Fools and their money are easily parted. And, as inconceivable as it seems, Tiger Woods is among those in the betting books for the Masters. Not only that, but he is relatively short priced – at 40 to 1 – to actually win another green jacket which, given his injury travails of recent years, is all a bit mad.
Those rather mean odds of 40 to 1 on Woods winning might be more fitting to a different kind of question. Will Tiger Woods even play at the Masters? For the reality is that his latest injury withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms indicates the fragility of the 14-times Major champion, who missed all of last year in recuperating from multiple back surgeries.
There are some salient points worth considering about Woods’ current plight, especially when it comes to the Majors. Woods’s last Major success – effectively on one leg – came in the 2008 US Open, where he defeated Rocco Mediate in a play-off. After that success, he underwent knee surgery and, in truth, he has never been the same again.
The last time Woods made a cut in a Major was at the US Masters in 2015, when he finished tied-17th. But he subsequently missed the cuts in the US Open, British Open and US PGAs that year and didn’t play in any Major at all in 2016. His last top-10 finish in a Major came in the 2013 British Open when he was sixth.
As of now, Wood’s tour schedule remains unchanged. He is down to play in next week’s Genesis Open at Riviera in Los Angeles and the following week’s Honda Classic in Florida, two tournaments close to his heart. The reasoning, as his manager Mark Steinberg noted, is that the spasms in his back which caused him to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic were muscular rather than nerve related.
Even so, the evidence so far from Woods’s return to competition is unfortunately that he is a mere shadow of his former great self and the manner – and obvious discomfort – of his play in Dubai would only appear to put even bigger question marks on where he is headed going forward.
Clarke’s global game
We’re all familiar with the great work Darren Clarke has done in this neck of the woods through his foundation which brings the very best of young talent, girls and boys, together for an annual masterclass from the 2011 British Open champion.
Clarke’s tentacles, though, expand beyond these shores and the Northern Irishman is very much involved in the MENA Tour, a development circuit in the Middle East which also dips into north Africa and parts of Asia in providing fledgling professionals with an outlet for their craft.
As the patron to the tour, a role which he has agreed to take on for a further three years, Clarke has actively encouraged young European players, who don’t have full playing rights, to broaden their horizons.
“Guys are looking to expand where they play. You get to a certain level as a professional, and I think nothing improves you more than playing in different countries and different grasses around the world, and that’s what this MENA Tour affords you the opportunity to do . . . . it’s a very attractive tour to play on,” said Clarke.
GUI agrees exclusive Under Armour deal
The Golfing Union of Ireland has formed an exclusive, technical partnership with Under Armour that will see Ireland’s elite players wear the American company’s products from head to toe, including the recently launched Spieth One golf shoes.
The company is indelibly linked with former world number one and two-time Major championship Jordan Spieth and, in something for a coup for the GUI, Ireland will be the only international team to showcase the Under Armour brand.
“We’re truly excited to welcome Under Armour as a new partner,” said GUI chief executive Pat Finn. “The impact that Under Armour has made in the golfing marketplace in a very short space of time is testament to the supreme quality of the product.”
The GUI sends more than 30 squads and teams to compete overseas annually, with the Spieth One shoes and Gore-Tex Paclite rainwear included among the products which Irish players will wear.
Word of Mouth
“I’m 37 and I’m not getting any younger. So I’d love to play every week but unfortunately I can’t. I know what does it for me and what doesn’t, and you know, I am playing (in the USA) before that. So it doesn’t look like it at the moment” – Sergio Garcia seeming to rule out any appearances at the Irish Open or Scottish Open in the run-up to the British Open.
“I talked to Bernhard Langer on the phone a few months ago, and his advice was just be creative, try a couple different things, try to get relaxed and comfortable” – Webb Simpson on the improvement in his form. The former US Open champion finished birdie-birdie to force his way into a play-off for the Phoenix Open, only to lose out to world number five Hideki Matsuyama.
By the numbers
3+2+1=?: Three Irishmen are in the field for the Pebble Beach pro-am on the US Tour: Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and Séamus Power.
Two Irish players are in the field for the Maybank Championship in Malaysia: Paul Dunne, playing on a sponsor’s invite, and Niall Turner.
After making the long journey to Adelaide, Stephanie Meadow is first alternate to play in the Australian Women’s Open.
“Life is about choices. Last night I made a very poor one. I’m very sorry to those I have disappointed. I must and will, do better” – a repenting Steven Bowditch after the Australian was arrested by police for driving under the influence in Phoenix. Bowditch, who has suffered from clinical depression, is due to play in the Pebble Beach pro-am this week.
“Congrats @TheSergioGarcia ! Impressive stuff all week” – Rory McIlroy, currently sidelined by a rib injury, tips the cap to the Spaniard on his Desert Classic win.
“Thanks big boy!” – an appreciative Garcia gets back to McIlroy.
In the Bag
Sergio Garcia, Dubai Desert Classic
Driver – TaylorMade M2 (’17) (9.5 degrees)
3-wood – TaylorMade M1 (’17) (15 degrees)
5-wood – TaylorMade M1 (’17) (19 degrees)
3 iron-Pitching Wedge – TaylorMade P750
Sand Wedge – TaylorMade Milled Grind (52 degrees)
Lob Wedge – TaylorMade Milled Grind (58 degrees)
Putter – TaylorMade TP Collection Juno
Know the Rules
Q: A player unable to find his ball after a brief search drops another ball (Ball B) under Rule 27-1 and plays it. His original ball is then found within five minutes after search for it began. The player lifted Ball B and continued to play with the original ball. Was this correct?
A: No. When the player put the substituted ball into play at the spot of the previous stroke with the intent to play a ball under Rule 27-1, he proceeded under an applicable Rule. Therefore, Rule 20-6 does not apply, and he must continue with the substituted ball (see Decision 27-1/2). The original ball was lost when Ball B was dropped under Rule 27-1 (see Definition of ‘Lost Ball’).
When the player lifted Ball B, he incurred a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2. When he made a stroke with the original ball after it was out of play, he played a wrong ball (see Definitions of ‘Ball in Play’ and ‘Wrong Ball’) and incurred a penalty of loss of hole in match play or an additional penalty of two strokes in stroke play (Rule 15-3). In stroke play, the player would be disqualified if, before playing from the next teeing ground, he did not correct his error (Rule 15-3b).