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GolfWRX Morning 9: Rules ridiculousness comes to the U.S. Am | Round of 64 update | Lexi needs “to have a life”

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

August 16, 2018

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Round of 64 notes
There were upsets aplenty in the U.S. Amateur’s Round of 64.
  • Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner notes…”The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach…Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.”
  • “Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.”
Brentley Romine on John Augenstein taking down the world No. 3: “John Augenstein lives for the big moments.”
  • “Two seasons ago, when Augenstein was a freshman, he sank the winning putt to send Vanderbilt to the final of the SEC Championship. A few weeks after that, he drained a birdie putt on the 19th hole of his NCAA Championship semifinal match. Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh always says there’s no player he’d rather have when the light are brightest.”
  • “He’s just fiery, man,” said Vanderbilt assistant coach Gator Todd. “He just does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to be able to do. He just has a knack for that.”…The legend of Johnny Clutch continued Wednesday at Pebble Beach, as the 20-year-old from Owensboro, Ky., took down the world’s third-ranked amateur, Collin Morikawa, in 19 holes during the Round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.”
Also: Geoff Shackelford notes Stewart Hagestad ended an inglorious streak…:”Eight different times, Stewart Hagestad has played a U.S. Amateur and eight times he’s failed to make match play. So don’t blame the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from taking extra pleasure in his Round of 64 win over England’s Harry Hall.”
  • “The 1-up victory ended two dubious U.S. Amateur streaks for the former Walker Cup player from Newport Beach, California, and sets him up for a Round of 32 showdown with David Chatfield, a 6 and 4 winner over Ryan Smith…”It was a big personal accomplishment that had kind of been lifted,” Hagestad said of finally making match play. “I feel like I slept pretty well last night.”
2. Rules ridiculousness comes to the U.S. Am
Oh dear. The rules are the Rules, yes, but with all due respect, can’t we push an override button and inject some common sense?
Ryan Lavner (again) reports on the penalty that befell Akshay Bhatia at Pebble.
  • “Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.”
  • “The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”
  • ‘Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.”
  • “It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.”
3. Lexi Thompson returns with candor aplenty
Lexi Thompson has been a high-level, highly visible professional golfer since she was 15, and her life has been centered around the game since she was five. After a grueling stretch, Thompson was understandably worn down, and took a month-long break from the game and, really, the demands of her celebrity.
  • The 23-year-old skipped last month’s Ricoh Women’s British Open. and she’ll return to competition at this week’s Indy Women in Tech Championship.
  • “I’m not just a robot out here,” she told reporters ahead of the tournament. “I need to have a life.”
  • In the past 18 months, the Coral Springs, Florida, native has dealt with her mother’s cancer, the death of her grandmother, and of course, the ANA Inspiration debacle.
  • “You can only stay strong for so long and hide it,” Thompson said.
4. Taming the driver
From his position on the Mount Rushmore of current golf scribes, Jaime Diaz penned an excellent write up concerning a fact we all know: Tiger Woods needs to sort out his driving.
  • Diaz points out, rightly, that entering the PGA Championship, “Many began to wonder whether what Nick Faldo calls the 15th club – nerve – had left Woods forever. But on Sunday at Bellerive, he proved that his mastery under pressure is still accessible.”
  • He writes that an uncooperative driver was all that stood between Woods and the Wanamaker:: “Revived, but reprised. For all of the brilliance Woods exhibited down the stretch, he made two crucial errors. On the par-4 14th, a pushed iron off the tee and an indifferent chip led to a bogey. And, most fatally, the pushed drive into the hazard on the reachable par-5 17th, when he had to have birdie to answer a resurgent Koepka.”
5. Distance researchers set to research
Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura reports… “The USGA and R&A’s investigation into the distance topic, the so-named “Distance Insights” project, will now employ an outside market research firm to ask golfers and non-golfers alike around the world what they think about distance.”
  • “That outside research firm, Sports Marketing Surveys, is an international group with experience working with golf organizations and even a string of golf equipment companies to provide consumer and market research. What is their mission with golf’s ruling bodies? On one hand, it’s doing the heavy lifting of understanding the global picture of distance in golf, or, according to Monday’s announcement, “how distance in golf has impacted them over their full golf experience, if at all, and its projected impact into the future.'”

  • “Of course on the other, using an outside research firm also will at the very least ensure that whatever decision might be made by the ruling bodies is not going to have the appearance of being a foregone conclusion concocted in the halls of Golf House in New Jersey and the R&A clubhouse in St. Andrews.”
6. What if…
Ryder Cup points, as we know, are accumulated over a two-year period. But what if we were just looking at the past year?
  • The undead Twitter ratings guru, Nosferatu, posted a list of what the U.S. roster would look like if only 2018 points counted.
  • As Alex Myers of Golf Digest notes, “a couple things jump out. First, current outside-the-bubble boys Bryson Dechambeau and Tiger Woods, who finished 9th and 11th, respectively, would be on the roster already.”
  • Further, neither Jordan Spieth nor Rickie Fowler would be on the roster, finishing 13th and 10th in points respectively.
7. Odds on Tiger winning a major in 2019?
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall...”SportsBettingDime.com has Woods listed at 5/1 to win either the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or Open Championship in 2019.”
  • “In non-Tiger centric news, Dustin Johnson has the best odds to win a major at 11/4, with Jordan Spieth trailing at 3/1. Brooks Koepka, winner of three of the past seven majors, comes in at 4/1, as does Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship. Reigning. Player of the Year Justin Thomas isn’t far behind at 9/2.”
  • Also on the Woodsian front: Tiger has reportedly committed to the BMW Championship (third Playoff event) September 6-9
8. Fowler injury update
We learned Rickie Fowler was dealing with an oblique injury at the PGA Championship. Now, he’s shutting it down for the first playoff event, next week’s Northern Trust Open.
  • In an Instagram post, Fowler announced the news Wednesday, saying that an MRI revealed a partial tear in his right oblique.
  • He says he’ll be back to competition soon and “more than healthy” for the Ryder Cup.
9. 1 day, 36-hole competition, 3 holes-in-one
Ali Gibb, 51-year-old amateur golfer, for winning her club championship at Croham Hurst Golf Club in England, Monday. Oh, and she made three holes-in-one on the day.
  • That’s right, during the 36-hole final, Gibb aced the fifth hole twice and only needed one shot at the 11th hole during her second 18.
  • “Today was just a weird day. It was just very, very strange,” she said,per a BBC report. “On my card I had a nine, two eights, sixes, fives, fours, threes, twos and three ones.
  • “I have had a hole-in-one before – three actually. One was here on the seventh, one at Surrey National Golf Club, and one at the Atlantic Beach Golf Estate in South Africa,” Gibb added.
  • “It’s just absolutely extraordinary. I think I will wake up tomorrow asking if I’ve just been dreaming about it and if it is club championship day today instead!”
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  1. SV

    Aug 26, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Speaking of Ryder Cup teams, why aren’t each team chosen on the basis of the world ranking? It seems simple, 12 best for each side go at it. No captain’s picks, no controversy over who did or didn’t make the team.

  2. Bert Gwaltney

    Aug 16, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    The Conditions of Competition included a clear understanding of the Rule, BUT, a volunteer made a decision it was OK by allowing and providing transportation to the tee, to speed up play. Look’s as if the USGA is remiss again for not instructing volunteers to not provide transportation. Correct penalty but, should a player or caddie be mislead by a volunteer. Id it their responsibility to identify who is and who is not an authorized USGA representative? I think we’re not seeing the entire picture, maybe missing some information here.I know as a Committee Member I have made a decision many times to take players back or forward to improve the pace-of-play, especially when a ball is lost causing excessive delay.

    I’d also question players anchoring their stroke when putting; looks to me that it’s bing overlooked again!

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Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship win delivered a big ratings boost

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Perhaps not surprisingly, with a 5.21 overnight rating, the final round of the Tour Championship was the highest-rated (non-major) PGA Tour telecast of 2018.

Tiger Woods’ 80th PGA Tour win was the highest-rated broadcast in FedEx Cup history, with viewership was up 206 percent compared to 2017.

Golf’s big Sunday followed an impressive Saturday. As Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann noted

“In the TV-ratings world, a mediocre football game typically drubs even some of the PGA Tour’s biggest events. Yet during Saturday’s third round, with Woods in the final group, NBC’s coverage of The Tour Championship drew more viewers than every college football game except the Alabama-Texas A&M game. Because, as we all know, nobody beats Alabama – not even Tiger Woods.”

Across NBC Sports Digital’s platforms, Sunday’s final found saw 18.4 million minutes streamed (up 561 percent year-over-year).

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Woods has boosted ratings every time he’s teed it up this season. At the British Open, where Woods tied for sixth, ratings were the highest in 18 years. Similarly, PGA Championship ratings were the highest since 2009.

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Tour Rundown: Tiger wins the Tour Championship, a 59, and Stricker is back

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Imagine the headline Rose wins FedEx Cup and no one is aware. Essentially, the golf world found out about the Englishman’s championship in the aftermath of the comeback of Tiger Woods. Is it a complete comeback? Who knows what a complete comeback is? We know that Tiger won for the first time since 2013, and we see how people care. It’s akin to Jack is back from 1980, with all the drama of the internet age thrown in. For now, as golf gives way to football (with the exception of the Ryder Cup,) the Woods victory will sate us all through the winter months, and give time and space to discussions about Tiger’s at Augusta and Pebble Beach, sites of the first two major championships of 2019.

The PGA Tour’s Tour Championship lies safely in Tiger’s paws

Tiger Woods won this tournament by leading after 18 and 36, then establishing a margin of five strokes, heading into Sunday. He wasn’t completely dominant, say, as he was in 2000 at Pebble’s millenial U.S. Open. He was very, very good, and the golf world did more than pause and notice. Justin Rose didn’t have enough to chase him down. Rory McIlroy buckled in his presence on Sunday. Guys like Horschel, Johnson and Matsuyama move up 4, 6 and 12 spots, respectively, to claim 2nd through 4th positions. One-over par was good enough for a 2-shot victory, number 80 on the career list, for the only candidate to challenge Jack Nicklaus for greatest male golfer of all time. Do you think we missed him? Have a look.

Tiger’s Winning WITB

Web.Com Tour Championship is McCarthy’s first

Denny McCarthy has a flair for the dramatic. Why else make your first Web.Com tour win (and potentially, your last) anything but the Tour Championship? With his 4-shot margin of victory over Lucas Glover, McCarthy further sealed his trip to the big leagues in October, serving notice of the arrival of yet another young talent. The University of Virginia alum surged past 3rd-round leader Sepp Straka with 4 birdies in 5 holes, to close his outward nine. He had 4 more birdies on the inward half, to go with a bogey per side, for a round of 65 at the Atlantic Beach country club in Florida. Glover birdied the 2nd hole, but fell into a malaise. He moved through the turn with bogey at 8 and double at 10, which served to awaken his birdie engine. Four birdies over the final 7 holes closed his round and guaranteed 2nd place money. As for Straka, he wasn’t bad until the 16th hole. He was 3-under on the day with three to play, within reach of McCarthy, until he tripled the antipenultimate hole. He tied for 3rd spot with three others. For the rest of the field, it was a dramatic day of heartbreak and joy. Have a look.

European Tour sees first 59 in Portugal

Oliver Fisher secured his place in European Tour history, signing for the first round of 59 in the long history of the circuit. Nicolas Colsaerts holed out for an Albatross on a par five. And yet the week belonged to the guy who shot 61. Tom Lewis claimed thefirst-place baubles in Portugal, despite opening with a mundane 72 in round 1. He followed it with 63-61 to find himself in the thick of matters. On Sunday, with golfers around him faltering, especially 3rd-round leader Lucas Herbert, Lewis seized the advantage and rode a 3-shot win over loquacious Eddie Pepperell. It had been 7 years since young Tom Lewis won his first European Tour event, also along the Iberian coast in Portugal. Nearly a decade later, a wizened, older Tom Lewis brought home a well-deserved bookend.

Stricker takes inaugural Sanford International on Champions Tour

Steve Stricker and Brandt Jobe began the final round of the Sanford International in a tie at 130. Given Stricker’s margin of experience in the wins and the international-competition column, it might have been expected that the Wisconsonite would make short work of Jobe. He did. And the rest of the field took notice, too. Stricker closed with 67 to secure a 4-shot win over surging Tim Petrovic. Jobe’s 2-over par 72 dropped him into a tie for 4th with Kevin Sutherland. The victory catapulted Stricker into the top 10 in the season-long Schwab Cup race.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica has “two strokes lower” winner in Rozo

Marcelo Rozo did something rarely seen, on any tour: he fired 69-67-65-63 to win the 65 IHSF Brazil Open by one stroke over Australia’s Harrison Endycott. Despite the glamour of the “two strokes lower” sequence, the Colombian needed every shot to hold off his challenger. Endycott eagled the par-five 18th hole, but Rozo was up to the task. He birdied 16 and 17, and made a clutch par at the last for his 1st win of the season. The victory launched Rozo all the way to the top of the season-long Order of Merit, guaranteeing him membership on the Web.Com tour next season.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: 80: Tiger’s win in context | Equipment changes key | Brandel’s take

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 24, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. Warning: 94% of this newsletter is Tiger Woods-related.
1. Tiger triumphant
Perhaps you’ve heard: Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship yesterday to end a five-year victory drought.
As you’d expect (especially with the victory nearly a foregone conclusion after the third round), the scribes filled plenty of pages on the subject. Here are a few dishes from a packed buffet.
ESPN’s Ian O’Conner penned “How Tiger Woods overcame pain, scandal and age to triumph again”…”We never thought we would see the artist return to the peak of his powers, and for good reason: Tiger never thought he would see the artist return to the peak of his powers, either,” he writes.
  • “He played golf in Atlanta like he played it in his dynastic prime. The better news? Woods nailed down No. 80 as a different human being, as a kinder and gentler update on the programmed assassin he used to be. Tiger has mellowed some with age, offering the head nods and eye contact he rarely bothered with during his scorched-earth prime. Back in the day, the legend Tiger has spent his life chasing Jack Nicklaus, altering his act, too, after growing tired of playing the villain while his neighborly rival, Palmer, basked in the gallery’s love.”
  • “Woods? He didn’t change because the fans had fallen hard for someone else. He changed because parenthood always changes young dads and moms, and because his staggering physical and personal breakdowns inspired him to reassess his tee-to-green purpose. Many of Tiger’s wounds were self inflicted, and a fan is entitled to feel about the man the way he or she sees fit. But no matter how you judge his character, Woods is indisputably one of the finest athletes this country has ever produced. And what he has pulled off in the early stages of recovery from what he called “some really dark, dark times” ranks among the greatest sports comebacks ever.
USA Today’s Steve Dimeglio…”But this day belonged to Woods and his legion of fans who have been hoping it would come for some time. Even Woods was among those who didn’t know if this day would come, his body punished enough to require four surgeries to his left knee and four surgeries to his back.”
  • “At times he couldn’t walk, was forced to crawl and had pain constantly shooting up his back and down his leg….His way of life was a daily struggle. But 17 months removed from fusion surgery to his spine, and 16 months after he hit rock bottom and the world saw the alarming mug shot following his arrest for suspicion of DUI, Woods was a picture of health and joy after PGA Tour victory No. 80 and his first since 2013, or in 1,876 days.”
On the more granular level, my recap of Woods’ final round.
2. Among the greatest comebacks in sports
Our Andrew Tursky offers his take on the significance of Tiger Woods’ return to the winner’s circle.
  • Here’s a bit of his perspective…”No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all – a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.”
  • “Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.”
  • “Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?”

Full article

3. Equipment decisions key for Tiger

Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson filed an interesting reflection on Woods dialing in his equipment in the course of his comeback.
“This continued into the season as Woods used the M3, originally putting the two movable weights in the center and back heel position (neutral flight with slide draw bias) before moving them both to the center track with one weight forward and the other somewhat back. The weights forward sacrifice some forgiveness, but add speed and make the club much more workable-a desirable trait for a player who shapes his shots like Woods. He also changed shafts at the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, putting in a Mitsubishi Diamana D + white 70-gram shaft-an updated version of the Mitsubishi shaft he used with much success.”
“Woods also added new irons to his bag, TaylorMade’s TW Phase 1. The irons are almost an exact replica of the muscleback blade irons Woods has used virtually throughout his career. Woods tried prototypes of the irons at the test session, but felt the ball flight was too high-a non-starter for one of the game’s best iron players. “If I look up and don’t see the ball right there-I mean, right where I expect it to be-then we have a serious, serious problem,” Woods told Golf Digest several years ago about his ball flight with irons. Eventually TaylorMade matched up the center of gravity location to what Woods had been using and also brought in former Nike employee Mike Taylor, who worked on Woods’ irons and wedges when he used equipment with a swoosh, to make sure the irons were just so.”
4. What Brandel said
Frequently a Woods critic, more recently a True Believer, here’s what Brandel Chamblee had to say on air.
  • “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.”
5. Feinstein’s take
John Feinstein offered his take on where Woods’ comeback sits in the pantheon of sports…”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.”
  • Feinstein went on to reference Jimmy Connors, Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman.
6. Bigger than Tiger
USA Today’s Dan Wolken on the scope of Woods’ comeback.
  • “What has made the Woods phenomenon so fascinating during his 2018 comeback is that it only seemed to be partly about him. Woods always has attracted big galleries and drawn huge television ratings any time he played, but the desire to see him win again also has been about us.”
  • “If you are old enough to remember the early 2000s, the way Woods pounded field after field of elite players into submission became so familiar that we took for granted how quickly it would end. As soon as Woods stuffed his approach to 10 feet on the first hole, burying the birdie to take a four-shot lead over playing partner Rory McIlroy, everyone on the course knew it was over.”
  • “That Woods could give both his fans and critics that feeling again after so long, and show a glimpse of what it was like to those who weren’t around to see it, has to rank as one of the greatest achievements of his career.”
7. Remembering the abyss
Q. If you go back to the first surgery that caused you to miss the Masters back in ’14, what would you consider to be the low point, and what would you consider to be the high point up until today?
  • TIGER WOODS: Probably the low point was not knowing if I’d ever be able to live pain-free again. 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 that way. This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It’s going to be a tough rest of my life. And so — I was beyond playing. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg. That was a pretty low point for a very long time.
In a similar vein, (yes, he was quoted earlier) ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote this
  • “As it turned out, Tiger’s body was more fragile than his focus. One back injury after another left him bedridden at times, and at others unable to perform the basic physical functions of your average middle-aged dad. “I couldn’t even go out for dinner,” Woods said. “I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t get from Point A to B in the house.”
  • “Woods couldn’t chip because of the pain he felt running down his leg when he bent over, causing his hands to shake. The cortisone shots and the epidurals didn’t give him relief. He couldn’t play pickup golf with his friends, and he couldn’t even play backyard ball with his kids.”
  • “Coming back and playing golf was never in my thoughts,” Woods would tell ESPN in March. “It was just, ‘How do I get away from this pain? How can I live life again?’ That was driving my life. I felt like I couldn’t participate in my own life.”
  • “Woods said the pain and sleeplessness caused him to over-medicate himself and led to his late-night DUI arrest near his Jupiter, Florida, home on Memorial Day in 2017, when he was found asleep at the wheel of his damaged car with the engine running. The mortifying roadside video of Woods’ interaction with police suggested the golfer was literally and figuratively lost, and maybe for keeps.”
8. Other golf stuff!
Denny McCarthy won the Web.com Tour Championship…Justin Rose won the FedEx Cup…Dustin Johnson is the world No. 1 again…Tom Lewis birdied 24 of his final 54 holes to win the Portugal Masters.
9. What a scene
It remains to be determined whether it was the product of some coordinated official effort to create an old-school scene or if it was the golf equivalent of fans storming the court, but the image of Tiger Woods being swallowed by the massive gallery as he walked the fairway of the final hole was surreal.

One of the many images, below.

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