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Tiger’s return, Fowler flirts with 59, and more from the Hero World Challenge

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He came, he saw, he purred, he roared. The 41-year-old Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf to much fanfare in the Bahamas. He justified and sated, thrilled and fulfilled. Oh, and 17 other fellows showed up to compete in the Hero World Challenge. It all added up an excellent, last week of top-shelf competition for 2017. Before this year gives way to 2018, let’s have a look at some of the week’s high points.

Tiger Totals

Round One: 5 birdies and 2 bogeys
Round Two: 1 eagle, 4 birdies and 2 bogeys
Round Three: 2 birdies and 5 bogeys
Round Four: 1 eagle, 6 birdies, 2 bogeys and 1 double

For any fan of golf, these numbers are uplifting. El tigre averaged 4.5 birds and 0.5 eagles per round. With more tournament reps, those numbers can only go up, and the bogeys (2.5 per round) can drop as he gets re-acclimated to competition. For those who point to his weak finish on Sunday, remember that the guy knows a thing or two about closing a tournament.

Dick Fowler, PI, caught up to that 28 he’d been chasing

Don’t remember those Farmer’s Insurance commercials starring Rickie Fowler? Search ’em and laugh out loud. Oh, Fowler shot 28 on Sunday’s outward half, with birdies on every hole but No. 8. So much for Charley Hoffman’s healthy third-round lead. Everyone wants to lead and no one wants to lead. We’ve waited years for Fowler to dominate in the way that we think he can. The front nine called to say, help.

A week of revelations from Tiger

One of the perquisites of a newish Tiger, one who is grateful for much of life, is an expanded openness about the travails of the past year. On Tuesday, Tiger discussed the pain from a back that was worse than he imagined, and the impact on his life that it had. The toll included very little sleep, constant pain, and weakness from foot to lower back. On Thursday, after his opening 69, the 14-time major champion discussed the impact of adrenaline on his game, and the difference between the holes he played at home and the ones he played at Albany. The most refreshing comments came after his Saturday 75, when he discussed the minor mistakes that led to bogeys, and what he missed most about tournament golf: the fight.

Oh, and Rickie Fowler did win!

Almost lost amid the Tiger tracks was the performance that Rickie Fowler offered on Day 4. Following a pattern of 2017 champions who rode on, smoking-hot round to victory, Fowler saved his best for last. Eleven birdies and 0 bogeys led to 61 and an 18-under total. Fowler actually had a chance to shoot 59 by holing his second at the last, and despite taking dead aim at the flagstick, he pushed it a bit, and went on to make a tidy par. His tournament total was Fowler’s career low in competition, and sent him into the off-season in the best of possible moods. Third-round leader Charley Hoffman matched birdies and bogeys on the front nine, then made 9 straight pars on the inward side to finish second alone at 14-under. Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Race To Dubai champion, and Jordan Spieth tied for the third spot at 12-under.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tom54

    Dec 4, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    I think most golf fans are anxious to see how Tiger does to see if he can play a normal schedule again, but can someone please tell The programming directors that we do not need to make every telecast about Tiger. There are many players that shots were not shown this past weekend. Ricky Fowler is extremely popular and Friday or Saturday I recall very few of his shots. It was non-stop Tiger until his round was finished. Then after his hi light reel and his interview was over then it was time to show the leaders. Please, if Tiger is in the hunt he deserves the coverage but let’s not forget there are tons of pros who rate the tv time as well. The game will always be bigger than any one player.

    • T0MD1KH@RRy

      Dec 5, 2017 at 12:15 am

      You must have been watching a different program because I saw plenty of other golfers on the telecast. Even so, why wouldn’t there be more focus on Tiger at Tiger’s tournament, during Tiger’s first competitive round in nearly a year, and during which he displayed signs of greatness that only give way to hope that he’s not yet done playing (or winning)? Tiger is the needle, you hear it from the broadcast booth, you hear it from the players, and it’s proven by the ratings and number of spectators at events in which he plays. I agree the game is bigger than any one player, but we aren’t talking about the game of golf as a whole. We’re talking about the PGA Tour, advertiser dollars, and ticket sales. If Tiger played an exhibition round in which he was the only player on the course, he’d still pack them in better than a handful of regular tour stops and garner more viewers on TV as well.

    • Thomas A

      Dec 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Tiger’s first tournament at Tiger’s tournament and one that doesn’t count for anything. Yeah, it’s gonna be Tiger’s show no matter what.

    • nyguy

      Dec 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I agree. Love Tiger, think he’s great for golf, and awesome to watch, but he’s not the only one out there. I’m surprised we didn’t know when he went to the bathroom on the course…. It’s a little over the top, although I think that with most mainstream broadcasts

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Tour News

5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

Special Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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