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The Final Word on Tiger's Achievement
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NFL Quiz: In a few weeks, the Jets are honoring the 1968 Super Bowl Champion team at MetLife Stadium, so this 50-year anniversary has me going back to that season and in the NFL Championship, the Colts beat the Browns, 34-0, to earn the right to face Joe Willie and the Jets. In the first round Cleveland had beaten Dallas 31-20.
Name the leading QB, RB, TE, WR, and Kicker on that ’68 Browns team that went 10-4 in the regular season. Answer below.
MLB....the stretch run....cue Archie Bell and the Drells and “Tighten Up,” as the Mets’ Keith Hernandez would say...outstanding profile of “Gary, Keith and Ron” in the New York Times, by the way....
N.L. Central (thru Tues.)
Milwaukee 91-67... 0.5
Milwaukee plays Detroit this weekend; Chicago plays St. Louis.
Los Angeles 88-70
Colorado 87-70... 0.5
Colorado has won five in a row and plays Washington this weekend; L.A. plays San Francisco.
N.L. Wild Card
Milwaukee 91-67... +3.5
Colorado 87-70... --
St. Louis 87-71... 0.5
St. Louis has lost two straight to Milwaukee.
A.L. Wild Card
New York 97-60... +2.5
Oakland 95-63... –
The Yankees beat Tampa Bay on Tuesday, 9-2, as catcher Gary Sanchez had two hits, including a big three-run homer. New York desperately needs to get him on track. He could carry the team for a long spell if he gets hot.
The Athletics, though, suffered a big loss last night, 10-8 to the Mariners in 11 innings to fall back in the race to host the one-game playoff.
The A’s had clinched their berth against New York with a 7-3 win over the Mariners, Monday night, their first postseason appearance since 2014, but fourth in the past seven years, this with a major league-low $62 million payroll. Billy Beane does it again.
Oakland is 61-27 since June 15.
--Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius was diagnosed with a torn cartilage in his right wrist, suffered sliding into home on Saturday for the game-winning – and playoff-clinching run – in the 11th inning. It’s an injury that should keep him out generally from two to four weeks, but Gregorius is still saying he would play in the one-game playoff against the A’s. [Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks are also now nursing supposedly minor injuries...held out Tuesday.]
Should they win the game and proceed on to play the Red Sox, they desperately need Didi back, he of the 27 home runs and 86 RBI, plus solid play in the field.
--Monday, the Red Sox won their 106th game of the season, breaking the mark of the 1912 World Series championship club that went 105-47. [It’s the most regular-season wins in baseball since the 116-win Seattle Mariners of 2001.]
But now, boy the pressure is on Boston to win it all. Whoever wins the A’s-Yanks playoff will have no pressure on them when they go to Beantown.
Boston starter David Price will sure feel the pressure. He’s been superb since the All-Star break, posting a 2.00 ERA, and putting together his best stretch since joining the Red Sox as a $217 million free agent in 2016.
But he still has to deal with a career 5.03 ERA in 17 postseason appearances, second worst in history for any pitcher with at least 60 postseason innings to his name, trailing only longtime Red Sox knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield, who had a 6.75 ERA in 72 innings. Eegads.
By contrast, Clayton Kershaw, for all the talk about his lackluster postseason performance, has an ERA of 4.35, which nonetheless haunts him, especially compared with his 2.38 regular-season career mark...and against the man he’s always compared to in L.A., Sandy Koufax, who by contrast had a 0.95 postseason ERA in 57 innings.
--Max Scherzer entered Tuesday night’s start needing 10 strikeouts to reach 300, and he hit it on the number in seven innings of one-run ball, picking up his 18th win in the process, 9-4 over Miami.
He’s just the sixth pitcher to hit 300 strikeouts since 1990: Randy Johnson (six times), Curt Schilling (three), Pedro Martinez (2), Clayton Kershaw and, last season, Chris Sale.
So Scherzer kept his Cy Young Award hopes, improving to 18-7, 2.53.
--Kind of incredible that in his seventh season, though still only age 25, Bryce Harper has his first 100-RBI season. Then again, in only four of the seven campaigns has he played a full season due to injury. I would not give this guy the 10-year, $350-$400 million contract that he will be seeking in free agency. [Ditto Manny Machado.]
Harper did reach 100 runs scored last night, so he has 101 runs, 100 RBI and 129 BB. His OPS has improved to .892, slightly below his career .900 pace.
--Shohei Ohtani announced he will have Tommy John surgery next week in Los Angeles, Dr. Neal ElAttrache performing the procedure.
“I am disappointed at the fact I am not going to be able to pitch next season but I’m trying to take positives out of negatives,” Ohtani said through his interpreter after Tuesday’s game.
Ohtani fully expects to be able to hit next season. He’s batting .280 with 21 home runs and 57 RBIs.
The Angels were 7-3 when Ohtani took the mound, as he pitched to a 3.31 ERA in his 10 starts.
Tiger Woods, part II
As I’ve done with every big story for nearly 20 years, Tiger Woods’ triumph Sunday gets the full treatment.
Joel Beall / Golfworld
“It wasn’t the tap-in or ensuing raised arms from Tiger Woods that signaled the unbelievable just occurred. Not that security said, the hell with it, allowing thousands of fans to march with him down the 18th fairway to a deafening ovation that gave anyone with a pulse goose bumps. No, it was over when the sign bearers, charged with carrying the roaming score board inside the ropes, exchanged high fives after Tiger’s par putt on the 17th disappeared.
“They are supposed to be stoic, sign bearers, to do their duty with impartiality. That waved bye-bye the moment Tiger’s save sent a boom across East Lake, across the sport.
“Not that anyone cared. Who could be stoic at a moment like this?
“ ‘This is crazy,’ said Jack, one of the sign bearers. Echoed Cameron, the other: ‘There’s so many people. Never seen anything close to this.’
“Neither has golf....
“ ‘It’s certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I’ve won, Players, World Golf Championships. But this is under different circumstances,’ Woods said, fighting back tears ‘You know, I’ve explained throughout the year that I just didn’t know whether – when this would ever happen again. If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt like I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn’t know if I could piece together a golf swing.
“But somehow I’ve been able to do that, and here we are.’”
There was a time, not so long ago, that Tiger used a bedpan because “his body was so wrecked, he couldn’t make the 10 steps to the bathroom.”
“ ‘Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn’t want to live like that,’ Woods said....
“Maybe that explains why this comeback, this Tiger, has been different. Woods has been the biggest draw since he told the world ‘Hello’ 22 years ago. But he wasn’t loved like Arnie, or hallowed like Jack. The only reason ‘Tiger vs. Phil’ was a thing is because Mickelson engendered such a strong rapport with fans. A rapport Tiger had no interest in building or maintaining.
“Not in 2018. His guard has lowered, ever so slightly, finally figuring out fans don’t want a piece of him. They want to be with him, good times and bad. He’s not as defensive, and quicker to smile. Maybe the fans have changed too, more appreciative of the greatness they took for granted. The acknowledgment by both parties has spurred an interesting dynamic, fans treating his rounds with welcome, excitement, genuine love. Tiger, for the first time in forever, reciprocating the sentiment.
“Which made his march up the 18th so apropos, Woods and the people, walking together as one....
“Perhaps this is the new reality, Tiger Woods back to being Tiger Woods. If you’re one for recency bias, evidence is in your corner. Or win No. 80 might be it. As Tiger’s past has proved, the present is no guarantee of the future.
“That’s a discussion for another time. What matters in this moment is what happened Sunday, to Tiger, to all of us. When his final putt found the bottom of the cup, arms went up. Tiger Woods was a winner once more. Off the green, Cameron and Jack could be seen smiling.
“We all were.”
John Feinstein / Golfworld
“There was something exactly right about Tiger Woods finishing the tournament portion of the 2017-’18 PGA Tour season by winning the Tour Championship for his first win in more than five years. Brooks Koepka won two major titles, Patrick Reed won a taut Masters and Francesco Molinari was brilliant on Sunday at the Open Championship. Yet for many people in golf – notably TV executives, much of the media and certainly most fans – this year was about Woods....
“For a 42-year-old player who has had seven surgeries, Woods had an absolutely extraordinary year: one victory; two seconds; seven top-10s; 12 top-25s and 15 cuts made in 17 events. That’s stunning for a player who last won in 2013 and came into the year not having made a PGA Tour cut since August 2015.
“Still, to compare that player in any way to the Tiger Woods who won 14 majors in his first 11 ½ seasons on tour and won his 79th tournament (in Akron) a little more than five years ago is like comparing that win in Akron to Woods’ 12-shot win at the Masters in 1997. One was good – even very good. The other was historic.
“The historic Tiger Woods is gone and may not be seen again ever in golf. But don’t take that as a slight. This Tiger Woods, the one who captivated the crowd at East Lake even with closing one-over 71, is still a sight to behold because of where he’s been in the last nine years.
“He’s fought injuries and he’s fought his better instincts. He made a complete mess of his personal life and embarrassed himself on more than one occasion away from the golf course. He’s gone through swing changes and swing coaches the way Mickey Rooney once went through wives. And even though he smiles more often now and deals with bad rounds much better, he remains someone who calls his yacht Privacy for a reason.
“That said, it was nice to see the genuine emotion he showed after this victory. There were tears, and they were real. Clearly, it meant a lot to him, and the cheers from the crazed crowd brought a real smile to his face.
“It will be fascinating now to see how he performs in the Ryder Cup this coming week outside of Paris. The old Tiger Woods – actually, more accurately, the young Woods – could barely bring himself to care about the matches. Woods has been part of one winning American team as a player – in 1999 – in six Ryder Cup appearances. His record is 13-17-1, remarkably poor when compared to what his career has been. Years ago, it was David Feherty who said, ‘When Tiger was in kindergarten, his teacher wrote, ‘does not play well with others,’ on his report card.’...
“(But) if Woods plays as well in France as he has played during the tournament season, the U.S. should be a tough out – even on European soil, where it hasn’t won since 1993....
“To focus on what Woods may or may not do next year or in the next few years is, at least at this moment, missing the point. The greatest comeback in golf history was Ben Hogan’s return from a near-fatal car accident in February 1949 to win the U.S. Open 16 months later and five more major championships after that. Woods’ comeback is more complex because a good deal of it was self-inflicted. But to come back from seven surgeries, including back-fusion surgery that was a last ditch attempt to get him back on the golf course, to play this well, is extraordinary.
“One need not compare it to Hogan. Apples and oranges. Different circumstances; different time; different world. Both are worthy of great respect, perhaps even awe. Tom Watson almost won the Open Championship six weeks shy of turning 60 – 26 years after his last major victory. That surely should garner some attention.
“Outside of golf, seven years after he had last won a major championship, Jimmy Connors made it to the U.S. Open tennis semifinals at age 39 – which is considerably older in tennis than 42 is in golf. He didn’t win, but like Woods this year, played well enough to make those two weeks memorable.
“Watson and Connors made their stunning comebacks in one tournament, not over an entire year. Gordie Howe returned to the NHL at 51 when the Hartford Whalers of the defunct WHA joined the league, and he played in all 80 games, scoring 15 goals....
“Muhammad Ali was denied 3 ½ years of his peak as a boxer because he refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and came back to beat George Foreman to win back the heavyweight championship at age 32.
“There are, of course, other comeback stories across sports. But what Woods has accomplished this year certainly belongs high on any list of great comebacks.”
Kyle Porter / CBS Sports
“Golf is a game of questions.
“Tiger Woods has always provided the most precise and efficient answers. He has given them in the rain. He has given them in the heat. He has given them under the greatest duress. His answers have always usurped those of everyone else in attendance. They were not binary, per se, even though this game seems like it can be. The answers of his colleagues were good, but Woods’ answers are the ones that made everyone else gasp. He was (and is) a genius.
“For the last five years, though, Woods went silent. Questions persisted – as they always have and will until the end of time – but this thoroughbred put his palms up and shrugged. He had not forgotten how to answer, he simply did not possess the physical capability to do so.
“Back surgery after back surgery laid him so low that the concept of getting out of bed seemed a Herculean task on par with anything Woods had ever accomplished on the course. We thought he was done. He thought he was done....
“I’ve mentioned this moment before, so apologies for going to the well again, but it seems apropos given what we saw on Sunday. When Secretariat torched the field at the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Jack Nicklaus – smack in the middle of his own field torching at every major in the 1970s – was overcome with emotion.
“When Secretariat entered the stretch alone, and kept coming and coming – and he was still alone – the country wept for joy without knowing why. Also alone in his Florida home, golfer Jack Nicklaus found himself on all fours in front of a TV set, pounding his fists into the carpet and crying.
“ ‘I don’t know why I did that,’ he later told the writer and actor Heywood Hale Broun, who thought he knew the reason. ‘It’s because you’ve spent your entire life searching for absolute perfection,’ Broun said, ‘and you finally saw it.’ That’s what Secretariat represented: perfection.
“It seems such an elusive and ambiguous quality: perfection. So when we catch a glimmer, it can be transformative.
“Tiger Woods is as perfect a golfer as anyone in history ever has been or ever will be. He does not have all of the answers, but on Sunday for four hours – and specifically for one final hole – he reminded us of what perfection looks like. Not for a single round – a 1-over 71 isn’t taking anyone’s breath away – but for the entire arc of a career.
“As Woods descended the hill on No. 18 at East Lake and bobbed in and out of a delirious ball of phones and flesh, he didn’t say much. He didn’t need to. The scene delivered a full-throated response to five years’ worth of chatter:
“Yes, Tiger Woods is still great. Yes, there’s still hope.”
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports
“There were children lining the fairways at East Lake Golf Club who hadn’t been born the last time it was like this, men whose beards had grown grey and young adults with only faint memories of what it felt like to watch the greatest sports phenomenon of their lifetime in his prime.
“And as Tiger Woods crushed his tee shot down the 18th fairway Sunday, all of them had had enough. Enough of being told to be quiet, enough of being constrained by ropes and golf etiquette. This is the South, after all, where it’s practically expected to rush onto the field following the biggest wins.
“Even Woods was caught smiling as he looked back and staying in the moment as a sea of humanity flooded the fairway behind him. Just like the field behind Woods this week, the security guards had no chance. As thousands of people drew closer, all of them chanting ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ one of Atlanta’s elite golf clubs had suddenly turned into a scene straight out of a football game at Auburn or Clemson.
“But who cares about decorum when Woods just won his first tournament in five years?
“ ‘This was different,’ Woods said, acknowledging that the scene on the final hole was unlike anything he experienced in his previous 79 career victories. ‘I guess it’s different now because the art of clapping is gone. You can’t clap with a cell phone in your hand, so people yell.’
“It may be the best description yet for why Woods’ comeback is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and why the emotion following him at every tournament this summer hasn’t been so intense.
“In sports, we are used to eras ending, legends fading and passing the best parts of those memories down to the next generation while lamenting they never got to see that kind of greatness for themselves.
“Until Sunday, that was going to be how we told the Woods story. It had been a long, long time since he was the most invincible athlete on the planet, and for the generation just now old enough to understand what it means to see that red shirt stalking the fairways on a Sunday, the idea that victory was inevitable had only been the stuff of fuzzy YouTube clips. As Woods acknowledged, his own children, ages 11 and 9, didn’t really understand ‘what their dad can do on a golf course’ until he contended in the final round of the British Open two months ago....
“Back in the old days, you’d wait and wait for someone to take a run at Woods after he had grabbed control of a tournament, and usually his opponents felt so much pressure to hit perfect shots they just fell apart.
“It was hard not to think about that Sunday as McIlroy, who started three behind, carded 74 and sprayed shots all over DeKalb County. The only moment of pressure Woods faced came on 17 when his lead shrunk from five shots to two over Billy Horschel, but one good chip and a four-foot putt was good enough.
“As has been the case with Woods over the last few years, the great unknown is whether his body will allow this feeling to last. He’ll be 43 soon, and someone who has endured surgery after surgery only has so many comebacks in them. It wasn’t so long ago, he said, that he wondered if he was going to be able to do anything – much less play golf – without experiencing brutal pain....
“Given where Woods started when he came back to competitive golf last December, with moderate expectations and a spine that had been fused together, ending his season with a victory like this was amazing. But now after Tiger is officially back, it certainly seems more like the beginning of his last chapter than the end of his story.”
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“For Woods to recover and revive himself – he’s played very well for much of the back half of the season – is an improbable bite of sports deliciousness. It’s what sports fans spent Monday talking about (well, that and New England Patriots schadenfreude). It’s like getting an unexpected present, which is the best kind of present. Confident, championship Woods is the Woods everyone hopes to see. And we’re actually seeing it once more.
“My recommendation? Savor this. Watch Tiger whenever possible (his 2018 season is done, but he’s got the Ryder Cup coming). Go in person if you can. Appreciate Woods’ comeback as a fragile resource, because it probably is. I don’t know what is coming next, but it won’t resemble this. For golf, there is no replacement plan. There’s only one Tiger Woods.”
Chuck Culpepper / Washington Post
“The roars swept around the place in gales, occasionally almost Southeastern Conference in their sound. Onlookers packed three-, four- and 10-deep at the ropes, their T-shirts bearing slogans such as ‘The Return,’ and ‘He’s Back,’ and ‘If Anyone Can,’ plus the familiar ‘Make Sunday Great Again.’ Woods’ at-last win happened to come before galleries rich in the gear of Georgia (Bulldogs), Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, the Atlanta Braves and the Masters, before children in Julio Jones jerseys. Horizon after horizon around the course proved compelling for the sheer, populous depth of feeling. The people wanted to witness a slice of golf history, but they also seemed to comprehend, for one thing, the value of struggle.”
Brian Costa / Wall Street Journal
“In his long list of victories, there were some that counted for more and some that looked more impressive. But none were anywhere remotely as improbable as this one.
“Tiger Woods, engineer of golf’s most spectacular ascent and author of its most dramatic downfall, has pulled off one of sports’ greatest revivals....
“Woods is writing his third act. His first was legendary, including 14 major championships. His second was painful, from the sex scandal that ended his marriage to the injuries that rendered him a morose shell of his former self. His third act continues. Next weekend in France, Woods will represent the U.S. in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012.
“It’s easy to chalk up his comeback to the sport he plays. Golf has historically allowed for greater longevity than many other sports. But viewing his win through that lens alone ignores what made it to unlikely.
“Few golfers have been as debilitated by major injuries and returned to win tournaments. Woods may not have one-upped Ben Hogan... But there isn’t much precedent for what he has done....
“The win added a degree of clarity to the question that has hung over Woods for years: How would it end?
“Would there be some storybook finish to his career, as befitted one of the greatest athletes ever? A major championship in twilight? Or would the last decade be it: scandal, injuries, fade to black?
“The ending, as it turns out, has yet to be written.”
Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
“If we’re being honest, who thought they would ever see Woods win another golf tournament when he was seen on that Florida dash-cam video on Memorial Day weekend in 2017, so stoned on pharmaceutical painkillers that he was incoherent and unable to walk a straight line for the officers who discovered him slumped over his Mercedes steering wheel on the side of the road with the car running?
“Sunday was not a good day for the Tiger haters who vowed, hoped and prayed that he would never win again.
“Whether you like Woods or you don’t, whether you embrace what he’s done for the game or will never forgive him for his sins off the golf course, it’s difficult to come up with any argument against this being one of the more remarkable comebacks in golf history.
“No, make that in sports history....
“(Unlike Ben Hogan’s), Woods’ comeback has been about so much more than physical issues. You could make the argument that his comeback was far more psychological than it was physical – not to downplay how debilitating his back issues were.
“But Woods has overcome the years of embarrassment that have followed him like a virus as a result of his public marital infidelities.
“The scene Sunday at East Lake was incredible...
“There was a time – most of his prime – when Woods was interested only in winning major championships and chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
“Sunday’s win, because of the litany of calamity that has transpired in his life, felt like a major championship to Woods – maybe even better than any green jacket he’s ever slipped over his shoulders or claret jug he’s ever hoisted.
“ ‘It’s certainly up there with all the major championships I’ve won,’ Woods said. ‘I didn’t know if this would ever happen again.’
“Make no mistake: This has been building.
“Woods hadn’t been taking baby steps toward this first victory. He’d been taking giant-sized steps.
“He’d spent all season showing flashes of his old self. But Woods was never able to put it all together for four consecutive rounds.
“Until the past four days at East Lake.”
Eamonn Sweeney / Irish Independent
“Tiger’s career had been derailed by injury but many insisted his transgressions against the sacred institution of matrimony were at the root of his problems. Race played a part in this. The country club republicans who run golf and are its most visible supporters stateside saw Woods’ fall from grace as proof he’d never really belonged.
“They kicked him when he was down in the knowledge they’d never have to worry about Tiger again. Corporate sponsors melted treacherously away. These days, America’s best known golfer is in the White House, and the moral panic seems bizarre. Woods got no mulligans on account of personal behavior.
“But the fans stayed true. When he had a putt to force a play-off in the Valspar Championship on the night of March 11, the spontaneous outpouring of affection was extraordinary. Golf was major world news again. In that moment it was obvious no golfer had replaced Tiger in the affections of the general public....
“For all the excellence of Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, they never caught the public imagination like Woods did. The game underwent a charisma bypass in his absence. All those technically brilliant and utterly bland young Americans merged together in the mind. Most of them could walk down a main street without anyone batting an eyelid. You can’t imagine an ad where a little kid says: ‘I am Brooks Koepka.’
“Golf needs Tiger if it’s to escape the country club ghetto. The reaction to his comeback tells you just how great the need is. No major in recent years engendered the same excitement as this week’s Tour Championship. The erstwhile moralizers will have to learn to love Tiger again. Or at least pretend to....
“Critics speak of the Late Style of great artists. It’s there in the final string quartets of Beethoven, plays of Shakespeare and paintings of Rembrandt. These works are not as spectacular as the masterpieces from the creator’s heyday. But the memory of lessons learned and obstacles overcome lends them great emotional depth.
“That happens in sport too. Ali couldn’t move as fast as he used to when he met Foreman in Kinshasa but the smarts and toughness he’d picked up along the way got him through. Now we’re seeing the flowering of Tiger’s Late Style.
“How far can it take him? There’s no more interesting question in sport right now. This might yet become the greatest comeback of them all.”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“No one wants to fall. We dread it. Especially because there are so many ways in life to fall. How far will that drop truly be? What damage will we discover that we have suffered once we land? What if the blame is our own?
“Will our plummet be measured in physical injuries, in a broken leg or three reconstructive knee surgeries, in the agonies of enduring intractable disk ruptures that will barely allow us to move for months? As we heal from, say, four back surgeries, might we not become addicted to painkillers? Where might that lead?
“Tiger Woods, who won a golf tournament Sunday for the first time in 1,876 days, knows all about that.
“If we fall but the damage is not just physical, what else might get smashed? The body can break, but so can the spirit or the character. We can even lose that most basic belief in ourselves: that we deserve to rise again.
“In those other falls, will the damage be primarily to our careers, to our families, to a marriage, to our public reputations or perhaps to our ability to use the skill that we love best and that defines us most? Who could endure losing more than one or two of those? Who could suffer them all, some his own doing?
“Yet Woods, who led the Tour Championship by five shots at one point Sunday but won by only two, finishing with two late bogeys as the crowd at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta loved him toward the finish line, knows about them all, rolled together.
“On Sunday, Tiger rose. It has taken 10 years, but finally everyone, or almost everyone, understands that what distinguishes Woods, what has brought him some dignity – and finally a great deal of it – is his will to get back up after all his falls....
“Was this the greatest individual comeback in the history of sports?
“Some will mention the four years when Muhammad Ali was stripped of the world heavyweight title because of his objections to the Vietnam War....
“Others will point out that Ben Hogan was almost killed by a bus in a car accident but that, after many injuries and a long recovery, he returned to win the U.S. Open. Magic Johnson came back to play in the NBA for a year after an HIV diagnosis. And his return to full recovery, and long years of good health, helped de-stigmatize HIV and inspired sufferers. This year, Serena Williams returned from life-threatening surgery to have yet another great tennis season.
“However, it is unlikely that any of these great athletes checked so many of the Tiger Woods boxes that no one ever wants to check.
“That is, when Woods truly finishes his comeback – in the terms that he has always insisted upon.
“Hogan won more majors after his crash and Ali more titles after his ban. No one has been through so many different kinds of falls – nor from so high to so low.
“Only four months ago, the idea of a gloriously historic Woods comeback in a major, not just discouraging feint, was as shaky as Woods’ own game at his lowest points. Since then, he has contended at the U.S. Open and finished second at the PGA Championship.
“Nothing as improbable as Woods winning another major should be taken for granted. But now the watch is well and truly on and totally deserved. If that day comes, we can try to frame and define it then.
“For now, Tiger, who seemed a solitary, hidden and even lonely legend when he fell, has gotten to the top for a day. And the number of hands reaching to help him, to understand and truly get to know him, must astound him.
“This day speaks wonderfully for him. But not so badly for all those lining his fairways, bonded by our families and our hopes that we can help each other rise.”
Justin Rose: “It’s great for the sport, great for the game. He truly moves the needle like no one else out here, and he wins in style. He wins with charisma. He’s brilliant to watch. And I think to win on this golf course means a lot, in my opinion, because it’s not a course that should suit him down to the ground. There’s other venues he’s taken apart over his career, and this is not one of them. So I think winning here is a big deal.”
Paul Azinger: “It’s a miracle what he’s done this year. This wasn’t some ceremonial walk into the sunset. This guy’s got game, some serious game. He’s a living, breathing, walking medical miracle. To be doing what he’s doing at the highest level in golf, it’s truly amazing.”
Jack Nicklaus tweeted: “I never dreamed @TigerWoods could come back and swing the way he has, after surgery. I think you could argue he’s swinging better than he has ever in his life.
“You knew he was going to win soon, and this week he did it.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “We’ve just witnessed the greatest comeback of all time! What a time to be alive!!!”
Billy Horschel: “Congrats my man on overcoming so much to get back to the top of that mountain! Golf is in an awesome awesome place right now!”
Rory McIlroy: “Such a cool experience walking down the last hole with all that excitement! Onwards and upwards.”
Colt Knost, watching from a bar: “Pretty damn cool when the whole bar starts cheering when Tiger Woods wins!”
Tyrell Hatton: “The scenes on 18 show how special it is that Tiger is back in the winners’ circle!!! What a moment! What a comeback!”
Finally, we turn to the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee:
“I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I felt like I was watching a great piece of fiction. This is the greatest comeback in the history of golf.
“Dan (Hicks, on NBC) was just alluding to this was the most improbable comeback in the history of sports, for a lot of different reasons. We know his injuries. He came back from emotional and psychological toil the likes of which nobody has ever been hit with in the game of golf.
“He was working on a different swing. He had no teacher for the first time. And then he had the chipping yips. Nobody has ever been able to overcome those, but Tiger certainly did.
“But beyond that, as I was watching him play the game and then I finally realized he’s capable of hitting all the shots, watching him through the year and through this day and just now in that interview, he gives the impression of something much, much deeper.
“He gives the impression of somebody who’s purified by golf, that he’s gone through these sad realities of life. He’s gone through the surgeries and the scrutiny. And he’s come out the other end and he just wants to play the game right. And he also wants to conduct himself in a way that is consistent with the traditions of this game. It’s a completely different Tiger Woods.
“You saw a gracious loser this year in Tiger Woods. You saw a humble winner in Tiger Woods. When he putted out [at 18] that reaction was as much an appreciation for the crowd as it was for his ecstasy in the moment. It wasn’t the same sort of animated Tiger Woods we’ve seen in the past. This was much more existential than all of that.
“It’s hard to put into perspective his appeal. His appeal comes from a lot of different aspects. Nobody’s ever played golf like Tiger Woods, no disrespect to Jack Nicklaus, who many would argue is the greatest player of all time. But Jack never won a major championship by 15. He never won one by 12. He never won four majors in a row. He never made 142 cuts in a row.
“But then there’s this enigmatic side of Tiger Woods. Jack never built and tore down his golf swing. Tiger Woods has never stopped building and tearing down his golf swing. That is enigmatic. It defies explanation. And Tiger gave us so much of with his golf game and gave us so little in the media center. It made him somewhat controversial and polarizing, but interesting.
“And then the issues he’s had off the golf course really did bring sort of a Kardashian element to everywhere he went. You put that all together and his appeal is unlike anything.”
--Dustin Johnson’s closing round 67 on Sunday allowed him to grab back the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking by a slim margin over Justin Rose; Johnson’s effort allowing him to finish alone in third, while Rose’s 73 dropped him to a T-4 finish.
So it’s Johnson at 10.2944, vs. Rose’s 10.2334 average.
Rankings are calculated using a rolling 2-year system that favors results over the past 13 weeks.
Tiger Woods, who started the season ranked No. 656 in the world, has climbed all the way up to No. 13.
--As for the television ratings, I told you Saturday’s third round ratings were up 138% from last year and 158% from 2016, and the best for any round of the tournament since 2009’s final round, when Mickelson beat Tiger.
It turns out that Saturday’s coverage trailed Alabama-Texas A&M, by just a little, but topped all other college football games on Saturday.
So on Sunday, the final round drew a 5.21 overnight rating, the highest of any non-major championship this year. The figure is 206% greater than last year’s in which Xander Schauffele won and Justin Thomas claimed the FedEx Cup’s $10 million bonus.
The ratings peaked at a 7.19 during the 5:30-6:00 p.m. ET window, which according to NBC, trails only the Masters (11.03) and the PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018.
And Sunday’s ratings were up against the NFL, which as you’ll see below, also did well, so we can conclude one thing.
People like watching Tiger Woods and a lot of people watched sports in general on Sunday, rather than play video games against some kid in Korea, which is a good thing!!!
--51-year-old Steve Stricker has played both the Big Boys Tour and the Champions Tour this season, and in winning Sunday’s Champions Tour event in Sioux Falls, S.D., Stricker took his third title in seven tournaments with the senior folks this year, finishing in the top five in all seven.
--So now it’s on to the Ryder Cup.
Since the Great Britain & Ireland team added the rest of Europe in 1979, the Europeans are 10-8-1, outscoring the U.S. 269-263:
‘16 Hazeltine...USA 17-11
’14 Gleneagles...EUR 16 ½-11 ½
’12 Medinah...EUR 14 ½-13 ½
’10 Celtic Manor...EUR 14 ½-13 ½
’08 Valhalla...USA 16 ½-11 ½
’06 The K Club...EUR 18 ½-9 ½
’04 Oakland Hills...EUR 18 ½-9 ½
’02 The Belfry...EUR 15 ½-12 ½*
’99 Brookline...USA 14 ½-13 ½
’97 Valderrama...EUR 14 ½-13 ½
’95 Oak Hill...EUR 14 ½-13 ½
’93 The Belfry...USA 15-13
’91 Kiawah...USA 14 ½-13 ½
’89 The Belfry...Halved 14-14
’87 Muirfield Village...EUR 15-13
’85 The Belfry...EUR 16 ½-11 ½
’83 PGA National...USA 14 ½-13 ½
’81 Walton Heath...USA 18 ½-9 ½
’79 Greenbrier...USA 17-11
*gap due to 9/11
As you can see, the U.S. hasn’t won on Euro soil since 1993.
So what about the site for the event, Le Golf National outside of Paris? It looks like a real pisser, especially the last four holes...known locally as “The Loop of Doom.”
Joe Passov / Golf Magazine
“Straight-talking Jim Furyk, captain of the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team, doesn’t mince words when asked about the host venue, Le Golf National. ‘I love the course,’ he says. ‘It’s [one] that in my heyday would have been perfect for me to play.’
“It’s easy to see why Furyk gushes. Le Golf National’s Albatros course is a Gallic version of Furyk’s – and the PGA Tour’s – home layout, the Players Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass. Admittedly, it’s a bigger, brawnier version, in yardage and scale, but its origin, look and shot values are remarkably similar.
“Hewn from landfill that was later flattened, it understandably sports a manufactured appearance, with some holes set down in faux-links fashion, others built up with massive amphitheater-like hillsides, ready-made for maximum spectator viewing. A fistful of lake-menaced holes look as if they were airlifted straight out of West Palm Beach, but unquestionably, they offer potential risk-reward drama, notably the course’s last four, three of them splashed with liquid peril, with island greens at the 15th and 18th.
“Still, Le Golf National is hardly a bombers’ paradise. It has hosted the European Tour’s French Open since 1991 (with two exceptions), and because the fairways are generally narrowed and bracketed with dense rough, scores run high and champions tend to be ballstrikers. Alex Noren triumphed in 2018, with a score of 7-under-par. Other winners include U.S. Open champs Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Retief Goosen. Echoes Justin Thomas, who played in this year’s French Open, ‘I knew right when I got here that this was a very difficult golf course,’ he said. ‘You have to hit it in play. You can get it snowballing pretty quickly out here if you’re not careful.’
“The final word (as always) on Le Golf National goes to Phil Mickelson: ‘I think it’s phenomenal because it’s got the best viewing of any golf course I’ve seen, as well as the risk/reward,’ says Lefty. ‘The last four holes are spectacular...I think it’s going to be wonderful.’
“Translation: As with every Ryder Cup course, it will all come down to putting.”
Alistair Tait / Golfweek
“Many questions surround this week’s Ryder Cup. Perhaps the most important are how many of the five rookies will be back on the European team two years from now, and who will excel to form the backbone of future European teams.
“Europe is at a Ryder Cup crossroads. Some of those who carried the weight of previous teams are no longer good enough or too old to make the team. You only have to look at Thomas Bjorn’s backroom staff to realize that. Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell are all vice-captains this time around.
“Question marks hang over the future of senior members of Bjorn’s side. Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter are 42. Paul Casey is 41. They’re approaching their sell-by dates and might have just one match each left in them. Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are 38. They, too, don’t have many contests left.
“Thankfully Rory McIlroy is only 29. It’s inconceivable to think of the next, say, six Ryder Cups without him. Francesco Molinari is 35 and will hopefully be around for a few more matches. That’s assuming he can come close to this year’s form, which is a matter of conjecture.
“Which brings us to the five rookies.
“If 2016 is anything to go by, then perhaps none of the newcomers will be in the European team at Whistling Straits two years hence. None of the six rookies at Hazeltine made this year’s Euro team, albeit many feel Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello was cheated out of a spot. [Ed. he was!!!] He lost out because Bjorn chose Garcia as one of his wild-card picks.
“Anyone who watched Thomas Pieters go 4-1 at Hazeltine would have automatically written him onto this year’s team and many more to come....Yet the Belgian failed to qualify this year.”
Well, the five rookies are Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen. Fleetwood and Rahm are world class...the others, not quite.
As for Team USA, who wants to play with Bryson DeChambeau? I sure as hell wouldn’t. But it seems Tiger likes the kid because Tiger is curious about the ‘science’ behind DeChambeau’s methods. So this could be a team. [With play beginning Friday, Furyk, and Bjorn, don’t have to preannounce anything until Thursday.]
As for the struggling Mickelson, I’d be shocked if he played more than two of the four matches Friday and Saturday, prior to Sunday’s 12 singles finale.
It’s assumed workout buddies Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka will be a team, and we shouldn’t be surprised if they play all four...because they’re in shape, and assuming Friday’s play goes well.
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed (aka Captain America) certainly worked well at Hazeltine, though there are rumors Ruryk could go in a different direction.
On the Euro side, look for Justin Rose and Ian Poulter as the ‘power couple.’ But here we have a DeChambeau situation with Tyrrell Hatton. What a jerk he can be on the course. On the other hand, Tommy Fleetwood is the perfect partner for anyone. Or maybe Rory can calm Hatton down.
Regardless, this is going to be fascinating. What’s great about the Ryder Cup is that you remember these performances forever...and in terms of the individual golfers, for better or worse.
Ian Poulter’s reputation, for example, is cemented as a great Ryder Cup player, even though he has had a so-so professional career, especially in the U.S. The last part doesn’t matter. If you saw him in a bar (pub) in New York, you’d go up to him and slap him on the back and say, “I remember you at....in the Ryder Cup.” [And he’d eat it up.] Justin Leonard is forever remembered for his great putt at Brookline, not his ‘major’ accomplishments.
In other words, as I like to say every two years, it’s about the Q-score, or Q-rating...the popularity of the brand a golfer can create. It can last a lifetime, which can mean big bucks on Madison Ave., and in Paris. That’s cool. It’s all good, sports fans.
So how will Tiger do, given his past lack of success in the Ryder Cup? I hope he kicks ass.
I’ll go with USA 15 ½-12 ½. But it will be a nail-biting finish to the end on Sunday.
--One final note, from the amateur ranks. Phil W. alerted me to a nice win for the son of a Wake Forest classmate of ours, Thomas Walsh of the Univ. of Virginia, who won this week’s Inverness Intercollegiate in Toledo, Ohio, by nine...71-69-65...205. But UVA lost to Tennessee in the team competition. His father (and wife, Elizabeth, also a classmate from Wake) are terrific people. Phil keeps in touch with them all the time, but I only last saw Tom Sr. about seven (?) years ago, when Tom was telling me about how he and Elizabeth were taking their son all over God’s green acres to help the kid fulfill his dreams. We’ll see how Tom Jr. does the rest of the season...and after. Go Team Walsh!
There are a slew of top (or interesting) games this weekend, or as Howard Cosell would have said, a veritable plethora of enticing contests.
Syracuse (4-0) at 3 Clemson is in the interesting category. Ditto 12 West Virginia at 25 Texas Tech.
*Clemson announced true freshman Trevor Lawrence would start at quarterback Saturday over Kelly Bryant. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said he gave Bryant the day off Monday to process the decision, but then Bryant didn’t show for practice Tuesday.
I hate this ‘having to process’ B.S. Suck it up, kid. You weren’t sent to fight ISIS in Syria.
But because Bryant, a senior, has played in only four games, he could capitalize on the new redshirt rule and immediately seek a transfer, preserving a year of eligibility in 2019. The new rule allows you to do this if the player participated in four or fewer contests.
Continuing...Saturday night, you have Virginia Tech at 22 Duke, huge for the Dookies. How will the Hokies respond after their historic loss to Old Dominion?
But 4 Ohio State at 9 Penn State, and 7 Stanford at 8 Notre Dame are huge for the CFP down the road; both at 7:30, so lots of flippin’ for college football fans.
You also have 20 BYU at 11 Washington, and an intriguing one, South Carolina at 17 Kentucky; a chance for the Wildcats to further prove they are for real.
19 Oregon at 24 California is a big one for the Golden Bears in particular.
And in other contests, Boston College needs to rebound at home in a big way, following their disastrous road trip to Purdue, by whipping Temple.
Buffalo, 4-0, needs to further prove it’s for real when it hosts obviously solid Army.
And then we have Indiana, 3-1, at Rutgers, 1-3...the only win against Texas Midland Community College for Wildcatters, or TMCCW.
I do not as yet have formal approval for my proposed transfer of Rutgers to Boone, North Carolina, in exchange for Appalachian State University moving to Piscataway. But the moving vans are en route. [Don’t blame me for not getting state approval...it just happened when I threw it out there.] The NCAA did tell the players and coaches Rutgers must play out its home schedule, and beyond that it’s up to the governor and the voters.
Which brings up another matter. It’s too late for a ballot initiative in November, so this really can’t be put through until 2019. I do admit I’m sorry I have disrupted thousands of lives, in both Boone and Piscataway. It’s yet another reason why I have never signed this column...a lesson to all you boys and girls...it’s about plausible deniability.
--After I went to post last time, Detroit shocked New England at home for their first win of the season, the Patriots falling to 1-2, as Matt Patricia beat mentor Bill Belichick, Patricia’s defense holding Tom Brady to just 14/26, 133, 1-1, with new acquisition, receiver Josh Gordon, sitting out with a sore hamstring.
Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) had 101 yards on the ground for the Lions.
--Monday night, the Steelers blew a 30-10 halftime lead over the Bucs down in Tampa, but held on for a 30-27 win behind Ben Roethlisberger’s 353 yards and three touchdowns.
For Tampa Bay, Ryan Fitzpatrick has his third consecutive 400-yard passing game, 30/50, 411, three touchdowns, but he also threw three picks in the second quarter on consecutive passes.
The Buccaneers have gotten all they possibly could have asked for from “Fitzmagic” in guiding them to a 2-1 start. Time to go to Jameis Winston.
--What a blow to the 49ers, losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL...out for the season. The only good thing is that it’s early enough in the season that he should be back in time for training camp next summer.
Last February, Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract, with $74.1 million guaranteed. Despite losing some roster bonuses this year, he’ll still make over $41 million for 2018, according to Spotrac.
--Yes, I’ve been critical of Eli Manning, but for one week he was indeed spectacular, as I wrote last time, leading the Giants to their first win of the season, 27-22 over the Texans and Deshaun Watson; Manning 25/29, 297, 132.3 rating. The Giants made some changes on the offensive line and they paid off. If Eli gets the time, he has the receivers to cash in.
The Giants have given him the reins for another two seasons, opting not to take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft, and Eli has to step up far more than one week.
--Shockingly, the Baltimore Ravens became the first team in NFL history to score 12 touchdowns in their first 12 trips to the red zone this season. That’s unfathomable, especially from this franchise, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has overhauled the receiving corps with a healthy Joe Flacco.
--Buoyed by viewer interest in the Detroit Lions’ victory over the Patriots on Sunday night, the NFL posted a Week 3 ratings gain of 2.6 percent, the results not including “Monday Night Football” and the Steelers-Bucs game.
According to Nielsen, for the season thus far, NFL ratings are up 0.7 percent, so stability.
--I have to say, I’ve been pleased with the quality of football I’ve seen thus far in both the college and professional ranks. I’m not saying that I haven’t seen my share of crappy play and poor play-making and decision-calling, but it’s looked like real football.
However, I haven’t been watching Packer games the last two weeks and linebacker Clay Matthews getting called, twice, for roughing-the-passer when the video clearly shows it wasn’t. But in both cases, the league office supported the calls made against Matthews, the first of which negated a game-clinching interception by Green Bay in their game vs. the Vikings that ended up in a 29-29 tie.
And the NFL competition committee doesn’t intend to change the wording of the league’s roughing-the-passer rule when members speak next week on their regularly scheduled conference call, as reported by Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
But Maske adds: “There is strong sentiment among those on the committee that the rule should be applied differently by the on-field officials over the remainder of the season, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the controversy generated by recent roughing-the-passer penalties assessed during games.”
But others say there is little the committee can do at this stage and that no formal instructions to the on-field officials is expected to be made.
--Men’s Division I Soccer Rankings (Coaches Poll...Sept. 25)
1. Wake Forest...Go Deacs! [And this just in...Wake blitzed Davidson, 5-1, Tuesday night, to go to 9-0-0.]
2. Indiana...Wake handed IU its only loss...
3. North Carolina
5. Michigan State
8. Air Force!
24. Colgate! Go Pete M.! [I get paid in beer for these plugs...and at the end of the day....]
--LeBron James held his first public appearance in a Lakers uniform Monday afternoon after a three-month honeymoon following his signing with the Lakers, and as the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke noted, “he smiled exactly once.”
“It was when he was asked what constitutes pressure for him.
“ ‘Nothing...nothing,’ he said, and he grinned, and chuckled, and that was it.
“We sort of knew he never felt any pressure. But during a strangely short 12-minute news conference on Lakers media day, one of basketball’s most emotional players oddly didn’t seem to feel anything.
“He didn’t emote. He didn’t engage. His tone was flat. His face was stone. His mood was cold.
“He talked about the excitement of joining the Lakers with a decided lack of excitement.
“ ‘It’s always humbling for me any time I get an opportunity to be a part of something special...I’m happy to be at this point today,’ he said without expression.
“He talked about adjusting to Los Angeles like it was less an adventure and more of a chore....
“James showed no glimpses of joy, and that’s one thing you could always count on when a new Laker has been introduced over the years. They are always so happy to be a Laker. The franchise’s success has been built on this happiness, this feeling that they are lucky to be playing for the NBA’s greatest franchise in the league’s greatest city.
“From Magic Johnson’s smile to Shaquille O’Neal’s jokes to even the serious Kobe Bryant’s grinning shows of gratitude, Lakers stars traditionally turned big news conferences into love affairs.
“James wasn’t playing any of that.”
--I didn’t have time last chat to add this bit from Sheila McClear / New York Post:
“With its cutesy curls and plaintive eyes, it’s no wonder the labradoodle became America’s second-favorite dog in 2010.
“But the man who first invented the breed by crossing a Labrador with a poodle in the ‘80s ended up regretting it.
“ ‘I opened a Pandora’s box, that’s what I did,’ said puppy-breeding manager Wally Conron in 2014. ‘So many people are just breeding for the money. So many of these dogs have physical problems, and a lot of them are just crazy.’
“Originally, Conron’s creation came from a desire to do good. He was fulfilling a request from a couple who needed a pooch that would serve as a guide dog for a blind woman but also be hypoallergenic for her husband.
“Once the magic canine was produced, word got out and everyone wanted one. There was just one problem: Labradoodles don’t come out the same way every time. Their coats – and their behavior – are actually unpredictable; some aren’t even hypoallergenic.
“Purebreds crossed with other purebreds – better known as designer dogs – have been capturing our affections for the last 20 years. But the real cost of these dogs far exceeds their multi-thousand-dollar price tags, according to ‘Designer Dogs: An Expose Inside the Criminal Underworld of Crossbreeding’ (Apollo Publishers, out Tuesday) by Madeline Bernstein.
“Demand for these dogs has led to a corrupt underground economy that funnels animals through puppy mills, swap meets, Internet sales and retail stores that often buy from disreputable sources.
“Bernstein, an animal-welfare expert, calls it the ‘high price of cute.’”
Top 3 songs for the week 9/28/74: #1 “Rock Me Gently” (Andy Kim) #2 “I Honestly Love You” (Olivia Newton-John) #3 “Nothing From Nothing” (Billy Preston)...and...#4 “Then Came You” (Dionne Warwicke & Spinners...great tune...) #5 “Beach Baby” (First Class) #6 “You Haven’t Done Nothin” (Stevie Wonder) #7 “Clap For The Wolfman” (The Guess Who) #8 “Another Saturday Night” (Cat Stevens) #9 “Hang On In There Baby” (Johnny Bristol) #10 “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd...elevates week to a ‘B-’...)
NFL Quiz Answer: 1968 Browns. QB: Bill Nelsen (sic). RB: Leroy Kelly (1239 yards, 5.0 avg.). TE: Milt Morin (43 rec., a lot for a tight end back then). WR: Paul Warfield (50 rec., 1067 yards, 12 TDs), and kicker Don Cockroft (who also did the punting...I met Cockroft at a mutual fund conference about 25 years later...he was doing sales work with a competing group...what a super guy...)
Next Bar Chat, Monday.