One year after Greensboro, wait for Tiger continues

By Will GrayAugust 23, 2016, 12:00 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Walking around Sedgefield Country Club, you can still feel the echoes.

If you close your eyes, you can still envision the throngs that gathered a year ago, the thousands that packed this cozy layout on the off-chance they might see him walk by for an instant – a blur of red, black and swagger.

It was exactly a year ago, on Aug. 23, 2015, that Tiger Woods took the Wyndham Championship by storm. He started the final round two shots off the lead, in search of a win that would end a two-year drought and serve as an emphatic coda to an otherwise disappointing season.

After bombing out at the PGA Championship the week prior, Woods made a last-minute decision to add Greensboro to his schedule for the first time. It was a surprising choice, but one that seemed to kick-start his idle game.

There were stingers. There were club twirls. There were birdies by the handful, and there were crowds the likes of which only Woods can deliver, as the people of Greensboro flocked to watch a man who once again seemed comfortable in his element.

“I’m just guessing, but we had to have had 20,000 people following our group,” said Scott Brown, who played with Woods in last year’s final round. “It was 10-deep, wrapped around every hole. It was unbelievable.”

He was back. And just like that, he was gone.

Sure, we’ve seen Woods make a handful of appearances since. There was the Zapruder-level analysis of his simulator 9-iron back in February, and the disastrous outing at Quicken Loans National media day in May.

But 365 days have passed since Tiger’s last competitive swing. A hiatus once measured in weeks and months has stretched to include an entire year, and it may not end anytime soon.

“It’s tough to ignore that the golf world is a little different, a little quieter without him,” said Graeme McDowell. “We’re not ready to talk about a post-Tiger world, but everyone’s starting to think about that.”

Woods announced a pair of back surgeries in the weeks that followed his T-10 finish at last year’s Wyndham, and the resulting wait-and-see left legions of fans hoping he would turn up again at Augusta, or maybe Quail Hollow, or perhaps Royal Troon – only to be disappointed each and every time.



“While I continue to work hard and get healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open or Quicken Loans National,” Woods wrote on June 7, the most recent health update posted to his website. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for competition.”

When that return to competition might occur remains the subject of much conjecture. Some hold out hope that he’ll tee it up at the season-opening Safeway Open, while others target the limited-field Hero World Challenge in December or even tournaments in early 2017, at which point Woods will be 41 years old.

When reached for comment Monday, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg offered little insight.

“No update at this time,” Steinberg said via email. “He continues to make progress.”

Whenever Woods does get back inside the ropes, it’s not even clear what equipment he’ll be using. Nike’s recent decision to get out of the golf equipment space means that Woods is shopping for a potential suitor, adding yet another variable to the growing equation.

“He and I have discussed at length a plan for that, and feel comfortable with what we’re going to do going forward,” Steinberg told GolfChannel.com earlier this month. “But clearly, there’s likely going to be a change.”

While so much surrounding Woods’ status remains uncertain, the impact of his lengthy absence on the PGA Tour is quite evident.

“You look at tournaments like Bay Hill, the tournaments that he’s accustomed to playing like San Diego. The crowds they get, that they get for him, it’s not the same,” Billy Horschel said. “It’s disappointing that he’s not out here playing. It’s disappointing that you don’t feel the energy. Still a lot of energy, but that extra special energy when he’s in the field, especially near the lead, isn’t there.”

There was strong fan support this year at the Wyndham, as spectators flocked to local favorites like Webb Simpson and Bill Haas as well as another surprising tournament newcomer, Rickie Fowler.

But the modest crowds that gathered around Sedgefield’s tees and greens only highlighted the fact that the mass influx sparked by Woods’ appearance last year won’t be seen here again anytime soon.

“Tiger is still the biggest draw in our game. No one else compares to him,” Horschel said. “Fans like to argue with me on Twitter about it, but they don’t get it. I understand that they look at Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and they get big fans, but Tiger’s in a different level. He’s in a level that few have ever been.”

Much has changed in golf over the last year. Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have become major champions. Day has cemented his status as the world’s best player, while another promising crop of young guns has found its footing.

The biggest figure in golf, however, remains stuck in neutral.

“Obviously, we’d love to see him back. We’d love to see him come back and potentially start winning events again,” McDowell said. “He’s been so great for the game. But we know he’s got health issues, and time could be against him now.”

The images from Woods’ surprise detour to Greensboro still seem vivid. But one year later, the buzz that overtook Sedgefield has slowly faded away.

All that remains are the memories, along with the fervent hope that we’ll someday be able to witness it all again.

“I hope he comes back. I hope he’s healthy,” Horschel said. “I’d just like to see him give it one last good shot. If that’s what he wants to do, I want to see it.”

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OB tee shot, bunker trouble dooms Rahm to MC

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:24 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The key to surviving Carnoustie is avoiding the bunkers.

Jon Rahm found three bunkers to close out the front nine Friday, the start of a triple bogey-double-bogey run that led to a second-round 78 and missed cut at The Open.

“All of them were as bad a lie as they could have been,” he said. “Besides that, things didn’t happen. I can’t give an explanation, really. I don’t know.”

Rahm’s troubles started on the seventh hole, a par 4 with a steady left-to-right wind. Out of bounds loomed left, and Rahm, who primarily plays a cut shot, hadn’t missed left all week. This time, his ball didn’t curve, and the OB tee shot led to a triple.

“Whenever I start missing shots to the left,” he said, “it’s really hard for me to play.”  

After a career-best fourth-place finish at the Masters, Rahm has now missed the cut in consecutive majors.

“Right now I’m not in any mental state to think about what happened, to be honest,” he said.

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Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

Bernhard Langer did not.

The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.