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Tiger's scattershot 72 offers a little of everything

By Will GrayFebruary 15, 2018, 10:54 pm

LOS ANGELES – Tiger Woods’ idyllic start to the Genesis Open lasted all of 20 minutes.

With the morning dew still fresh and the air crisp, the tournament host stepped to the tee and promptly solved one of golf’s most-discussed riddles: the par-4 10th hole at Riviera Country Club. Woods curled in a 9-foot birdie putt, stepping to retrieve the ball before it had even disappeared below the surface of the hole, and left the green oozing with confidence.

His next shot sailed right, drifted a little more right and was never heard from again.

The entire series set the tone for an adventurous return to his former hometown event, a 1-over 72 that often felt like a strenuous effort simply to keep his head above water.

“I was at 1 under early, first hole, and all of a sudden I went double bogey-bogey,” Woods said. “I was like, 'Oh man, here we go. I’ve got to somehow turn this thing around.'”

Consider Woods’ opener a five-hour Rorschach test. Peer into the details for long enough, attempt to glean insight from a colorful scorecard, and you’ll eventually see what you want to see.

An optimist can point to Woods’ impressive scrambling ability on a day when he needed only 25 putts. For much of the morning, he appeared to be teetering on the brink of disaster, only to regain solid footing with one clutch par save after the next.

The driver was a chief area of concern at last month’s Farmers Insurance Open, but after switching to a different model, Woods seems to be slowly gaining confidence. Sure, he hit only 8 of 14 fairways, but several of his best tee shots came from towering drives that often kept pace with – or edged just beyond – playing partners Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy.

“He hit some great drives coming in. He drove it much better,” said McIlroy, who shot an even-par 71. “He hit it much better on the back nine, but saw some good signs. Just a better rhythm, a little bit better tempo from the top.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Woods made five birdies, and were it not for that pesky tree on No. 11, he likely would’ve broken par. Then there was the shot he uncorked from the right rough on No. 12, a whipping cut with a wildly contorting follow through that saw him twist the club over his head after impact and served as the latest evidence that his recently-fused back is again ready for the rigors of competition.

“You know, it all started at Torrey,” Woods said. “Some of those shots I went after at Torrey, I mean, I didn’t feel anything, and that’s the confidence I need. That validation that I’m good, and I was able to find that at Torrey.”

Taken on an individual basis, they’re each a small glimmer that Woods is ready to contend again amid elite fields. But viewing the round from a slightly different angle reveals plenty of reasons for a score that was, after all, over par and leaves him in danger of missing the cut.

Racking up five birdies after hitting only seven greens in regulation is remarkable, and it is in fact a career-first combination for Woods. But a 7-for-18 GIR stat line is also a troubling sign of ball-striking inefficiency on a day when he missed five greens in a row at one point.

And yes, there was progress with the driver, but his irons were largely, woefully off-target. Woods’ worst tee shot of the day came with an iron in hand on No. 5, where his layup attempt left him in knee-high grass, and he estimated that he overshot his 107-yard approach on No. 3 by 10.

“That’s awful,” he said.

Woods conjured moments of momentum, but each and every time he failed to build them into something more substantial. He looked like, well, a guy who in many respects is still trying to shake off some rust and fine-tune his game.

“I’ve got to clean up my card,” Woods said. “Too many bogeys out there. I’m not really worried about 11, but I made too many bogeys.”

Throughout this latest comeback attempt, Woods has viewed his efforts with a long-term goal in mind. He remains steadfast on building a path with incremental change rather than sweeping shifts, one where he slowly but surely reassembles his repertoire.

His trip around Riviera was a wild ride, and it showed both flashes of the form he hopes to achieve and just how far away he is from displaying it on a consistent basis.

But given the choice after a round that was equal parts hat tipping and head scratching, Woods opted to view his opener through rose-colored glasses. And he wasn’t alone in doing so.

“You know, it doesn’t feel like five years ago that he won five tournaments and was the Player of the Year,” McIlroy said. “He remembers how to do this, and his body’s allowing him to do this. And there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll make a little bit of noise this 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.”