Newsmaker of the Year, No. 2: Tiger Woods

By Will GrayDecember 18, 2015, 2:00 pm

From ski masks to surgeries, glutes to gravy, this was indeed a very strange year for Tiger Woods.

At least for the time being, Woods’ spot on this annual list of newsmakers appears etched in stone. No other player can create as many headlines or garner such attention, even without the meaningful on-course performance to match.

Woods put that maxim to the test this year, one in which he was barely relevant inside the ropes but remained one of the game’s most-discussed figures.

Never before have we seen a season for Woods which began with such promise fall apart so quickly. This was supposed to be the beginning of his Final Act, an opportunity to fervently renew his quest for the few career records not already in his possession.

Equipped with a new swing consultant and a clean bill of health, Woods embarked on 2015 with equal parts confidence and expectations. He was eager to put behind him an injury-plagued campaign and tackle a list of major venues that included two of his favorite haunts: Augusta National and St. Andrews.

What followed was a painful journey from one perceived bottom to the next, as a great champion was reduced to a shell of his former self.

The first red flag arose in Phoenix, where Woods’ short-game woes mushroomed into a full-blown case of the yips. Unable to execute a series of straightforward chips, he missed the cut in embarrassing fashion.

Woods leaned on some of his favorite buzzwords in the immediate aftermath at TPC Scottsdale, insisting that he was simply caught between swing patterns. He was quick to remind the world that he was not that far removed from a five-win season in 2013.

But then Woods abruptly withdrew the following week because of a back injury, limping off the course before offering his now-famous explanation from the Torrey Pines parking lot that he simply couldn’t “activate his glutes.”


Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list


That two-week debacle led Woods to take an indefinite leave from competition, the strongest indicator yet that something was seriously amiss.

“Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level,” Woods wrote on his website. “When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.”

That return proved to be at the Masters, where Woods’ T-17 finish offered a rare glimmer of hope. But that would turn out to be his lone weekend appearance at the majors, as Woods averaged nearly 76 swipes per round at Chambers Bay, the Old Course and Whistling Straits.

There was also a third-round 85 at Jack’s Place, Woods’ highest single-round score and one that led to a solo dew-sweeping appointment the following morning. While that effort at the Memorial proved to be Woods’ statistical low point, larger setbacks still loomed.

To be fair, there were also signs of progress along the way, hints that maybe this lost campaign could somehow still be salvaged. When Woods returned to action at the Masters, he seemed a different player than the one who had bowed out weeks earlier. He was lighthearted and candid in his pre-tournament pressers; he danced and listened to music while practicing on the range.

And there was eventually cause for optimism on the scorecard, too. He turned two good rounds at The Greenbrier Classic into three good rounds at the Quicken Loans National, which led to the high-water mark of the year at the Wyndham Championship.

After making an unexpected and last-minute commitment to the event, Woods took the tournament by storm before ever hitting a shot. He demonstrated control on a tight track, contending and even leading deep into the weekend. While he didn’t win, he left Greensboro with his first top-10 finish in nearly two years and seemingly had some momentum heading into the offseason.

But just a few weeks later, Woods announced that he had undergone a second microdiscectomy surgery on his injured back, and another follow-up procedure soon followed. When he showed up at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month, Woods’ comments took on a somber tone as he offered no timetable for his return and appeared devoid of optimism.

“Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know, so that’s been hard,” he said. “Hopefully the day-by-day adds up to something positive here soon.”

It was there, in a Bahamian sweatbox in front of dozens of media members, that Woods’ already disastrous year officially bottomed out.

Perhaps we should have known that Woods was in for a strange year when our first glimpse of him was high atop a mountain in January, donning a skeleton ski mask and missing a tooth. Perhaps each on-course struggle that followed should have been made somewhat less jarring by the one that preceded it.

But this was Tiger Woods. This was the most decorated winner of his generation, a man whose golf ball has been largely under his command and control for more than two decades.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

And yet, despite the struggles, we watched. And we read, and we commented. Woods is now ranked No. 413 in the world, but he is also the central figure in five of the 10 most-read stories on GolfChannel.com this year.

Fans care about Woods, both when he wins and when he misses the cut, and our “Tiger at 40” series has displayed Woods’ far-reaching impact on the game’s current landscape.

So while this year did not go according to plan for Woods, he still gave us plenty to talk about. And although his status for 2016 (and beyond) remains anyone’s guess, one thing appears certain: regardless of his performance, he’ll likely have a spot on this countdown next year.

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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.”