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Net result of Tiger's 'gross' golf: 70

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 28, 2018, 1:11 am

SAN DIEGO – There was only one way to describe it, only one reasonable commentary for another round that included just three fairways hit and even more what-on-Earth-was-that? shots.

“It was gross,” Tiger Woods said Saturday.

The tone for his third round of the Farmers Insurance Open was set early, with his first tee shot tracking toward the out-of-bounds fence left before expiring in heavy rough. He spent most of his day with his head down, trudging toward delirious gallery members, most of whom got closer to Woods than they ever could have imagined. Caddie Joe LaCava might as well have had “Fore!” playing on a loop.

Woods was left.

And then he was right. Way right.

On it went for five hours, Woods having little idea where his ball was going, fans ducking for cover, and playing partner Brandt Snedeker shaking his head.

Because Woods didn’t sign for a score in the 80s Saturday. Didn’t even sign for something over par. No, on a sun-splashed afternoon on Torrey Pines’ difficult South Course, Woods somehow made only two bogeys (both on par 3s) and shot a 2-under 70 – four shots better than Snedeker, enough to climb 26 spots on the leaderboard.

When a radio announcer asked afterward whether it seemed like it had all come together in the third round, Woods stared at him as if he’d spoken Greek.

“I don’t know about coming together,” he said bemusedly. “It was a struggle out there. I didn’t hit it worth a darn all day. I was really struggling out there to find anything resembling a golf swing. But I was scoring. I was chipping, putting. I was grinding.”


Full-field scores from the Farmers Insurance Open

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Across three rounds, he has hit only 14 of 42 fairways. That has led to him finding just 30 of 54 greens. Woods called it “gross,” and he wasn’t wrong.

But there’s more to this game than statistics, than center-cut drives and pin-seeking approaches, and in that gray area is where Woods has excelled this week. He has scored. He’s at 3-under 213, in a tie for 39th, which is ahead of world No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama and recent Tour winner Patrick Cantlay and even his old rival, Phil Mickelson.

Those three players rank ahead of him in every meaningful ball-striking statistic, and yet Woods, even with more than two years of competitive rust, is ahead where it matters most.

How? Why?

“The only thing I have,” he said, “is my short game and my heart. That got me through today.”

And few could have predicted that, considering his recent shortcomings. Since 2014, even straightforward pitch shots have been an adventure, a collection of flubbed and thinned shots. He chalked up those recent horrors to being stuck between “release patterns,” but the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that he was suffering through the chipping yips. They ebb and flow, like a recurring virus, and they popped up again last month in the Bahamas, where he struggled around the tight, grainy Bermuda greens.

One of the common misconceptions about the past few years, Woods said, was that his back pain would force him to work more on his short game than his driving. But that wasn’t true.

Burning pain shot down his leg. His foot didn’t work. It hurt more to bend over and address the ball while chipping and putting – “Bunker shots were off-the-charts painful” – than it did wailing away on driver, so he played away from discomfort. 

This fourth surgery, the last-ditch back fusion, changed that, and over the past few months Woods finally devoted the necessary time to shore up what was once one of his greatest strengths. To prepare for Torrey Pines’ rye grass, he overseeded one of the areas of his backyard practice facility, to work on the tricky pitch shots.

Without that short game this week?

“It would have been snowing on me,” he said.

That means he would have shot in the 80s.

But he didn’t, and that was the most remarkable part to Snedeker, who watched Woods get up and down seven of nine times, even after occasionally driving it off the planet.

“His short game,” Snedeker said, “is probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.”

Even after jettisoning swing coach Chris Como, it’s reasonable to believe Woods is too smart and too talented to not get his long game under control after a few weeks of range work. Eventually he’ll rediscover his “feels.” Eventually he’ll find his “go-to shot.”

“The things I look for are: Is he fighting? Is he grinding? Is he doing the short-game stuff?” Snedeker said. “It’s all there. It’s not as far away as I thought it would be not being able to play professional golf for really two years. I was very encouraged by it.”

Nothing gross about that.

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Watch: Guy 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.”