoff, and that will likely be decided by his ability to adjust to the reality that he no longer has the game’s best fast ball and may need to add an off-speed pitch to his repertoire.

The likes of Day, Spieth, McIlroy and Johnson have never really seen Woods at his absolute best, at least not at a major championship. They all seem to look forward to his return, but it will very much be a new chapter depending on how Tiger’s comeback progresses.

“It could be a fun fall,” Woods said.

Perhaps, but what is for certain is the next few months just became much more interesting.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.