Dustin Johnson did something on Sunday that Tiger Woods never did in his dominance of the World Golf Championships events. Johnson beat a game Jon Rahm in the final of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, finishing off a 7-0-0 week with a par on the last hole of their 18-hole match.
With that win, Johnson became the first PGA Tour player to win all four current World Golf Championships events (Woods never won the WGC-HSBC Champions). Johnson has won three WGC events in a row, dating back to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last June after his U.S. Open win. He then took the inaugural WGC-Mexico Championship and this title, now through its second year in Texas. Johnson won the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2013.
Johnson cruised out to a big, early edge in the final. He was 5 up on Rahm, who had a chance to tie Woods for the fewest pro starts to reach the world top 10 with a win, through eight holes. However, Rahm rallied on the back nine, winning four of the first seven holes to bring Johnson’s edge down to a hole.
On the final two holes, Rahm was unable to make a birdie that would have forced sudden death. After driving his ball beyond the green on the 356-yard 18th hole, which he hadn’t seen all week, Rahm was startled by a closing port-a-john door that led to a bad eagle chip. When he couldn’t make a wide-breaking birdie putt, his fate was sealed.
Johnson, now a dominant No. 1, was thrilled to survive on another two-match day that left him exhausted.
“I definitely didn’t play my best today in the first match or the second,” Johnson said. “So to win both those matches not having my best stuff is definitely a positive. And I’m definitely proud of the way I hung in there and played tough and just tried to never give away holes, which I felt like I did a pretty good job of that.”
There’s no doubt Johnson is the clear-and-away favorite to win the Masters in two weeks. Depending on if he remains in the field for next week’s Shell Houston Open, Johnson may well be playing at Augusta National to extend his winning streak to four events. And believe it or not, Johnson thinks he can still improve.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence now. Confidence in my game and confidence in myself,” he said. “And I just need to keep working on it, keep trying to get better and keep working hard.”
Tiger Woods didn’t exactly inspire confidence on Monday that he would be playing in the Masters in a two-and-a-half weeks. Appearing on “Good Morning America” ahead of a book signing for his new book, co-written with Lorne Rubenstein, about his 1997 Masters win, Woods was asked if he would be competing at Augusta National in search of a fifth green jacket win.
“God, I hope so. I’m trying. I’m trying everything to be able to get back and play,” he said. “I love that event. It’s meant so much to me in my life. It has so much history and meaning to me, I’d love to get back.”
What that arsenal looks like that Woods is trying is unclear, though he did tell NBC’s Mike Tirico that he has resumed some sort of golf activity — again, what that exactly might be is left to the imagination.
Woods hasn’t competed since Feb. 2, when he shot 77 in the opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic before withdrawing, citing lower back spasms. Woods pulled out of two more intended starts and has offered no timetable for his return. Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, disputed a Golf Digest report that the 14-time major winner is “doubtful” for the Masters.
Woods told GMA that he is struggling to get his 41-year-old body to get back into playing shape.
“I need to get back physically,” he said. “The mind is sharp. I just need to get the body willing to do it. That’s the hard part, is getting the prep time in. I haven’t been able to get as much prep time in, haven’t been able to train like I used to, practice like I used to, so it’s been harder.”
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The Tiger Woods faithful got a little bit of uplifting news on Sunday from NBC’s Mike Tirico.
During the telecast of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational from Bay Hill in Orlando, Tirico said he had spoken to Woods in recent days, and that Woods had told him he had started resuming “some limited golf activity.”
What’s “limited golf activity?” Who knows. It could be putting, chipping or something light. However, Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte has reported this weekend that he has no awareness of Woods playing full rounds of golf or spending much, if any, time on a golf course in the weeks since Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic citing back spams following an opening 77.
Woods’ representation, Mark Steinberg, tried to shoot down a Golf Digest report from Brian Wacker, in which Wacker cited sources saying it was unlikely Woods would play in the Masters in April.
“I have no idea who Mr. Wacker’s really close sources are. I can tell you this, nobody spoke to him (Wacker); so how he could know something that Tiger and I don’t know is comical,” Steinberg said, according to Rosaforte. “I talked to Tiger four hours ago on the phone. We’re not in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters now.”
Steinberg said Woods is “hoping” he can play in the Masters, which begins in less than three weeks.
Tirico said there is a “legitimate chance” Woods plays in Masters.
At this point, who knows what Woods will do.
Tiger Woods hasn’t played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational since winning the event for the eighth time in 2013. Injuries and surgeries have kept him from trying to win a ninth title at Bay Hill. However, each year he was unable to play, Woods had made a point of personally calling Mr. Palmer and explaining why he can’t compete.
Palmer’s former manager, Alastair Johnson, recalled Wednesday the voicemail Woods sent last year which was particularly touching to the seven-time major winner and tournament host.
“Last year, [Tiger] couldn’t come when he planned on coming,” Johnson said. “And he left a voicemail for Arnold Palmer that we still have on record that wasn’t just an explanation of why he couldn’t be here, but he took it upon himself to talk about Arnold Palmer, to Arnold Palmer, in his voicemail. It was one of the most meaningful monologues I’ve ever heard from anybody, but it represented Tiger’s view on Arnold Palmer and what he has done for him, the game of golf, and for a universe at large.”
Johnson said that voicemail, which wasn’t played, was something Palmer held onto and repeated.
“That (message from Tiger) was something that I can tell you that Arnold listened to and listened to again and again,” he said. “And by the way, it was a long message, and I can tell you this, that what Tiger said to Arnold at that point in time in paying tribute to him, was probably more meaningful to Arnold than the eight victories he won here.”
Woods and Palmer shared quite a bond over the years, developing a friendship that dated back to Woods’ days as an amateur, including buying a dinner for Woods that almost cost him his NCAA eligibility.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played this week for the first time sine the passing of Mr. Palmer last September. While PGA Tour players have been critical of their peers for, in some cases, skipping the event, Ryan Ballengee implores golf to look after the longer-term future of the event in this week’s “The 19th Hole Golf Show” podcast. That could include breaking up the Florida Swing as we know it to make sure Bay Hill has a proper, important place on the calendar.
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File this in the “unfortunate but expected” category:
Tiger Woods will not play next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and has “no timetable” on his return.
“Unfortunately, due to ongoing rest and rehabilitation on my back, I won’t be able to play in this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational,” Woods posted on his website. “I’m especially disappointed because I wanted to be at Bay Hill to help honor Arnold.”
More importantly, “I have no timetable for my return to golf, but my treatments are continuing and going well.”
It’s hard to know what exactly this – “my treatments are continuing and going well” – means. Woods’ return to competitive golf after a 16-month rehabilitation lasted just three rounds (seven if you count his pseudo-exhibition in the Bahamas in January) before his back flared up again. Things apparently were bad enough that he had to pull out of a press conference last month, per doctor’s orders.
The Masters is a month off, and while he stated in January his goal is to be ready to play, it’s doubtful now that he’ll be in Augusta.
So where does that leave him?
For now, providing health updates on his website, where news will only be made when he announces he’s actually playing.
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Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods have a good relationship. They’ve partnered together when representing the United States in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. They were both vice-captains for last year’s victorious American Ryder Cup team, and Woods will be vice-captain again, this time for Stricker on his Presidents Cup team later this year. So, they talk.
That said, Stricker, who has been texting with Woods of late, doesn’t seem all that high on where Woods is in terms of coming back to competitive golf anytime soon.
“He’s working hard at it, but I don’t think he’s doing that well right now physically,” Stricker said, according to Golf Channel.
Stricker hasn’t seen Woods personally. Then again, no one has seen Woods compete since he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic in February after a birdie-free opening 77.
“Just the way he was walking didn’t quite look right. He was walking really gingerly,” Stricker said of watching that round in the United Arab Emirates. “It didn’t really look physically like he was ready to play.”
Woods traveled to the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, even after withdrawing from competing in the event, to conduct some duties as new tournament host. However, Woods twice canceled a news conference, likely knowing the questions would predominantly be about his back and also under advice from doctors to limit physical activity and remain “horizontal.”
Woods’ future is unclear. He typically plays in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, which he has won seven times, and the commitment deadline is Friday. As for the Masters in April, Woods merely has to show up before his tee time on Thursday and play. Stricker seemed to hint those short-term prospects are weak at best.
“Obviously he has to get his body right first before he can compete,” Stricker said. “Then it’s going to take some time I think for him to come back believing in his swing and trusting in his ability again.”
Stricker on U.S. Presidents Cup team:
Tiger Woods has delivered so many awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments on the golf course that it’s really hard to lock down on a good top five, or even top 10, shots in his career. However, Woods has been there for all of them, and he’s got his favorite.
Woods told CNN’s “Living Golf” that his greatest shot in his career is the 3-iron he hit out of a fairway bunker on No. 18 at Hazeltine National in the second round of the 2002 PGA Championship.
“That was the greatest feeling shot I’ve ever hit in my life,” Woods said.
Woods had an awkward stance in the bunker and needed to hit the shot over a close lip, then over a tree precariously close to the ball flight that only he could put on the ball from the lie.
“The wind was blowing about 25-30 mph off the left,” Woods said. “The lip was in front of me, trees were in front of me, [I had a] downhill lie and somehow I hit it — I don’t know how I hit it that solid, that clean, that flush and drew it up against the wind and held it, landed about 20 feet away.”
Woods didn’t win the Wanamaker Trophy that week. Rich Beem shocked the world to win his only major title. However, the 14-time major winner delivered an all-time great recovery shot.
March 03, 2017
Here’s how bad it got for Tiger Woods at his peak.
As David Feherty told it to a group of reporters in Manhattan ahead of the seventh season of “Feherty,” Woods was walking with him down the fairway at a golf tournament, telling a joke. Woods was so concerned about getting scrutiny for what he said — even if it might have been a joke that wasn’t blue — that he said the whole joke while talking down to the ground. As Feherty explained, he was concerned someone could read his lips and would report on the contents of the joke.
It’s an indication of the kind of pressure Woods felt as he was pursing record after record, namely trying to rack up as many major championship wins as Jack Nicklaus. At a time in that run, Woods seemed destined to not only catch Nicklaus but sprint past him. Now? It seems Jack has won.
For his part, Feherty has never pursued Woods as a guest on his show, even as he’s had a who’s-who of golf names on his program. He wants Woods to be on the show when he feels like Woods can be himself, let his guard down and offer some unvarnished candor about his career and accomplishments.
“I just want him to be in the right place, because I don’t want to do a show with him where he has to give padded answers. I don’t want that show,” Feherty said, according to USA Today. “I want him to be the kid that I know. I want him to lose the iron dome. You know, when he first came out, before we followed him from the car to the putting green to the range to the course and back through the press area. Before every time he finished a round we wanted him to stand in front of a microphone and answer questions for 45 minutes every single time that he played, I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.”
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Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods had been on the disabled list of late, so they had some time on their hands to get together and do lunch. You know, just two guys with 18 major championships between them noshing on some lunch.
McIlroy spoke about the lunch ahead of this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, saying Woods was in “good spirits” despite the back spasms that forced him out of the Dubai Desert Classic after one round and prevented him from hosting a news conference when he hosted the Genesis Open.
“I think the good thing is mentally he’s in a good place,” McIlroy said in Mexico City. “He’s got other things in his life that he’s interested in and it’s not as if it’s just golf. He’s got other things and that’s great.”
Though Woods has other businesses, including a burgeoning course-design business, McIlroy, who returns this week from a rib injury suffered in South Africa in January, said Woods is trying to get back to competitive golf, even as his body continues to betray him.
“He struggled with his body over the past couple years and it’s unfortunate because it just won’t allow him to do what he wants to do,” McIlroy said. “It’s tough, but I know that he’s working hard to try and get back.”
McIlroy, who has said he was drawn to golf in part because of Woods’ dominance in his childhood, remains hopeful his hero can get back to some form of competitive golf, as he believes it’s good for the sport.
“However long it is that it takes him to be healthy enough to get out here and play, even if he plays eight to 10 times a year, that’s a bonus for all of us,” he said. “It’s a bonus for him, it’s a bonus for us, it’s a bonus for golf in general just to have him involved, show up, play the majors, play some of the other events that he likes and that he feels that he can compete at. I think golf is obviously better with him involved.”