Big lead, no Tiger making his first run at a major in years and what do you get? A 2.9 for NBC and ratings decline for the 2019 Open Championship.
From SBD’s Austin Karp:
Seaside golf is held to be the best of all because it is associated with gently moving undulations…To be able always to stand true to our ball can have an enormous influence on the truth of the stroke, and this explains much of the difficulty of the greater links and their suitability for the most exacting tests of all.It also possibly explains the failures of players who are undoubtedly fine stroke producers but minimize their chances by spending their days on their own park or otherwise artificial courses. H.N. WETHERED
Big lead, no Tiger making his first run at a major in years and what do you get? A 2.9 for NBC and ratings decline for the 2019 Open Championship.
From SBD’s Austin Karp:
British Open final round dropped around 42% in overnight ratings on NBC. This was coming -- no big names at top of the leaderboard, a big lead for Shane Lowry and a comp to 2018 when Tiger was winning on Sunday. 2019 rating easily lowest for NBC since it reacquired rights in 2016— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) July 22, 2019
Bob Harig reports news of a Woods-McIlroy-Day-Matsuyama Skins Game this fall the same week—mlitzvah!—of the new $9.75 million Zozo Championship in Japan.
The event appears to be part of Woods’ deal with GolfTV and probably seals the fate of a repeat of The Match, last fall’s day-after-Thanksgiving-AT&T synergy play.
While the dollar figures or format are not known, it’s great to see the once-successful format back. Harig writes:
How much this version of a skins game will resemble that is unclear, but this event is part of an agreement Woods has to provide content to GolfTV, an entity that does interviews and other features with Woods at international locations that at this time do not include the United States -- although there are negotiations to have the skins event televised in the U.S. market.
After Tiger’s 78-70 here at Royal Portrush, the inclination is to fret about what may be ailing Tiger Woods.
To put it another way, what ails him now is a far cry from anything we’ve seen in the past. Some rest and rejuvenation are in order.
Blunt assessment of Tiger Woods by Tiger Woods. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story on an opening 76 in The Open:
“I’m just not moving as well as I’d like,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move and, especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right. And I wasn’t hitting it very solidly.”
So much for the draw he had on Sunday. And this…
“Playing at this elite level is a completely different deal,” Woods said. “You’ve got to be spot on. These guys are too good, there are too many guys that are playing well and I’m just not one of them.”
Words that are music to any golf architect’s ear and likely to mean Tiger Woods will be a happy camper if he’s forced to push so many buttons.
Having walked a few holes with his practice pairing alongside Patrick Reed, Tiger was understandably jet-weary from an overnight flight and easing into the round Sunday, but by day’s end appeared to be striking the ball as well as he has lately, with only a couple of quack push-shots. But Tiger Woods otherwise seemed ready and willing to see what he could learn in three days about Royal Portrush, as Steve DiMeglio reports for Golfweek.
Tiger’s attitude toward the course is a good starting place:
“A lot of movement,” Woods said of his initial reaction of the course hard by the North Atlantic in the northern-most tip of the country. “A lot of decisions off the tees, with all the angles. Now, with the wind switching coming out of the south in the future, a lot of these shots we hit today are useless. So we’re trying to figure out what lines to take on and what lines not to take on. And these green complexes are so complicated, you have to miss in the right spot.”
It’s the question on many minds as Tiger returns to the major he nearly won last year and where his creativity, shot shaping and wind-management give him an edge over less-seasoned players.
But as he goes from Pebble Beach to The Open without a start, it’s reasonable to wonder if just waking up at 1 am is enough to get ready. David Feherty thinks so, sort of. Pat Ralph at Golf.com with Feherty’s comments.
“He sticks to a plan,” Feherty said. “I think a good deal of it will depend upon the weather, which I suspect being from there may not be great. We may get some real Open Championship weather. Personally, I kind of hope we do. There’s something traditional or special about playing golf in bad weather. And Tiger typically is not renowned as a bad weather player. I don’t know what sort of shape his back is in for that kind of thing, but I know Freddy [Couples] suffered with it over the years. But the only mistake I’ve ever made about Tiger Woods is underestimating him. He’s an unknown quantity at the moment.”
Bob Harig takes a deeper look into the numbers and considers Tiger’s chances at Portrush for ESPN.com, noting that Woods has never played the week before The Open as a professional. There was this headline-grabber last week from Padraig Harrington:
"I personally think if you're serious about winning The Open, you've got to be playing tournament golf at least before it," two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington said before last week's Irish Open. "You'd rather be playing links golf and being in a tournament than just [playing] on your own, so if you're serious about trying to win the Open, you should be playing at least one, if not two, of the events running into it.
"I was always mightily impressed when Tiger Woods would play in a major without playing the week before. I'd be a basket case if I didn't play the week before."
It should be noted that even when Woods went over early and hung out in Ireland, he was usually playing golf at an inland course and not on a links buddies trip.
I believe the “in the mail” line was probably tongue-in-cheek since this hopefully arrived via a very nice, secure delivery truck. Or not!
Love box it comes in, too…
The wrongful death lawsuit dropped on Tiger’s plate at the PGA Championship will move forward but without Woods as a defendant, reports ESPN.com’s Bob Harig.
The reason is fairly simple: Tiger is not an owner of Woods Jupiter where the young man who bartended there ultimately lost his life in a car accident.
According to Woods' attorney, Barry Postman, Woods invests in but does not own the restaurant.
"The decision was clearly appropriate and reflected the fact that Mr. Woods should not have been included in the lawsuit in the first place because he had nothing to do with Mr. Immesberger's death,'' Postman said in a statement. "While the situation was tragic, the facts will ultimately show that the cause of Mr. Immesberger's car accident were the many decisions made by Mr. Immesberger on the night of his passing.'“
Tiger’s third round 71 left him at even par and out of contention for the 2019 U.S Open, but he praised the balanced setup Saturday.
“I think they did a great job of setting it up so that we can make birdies,” Woods said. “And if you do miss them in the wrong spot then you still can get up and down here, which is not always the case.”
He did admit after the round that the cool conditions have made it harder to get loose. From Bob Harig’s ESPN.com story:
Woods was predictably coy when asked about any physical issues as he wore KT tape -- a therapeutic strip often worn to treat pain -- on his neck, just as he had during The Open at Carnoustie last year.
"When it's cold like this, everything is achy," Woods said. "It's just part of the deal."
I will side with Tiger Woods since he knows what he’s doing and certainly would never want to putt from above the hole at Pebble Beach, but it’s still interesting to consider the best strategy for playing a U.S. Open course. Yesterday in his 2019 US Open press conference, Woods explained his priority in approaching the Pebble Beach poa annua greens:
The trick to putting on poa is to make sure they're always below the hole. If you're putting downhill, it's like a Plinko effect, you're going to go every which way. The key is to be below the hole where you can take low lines and try and take the bumpiness out of play.
Strokes Gained Guru Mark Broadie has been studying the effort to get a ball under the hole now that ShotLink numbers are tracking putts from different parts of greens and is making the case that it all evens out on the greens. Granted, he wasn’t talking about specific grass types, but it’s still fascinating food for thought given modern green speeds and players wanting to be below the hole, even if it does not necessarily apply to Pebble Beach this week.
Simple: It’s very hard, over the course of a full season, for a player to leave himself a lot more easier putts than difficult ones, and vice-versa. Over the course of dozens and dozens of rounds, everything tends to even out. So planning to give yourself more uphill putts than downhill ones isn’t a strategy worth pursuing. No evidence exists to show that players can systematically leave themselves with easier types of eight-footers.
Strokes Gained founder Mark Broadie has developed another stat called scoring volatility and introduces it at Golf.com.
Now, you may say this one tells us what we already knew: some people make a lot of pars and play steady, boring golf. Like Ryan Moore and Billy Horschel, two recent leaders in non-volatility. Others make plenty of birdies and plenty of bogies.
But as with Strokes Gained, Broadie’s managed to craft a statistic allowing us as fans to put the magnificence of a performance into perspective, while also highlighting what may or may not be holding someone back.
So Broadie went back to Tiger’s epic 2000 season and made some amazing calculations. Certainly read the piece for full context, but this is amazing in terms of putting the greatness of a season-long performance into perspective:
That season, Woods made bogey or worse on a mere eight percent of the holes he played. (The PGA Tour average was 19 percent that season.) Tiger also comes out on top on the birdie side of the ledger—again during the 2000 season—where he won nine events, including three majors.
That year, Woods scored birdie or better at an astounding 32 percent clip, 12 percentage points higher than the Tour average.
Tiger Woods appeared to calm those concerned after his PGA missed cut at Bethpage with birdies on 7 of the first 12 at Muirfield Village en route to a 2019 Memorial final round 67 and T9.
From Steve DiMeglio’s story for Golfweek and from Woods bagman Joe LaCava.
“First 12 holes were an absolute clinic,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. He still hit some decent shots coming in. It wasn’t like he played poorly, he just didn’t get anything out of it the last five or six holes.
“He’s certainly going in the right direction with good momentum. I thought the iron play was top-notch today. Definitely some good momentum and positive vibes from both (weekend) days. The quality of shots on a scale of one to 10, I would say were a nine.”
Driving was a strength for the week, reports Bob Harig in his assessment for ESPN.com.
Woods hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens Sunday, needing just 26 putts. For the week, he ranked ninth in strokes gained, approach to the green and 10th in strokes gained tee to green. For the week, he hit 75 percent of the fairways.
I chuckled reading Tiger’s post-third round remarks at the Memorial longing for the old style U.S. Open setups, and criticizing the shifting of tees for variety.
It’s funny how quickly the players have forgotten how much they loathed the Meeks years and high-rough, high-luck setups with little in the way of intelligence required.
From Dylan Dethier’s Golf.com report from Dublin:
“There was a time there where it was a brutal test, and then it became kind of a tricky decision you had to make, trying to bring in more options off the tees or into the greens. The Open has changed. I thought it was just narrow fairways, hit it in the fairway or hack out, move on. Now there’s chipping areas around the greens. There’s less rough. Graduated rough. They’ve tried to make The Open different and strategically different.
“I just like it when there’s high rough and narrow fairways, and go get it, boys.”
Woods singled out Chambers Bay and Torrey Pines as places he did not like the moving of tees from round to round.
Don’t we love when Jack goes into full “get off my lawn” mode?
The Columbus Dispatch’s Joey Kaufman reports on Memorial Tournament host Jack Nicklaus, kicking off the week, getting asked about Tiger Woods sitting on the cusp of Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour wins.
If Nicklaus was dismissive about the possible feat, it mostly stemmed from how he felt the PGA Tour tallied its tournament wins. He professed to have little idea.
“I don’t know how you add up tournaments anymore,” Nicklaus said. “Every time I go to some place, winner of 113 tournaments, winner of 110 tournaments, I don’t know how many I won. It depends on how many the Tour is taking away or giving me.
“They change their mind every year about what they’re going to count. So I don’t know what’s what. No one in the world could know how many tournaments Sam Snead won.”
Actually, it isn’t quite that simple.
Check out Laury Livsey’s fascinating piece detailing the history of PGA Tour win counts and how the 82 number was settled on. This should give you an idea how much thought was put into the tally as it relates to Snead:
Yet even those additions cause heartburn for some today, with the 1937 tournament an 18-hole affair, the ’38 and ’41 tournaments 36-hole events and the 1950 “Crosby” a 54-hole tournament, declared a tie, with Snead, Jack Burke Jr., Smiley Quick and Dave Douglas. All earned official-victory designations because darkness set in on the final day without a winner emerging, and a next-day playoff was out of the question because of the players’ travel requirements.
In addition to the four “Crosby” wins, the committee also bestowed official wins on Snead for his 1952 and 1957 Palm Beach Round Robin titles, already crediting him with Round Robin victories in 1938, 1954 and 1955.
Because of the new standard defined by the panel, though, the committee elected to remove nine tournament titles from Snead’s official-win total, most notably his Greenbrier Invitational victories in 1952, 1953, 1958, 1959 and 1961, the latter two tournaments played at The Greenbrier but renamed the Sam Snead Festival. Also gone from his tally were the 1952 Julius Boros Open, the 1940 Ontario Open, the 1942 Cordoba Open and the 1953 Texas Open, which the record book credited Snead with winning, a tournament actually won by Tony Holguin. That Snead received credit for winning the San Antonio tournament meant the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR essentially perpetuated an error for many years.
Tiger Woods was in good spirits to kick off his return to Bethpage Black and the 2019 PGA Championship, touching on an array of topics from Olympic golf (nice if it happens) to the state of his game and the Black Course. Steve DiMeglio with the full round-up here for Golfweek.
Two quotes stood out in his comments.
Q. You haven't gone major to major without playing all that often in your career, but as you look ahead now, is it something you might consider doing more often? And just sort of how do you weigh the need for reps versus the need for rest at this point?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's a great question because the only other time where I've taken four weeks off prior to major championships is going from the British Open to the PGA. Usually that was my summer break, and take those four weeks off and then get ready for the PGA, Firestone and the fall. So I'm always looking for breaks. Generally it's after the Masters I used to take four weeks off there. Now, with the condensed schedule, it's trying to find breaks.
You know, I wanted to play at Quail Hollow, but to be honest with you, I wasn't ready yet to start the grind of practicing and preparing and logging all those hours again. I was lifting -- my numbers were good. I was feeling good in the gym, but I wasn't mentally prepared to log in the hours.
Ok first we had players wanting to his certain Trackman numbers. Now gym numbers?
Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. That's going to be the interesting part going forward; how much do I play and how much do I rest. I think I've done a lot of the legwork and the hard work already, trying to find my game over the past year and a half. Now I think it's just maintaining it. I know that I feel better when I'm fresh. The body doesn't respond like it used to, doesn't bounce back quite as well, so I've got to be aware of that.
And this seemed to be a nice statement for those leading the game who insist there is nothing wrong with five hour rounds, or slow play in general.
Q. Tiger, more minorities and young women are taking up the sport than before because of all of the initiatives in place, but that isn't reflected in the college participation numbers. Asians are the only minorities that are showing an increase. What do you think is happening? Why aren't the kids who are taking up the game sticking with it?
TIGER WOODS: You know, that's the question for all of us that's been a difficult one to figure out, to put our finger on. The First Tee has done an amazing job of creating facilities and creating atmospheres for kids to be introduced to the game, but also have some type of sustainability within the game.
But it's difficult. There are so many different things that are pulling at kids to go different directions. Golf is just merely one of the vehicles.
Now, with today's -- as I said, there's so many different things that kids can get into and go towards that honestly playing five hours, five and a half hours of a sport just doesn't sound too appealing. That's one of the things that we've tried to increase is the pace of play and try and make sure that's faster, because most of us in this room, if you've gone probably five minutes without checking your phone, you're jonesing. Kids are the same way; five hours on a golf course seems pretty boring.
Given the dreadful weekend forecast, those wondering if Tiger would get enough scouting in at Bethpage can rest assured after he turned up there Wednesday. Rest assured.
At least it looks that way based on his shorts and fluid swing and lovely solitude, though I’m sure there were plenty of hard working folks setting up infrastructure and trying to get the turf ready. Or maybe shooting some video!
Riggs of Barstool Sports posted this exclusive:
Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger provides some on-site observations from Tiger Woods’ Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House. He reminds us that it was just five years ago these two were cutting the ribbon on a Woods villa at Doral.
Woods is studiously apolitical. He takes his cues not from Steph Curry but from Michael Jordan. Why he said nothing about his foundation work or learning from his past mistakes is hard to imagine – he had tens of millions watching – but what he did say was heartfelt, that was clear.
Anyway, this country, which takes so many of its cues, social and sporting and otherwise, from Great Britain, does ceremony well, and Monday night at the Rose Garden was pure ceremony. Dozens of cameramen filed out of the grungy White House press briefing room, as crowded and stifling as an inter-island commuter plane, and setup their cameras beyond the white ropes that defined the seating area. The band played “Hail to the Chief.” Tiger was referred to as “Eldrick.”
Also of note, Woods controlled the guest list that was mercifully free of representatives from golf’s major families.
The full ceremony as it aired on Golf Channel:
I’m ambivalent on Tiger Woods receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the grand scheme of world issues. It’s an award. A special one at that. And he probably would have gotten it at some point in his life.
The timing seems odd a week before the second major of 2019 given that Woods seems to be back into his win-at-all-costs mode and in a year he has a phenomenal chance to pick off another major or…three.
But he’s only mildly superstitious compared to other athletes, and it’s not exactly an award you can ask to be delayed. Nor is it a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.
The timing could also be viewed as a negative given that Woods should receive this award both for his contributions to sport and culture, but also because of the foundation he has established with already-tangible results in changing lives. So far, it seems like his charitable work has been getting little play in the build-up to today’s 6 pm ET ceremony from the White House (that will be carried live on Golf Channel).
In today’s NY Times front page story by Annie Karni and Kevin Draper, the odd business ties between Woods and Donald Trump are revisited, as are some of the past ties between presidents and medal recipients.
But by honoring him, the president leaves the appearance of using his office to reward a business partner.
“Tiger Woods is obviously a very talented golfer,” said Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a watchdog group. But Mr. Trump awarding him the Medal of Freedom “shows he’s willing to use any tool of government to benefit his business and political allies.”
The White House defended Mr. Woods’s selection. “The president thinks Tiger is not only a tremendous athlete but also has a great comeback story,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “He is undisputed as one of the great golfers in history and has broken barriers in the game.”
Both the story and the press secretary never once mention the Woods foundation efforts. Again, not a huge shock and maybe not appropriate until the ceremony takes place, but it’s also a disappointing element to what should be a primary reason for receiving this prestigious medal. If it ends up just being a chance for the President to enjoy positive attention off of Woods’ Masters win, that will be a shame.
The Morning Drive gang’s discussion touched on the Medal making Earl Woods’ declaration many years ago look a bit more prophetic:
Only once in his career has Tiger Woods gone from major to major without a known injury or death in the family. That makes his decision to pass up next week’s Quail Hollow PGA Tour stop a bit jarring since he’s now going straight from his Masters win to the next major. This year, it’s the first-ever May PGA Championship.
No one expects him to add the PGA’s preceding AT&T Byron Nelson for a litany of obvious reasons, meaning he will turn up at Bethpage having gone 31 days between competitive rounds.
“The Masters took a lot out of him,” agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN.com’s Bob Harig. “He’s still digesting and appreciating what happened.”
Since Tiger has generally played better fresh than in the middle of an extensive run, he’s signaling more than ever that majors are all that matters. This should not be a surprise, nor should it be criticized. He is an all-time great looking to become the all-time greatest, and while the 82-win plateau is a fantastic accomplishment getting a heavy push from the PGA Tour’s marketing arm, 18 is the number he’s looking to surpass.
Tiger is enough of a historian to know that Ben Hogan reached a point after his accident to realize the limitations of his body, mind and desire.
In the first year back from the accident, Hogan played nine times with two starts after winning the U.S. Open that meant nothing: the Palm Beach Round Robin and the Motor City Open.
After 1950 when he pushed himself and was a little unlucky—Hogan had to return to Riviera for an 18-hole playoff a week after the event was scheduled—he cut back significantly. Hogan’s starts after 1950 were severely curtailed to protect his mind and body.
He played four times in 1951, three times in 1952 and eight times in 1953, though two of those starts were the Seminole and Palmetto Pro-Am’s.
Hogan returned to four-start seasons in 1954 and again in 1955, then played even more sporatic schedules after that.
While Woods’s win at the 2018 Tour Championship gave him the confidence to savor most of the off-season and devote his early 2019 to protecting energy levels, he has not forgotten that last year’s grueling playoff run caused him to lose weight and push his body too hard. He signaled with his pass on Quail Hollow that he won’t be making that mistake again.
Tiger will not be cutting back to Hogan levels but if he keeps winning majors, he will keep passing on PGA Tour events.
The PGA Tour’s new condensed schedule requires such an approach for a player at his age, with his track record of playing well off a break. His bank account also allows him to not care about “chasing points” or grinding at Quail Hollow, a course he once liked but but seems to have less affinity for after multiple renovations and tedious walks to new back tees.
Just as Hogan limited his exposure to stress, Woods is managing his 2019 at the expense of regular PGA Tour events with majors in mind. History says he’s making the right move.
We had a good sense he was headed there when GOLFTV’s CEO revealed a likely exhibition match would be played there this fall and Tiger Woods made the news official of an October appearance in Japan.
As Bob Harig notes for ESPN.com, this will be Tiger’s first-ever appearance in a pre-January official PGA Tour event.
The ZOZO Championship will have a $9.75 million purse, with a field of 78 players and no 36-hole cut. Woods last appeared in an official event in Japan at the 2006 Dunlop Phoenix, in which he lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.
Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, told ESPN.com during the Masters two weeks ago that a likely destination for exhibition matches as part of the GolfTV deal was Japan, where Woods would possibly take on another player or invite a series of players for a one-day competition, format to be determined. That would not have any impact on future matches that involve Phil Mickelson.
There’s a load off!
More importantly, Tiger is committed to Japan in October. How about Charlotte in the first week of May? No word yet from the Masters champion. He has until Friday evening to commit.
Geoff Shackelford is a Senior Writer for Golfweek magazine, a weekly contributor to Golf Channel's Morning
Copyright © 2018, Geoff Shackelford. All rights reserved.