Euro Tour Introduces Rolex Series So Players ‘Don’t Have to Go’ to U.S.

Keith Pelley took over as commissioner and CEO of the European Tour in 2015.

The European Tour is introducing the Rolex Series this year, which starts in late May with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and ends in late November with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The other events that make up the Rolex Series are Irish Open and Scottish Open in successive weeks ahead of the British Open; the Italian Open in October; and then the Turkish Airlines Open and Nedbank Challenge in South Africa leading into the finale in Dubai.

European Tour chief Keith Pelley said one goal was to create a product that “provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don’t have to go to the United States.” All the tournaments will have a minimum $7 million purse.

While 2017 is the inaugural year of the Rolex Series and Pelley expects it to expand, he should get an early indication of its traction.

For starters, PGA Tour purses (minus the majors the World Golf Championships) average $7.06 million this season. Equally important are world ranking points, and the gap between the PGA Tour and the European Tour continues to grow.

PGA Tour events awarded an average of 57.4 points to the winner in 2016, up from 56.4 a year ago. The European Tour averaged 42 points for the winner, slightly down from 42.2 points last year.

Throw out the majors and WGCs, and the PGA Tour offered an average of 50.6 points compared with 32.9 points for European Tour events.

The BMW PGA Championship is considered the flagship event for Europe and is guaranteed to offer the winner 64 points (Jordan Spieth received 52 points for winning the Colonial, even though it had a much stronger field that week).

Among the rest of the regular European Tour events, the strongest fields were the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the DP World Tour Championship, both offering 52 points to the winner. The PGA Tour had 17 regular events that offered 52 or more. That includes the FedEx Cup playoff events, which averaged 69 points for the winners. The first two FedEx Cup events offered 74 points, slightly below World Golf Championship level.

Europe at least hopes to build some momentum with the first part of the Rolex Series, particularly the stretch between the U.S. Open and British Open. The Irish Open and the Scottish Open last year offered 46 points to the winner. They will be up against The Greenbrier Classic (canceled last year because of flooding) and the John Deere Classic, which offers the smallest purse ($5.6 million) among PGA Tour events that earn full FedEx Cup points.

courtesy of AP News

Steven Spieth Nets Career High With Jordan In Attendance

Steven Spieth (left) scored a career-high 27 points in front of his brother Jordan.

Thursday was a special night for the Spieth family.

Jordan, fifth-ranked golfer in the world, showed up to watch his kid brother Steven play for the Brown University basketball team. Almost as if it was scripted, Steven led an incredible comeback for a five-point victory over Maine.

Steven scored 21 of his career-high 27 points in the second half for the Bears. Shortly after the game, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman posted a photo of the two brothers.

Before the game, Brown posted a few fun photos of the two facing off at each of their best sports. We’ll leave it up to you to guess who won.

 courtesy of golfwire


TOUR & NEWS Phil Mickelson Will Bag Major No. 6: Bold Prediction For 2017

Phil Mickelson 13th tee
Golf: 2016 British Open
Round 4 Sunday
Royal Troon/Ayrshire Scotland
GFP-22 TK5
Credit: Kohjiro Kinno

Phil Mickelson will play the 2016-17 season as a 46- and 47-year-old PGA Tour veteran, but age won’t stop him from winning a major in 2017.

He hasn’t won a major (or Tour event) since the British Open at Muirfield in July 2013, but that will change in the coming months. A player with his resume, which includes 42 career Tour wins, isn’t going to get skunked for the remainder of his 40s. Mickelson is too good for that, and his recent play justifies it.

Just last year he ranked eighth on Tour in total strokes gained (1.364), ninth in strokes gained putting (.565) and fifth in strokes gained approach to green (.726). His scoring average (69.582) ranked fifth and was his best since 2008, and he was seventh in birdie average (4.06).

At this point in Mickelson’s career, the sharpie comes out and circles the same events every year. He wants to win majors; his game skyrockets on the big stage. He fired scintillating rounds of 63 and 65 at the Open at Royal Troon (where he was second to only Henrik Stenson’s marvelous display), and who could forget his 10-birdie, nine-under 63 versus Sergio Garcia in Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup?

There is a slight reason for concern since Mickelson had a second surgery to repair a sports hernia in mid-December, which followed the first operation in October. Still, it was taken care of this offseason and, assuming there are no more setbacks, Mickelson should have enough time to regain his form in the coming months. Mickelson’s spokesperson T.R. Reinman said on Monday that, “Phil is feeling fine,” but he couldn’t say with certainty if Mickelson would be ready for his next expected start, the CareerBuilder Challenge on Jan. 19-22, where Mickelson is the ambassador. Reinman added that he fully expects Mickelson to be ready for the Masters.

Speaking of the Masters, Mickelson’s missed cut at last year’s event means little. Except for a tree planted here or a tee box shifted there, Augusta National rarely changes. It’s still essentially the same course where Mickelson won three times and tied for second in 2015. He has 11 Top 10s there.

If he triumphed at Augusta, Mickelson would be the oldest Masters winner ever. Nicklaus won his 18th and final major at Augusta in 1986 at 46 years, two months and 23 days old. Mickelson, if he were to win the 2017 Masters, would be two months shy of his 47th birthday (June 16). He’d also join Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer with four green jackets apiece, tied for the second-most behind Nicklaus.

As for the other majors of 2017: U.S. Open site Erin Hills is a bit of an unknown to pros, but a victory there would allow Mickelson to complete the career grand slam. The British Open is at Royal Birkdale in England, and Mickelson finished T19 at the 2008 Open there (done in by a first-round 79). The PGA Championship will be at Quail Hallow Club in Charlotte — which has hosted a Tour event since 2003 — and it should present a golden opportunity for Mickelson. He’s played 13 events at Quail Hollow since 2004, and he has nine Top 10 and six Top 5s. He’s finished worse than T12 just twice and has never missed a cut. In three of the last four years he’s finished tied for fourth twice — the past two tournaments — and third once (he was one shot out of a playoff in 2013).

But a major motivator for Mickelson should be the return of Woods. His rival for the majority of his career, Woods’s return will steal pre-tournament headlines everywhere he goes. The prideful Mickelson doesn’t want to be an afterthought. And in 2017, he won’t be.

BY JOSH BERHOW. Courtesy of


Mark Wahlberg Created A Crazy Golf Workout To Squeeze In More Rounds

PEBBLE BEACH, CA – FEBRUARY 11: Mark Wahlberg plays his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Spyglass Hill Golf Course on on February 11, 2016 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Mark Wahlberg really loves golf. Even with an incredibly busy schedule, the 45-year-old actor manages to fit both a workout and a round of golf into his (almost) daily routine. That is, when he’s not practicing in his own awesome backyard facility.

How? By creating “cardio-golf” — a rushed round sprinkled with interval sprints between shots.

Wahlberg was filming the new Transformers movie in Detroit this summer, hitting the set at 8 a.m. and putting in long days, ones that cut into the 13-handicapper’s golf game.

He and his buddies devised a plan to get them out on the course more and fit in a cardio session at the same time. Before the sun was up, he and three buddies would hit a local club where they each had a caddie and a cart. They’d tee off, hand off the club to their caddie, and sprint to their next shot. The caddie would follow behind in the cart, where the guys would then select the appropriate club and hit their next shot.

“I would tee off at 6 in the morning and run the golf course,” Wahlberg said.

(MORE: Mark Wahlberg Gets Tips, Driver from Rory McIlroy)

Wahlberg and friends, clad in running shorts and sneakers, said they’d get in a round in under an hour and half.

“We’d shoot for 12 hours, go to bed and do it again the next day,” Wahlberg said. “We did it almost every day last summer, sometimes seven days a week. The key was I’d get my cardio in while playing golf. It was my second workout of the day.”

And that’s how you take pace of play to the next level.

Courtesy extraspin staff

Dottie Pepper Urges Lydia Ko To Take Ownership Of Her Life

PACIFIC PALISADES, CA – FEBRUARY 21: Dottie Pepper, commentator for CBS Sports, walks the 7th fairway during the final round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club on February 21, 2016 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Former LPGA star and current CBS broadcaster Dottie Pepper has some advice for young World No. 1 Lydia Ko: you, and only you, are responsible for everything that’s going on in your life.

Writing in her year-end round-up for ESPN, Pepper criticized the 19-year-old’s helicopter-parents and former coach, David Leadbetter. But ultimately, she had some stern words for the LPGA phenom.

“Take ownership of everything in your life and do your preparation in the quiet of your home, not in the public eye,” Pepper wrote.

Ko has cleaned house this off season, starting with her caddie Jason Hamilton, followed closely in succession by coaches Sean Hogan and David Leadbetter. She’s also looking at an equipment switch — it would appear Ko is preparing for a completely new start in 2017.

“I’m not going to judge the personalities involved, but I will always be critical of over-involved parents/spouses as well as students and teachers who don’t arrive at tournaments with their preparation complete,” Pepper writes. “Tournament time is when you put your work on auto pilot and play golf, not try to reinvent the wheel with a teacher stuck to you like cellophane.”

Will Ko employ a new entourage or heed Pepper’s advice? The 2017 LPGA season kicks off at the end of January in the Bahamas, likely our first indication of what the young New Zealander plans to do.

Courtesy of Golfwire.


Costco Tight-Lipped About Its Mysterious Golf Balls

Next time you run to Costco for paper towels, baby formula or coffee pods, you might consider dropping another item in your cart: golf balls.

That is, if you can find them.

As reported by Forbes this week, Costco’s Kirkland Signature golf balls have become a hot commodity at the wholesale club. The first run of the four-piece, urethane-covered balls, which retail for about $30 for a 24 pack (or about $15 per dozen), already have sold out, though the store says more balls should be available by Dec. 20. Yep, just in time for Christmas.

What’s the appeal? The affordability, for one, but the balls also appear to perform, with some golfers comparing them to premium priced Tour models (most of which typically retail in the $40-$48/dozen range).

“I am a 7 handicap,” a reviewer named Dmun wrote on the Costco site, “and find the distance, control and short game feel are exceptional.” Said Tim W: “I’ve played 2 rounds with these, and they are far better than any other ball I’ve played. Long distance off the tee and lots of spin with short irons and wedges.” Added MrGolf55: “Only problem I see is people are selling these balls on Craig’s list and ebay for twice the price.”

Costco has been reluctant to discuss the balls and why they can’t keep them in stock. When reached by Wednesday, a Costco media relations representative said the company “cannot comment on the Kirkland Signature golf ball at this time.” There is a note on the Costco site from company president and CEO Craig Jelinek that reads, “All Kirkland Signature products must be equal to or better than the national brands and must offer a savings to our members.”

With that mission in mind perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the “K-Sig,” as some devotees call the ball, would perform well in comparison to big-name brands. But at a price that’s about a third of some competitive models, you have to wonder how Costco has done it.

At least part of the answer could lie in another case study: Snell Golf. Like Costco, Snell is a successful newcomer to the ball market that offers a Tour quality multilayer model at a value price (six dozen of Snell’s well received My Tour Ball balls cost $157.99, which equates to about $26/dozen). The Massachusetts-based ball maker is able to cut prices relative to national brands by selling direct to customers online and not spending on advertising, marketing or Tour player contracts. Obviously Costco is also cutting costs by buying and selling in bulk, and not supporting the product with any advertising.

But where did the design come from and how does a big box store without any material engineers or resident ball engineers create a Tour model that actually performs? They buy it — in this case from a ball manufacturer in South Korea called Nassau Golf Co LTD. Though we haven’t been able to reach anyone at Nassau, the Costco site (which states clearly that product details come directly from the manufacturer) describes the four-piece construction as consisting of a large, soft core, speed boosting outer core, super fast mantle, and soft urethane cover. The design as described aligns perfectly with what could be considered a generic Tour ball construction that, if properly manufactured, should perform well.

Of course there’s only one sure-fire way to know if the K-Sig is right for your game: Wait until they’re back on the shelves and go pick up a box for yourself.


Rickie Fowler, Cindy Crawford Celebrate By Drinking From Ryder Cup

Apparently, the Ryder Cup is not exclusively for golfers.

The Ryder Cup spent plenty of years in the Europeans’ hands, and now that it’s owned by the Americans, it has had plenty of travels. Most recently, it crashed Rickie Fowler’s 28th birthday party.

Fowler Snapchatted himself drinking from the trophy Tuesday night, but the best photo to come from the event was with American model Cindy Crawford chugging from the Cup. “Oh, do you want your #RyderCup back Rickie Fowler?” Crawford wrote in the caption. “Just wait ’til I finish my Casamigos!”

Courtesy of golfwire

Arnold Palmer Masters Trophy Garners Huge Price At Auction

Augusta National Master’s Trophy

Golf memorabilia is frequently featured in auctions around the world, occasionally drawing lots of attention and money (such as when a rare Augusta National green jacket goes up for sale.)

But recently a truly rare piece of golf history hit the auction blocks: one of Arnold Palmer’s Masters trophies. And given the scarcity of such high-quality items on the market, it drew a huge sum from one anonymous collector: $444,012.

As Darren Rovell notes on, “Augusta National started making the clubhouse trophies in 1993, and past champions were entitled to purchase one for each of their wins. Palmer, who died in September at the age of 87, won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.”

MORE: Buy Sports Illustrated’sArnold Palmer Commemorative

“Palmer had three trophies in his possession, but he authorized the fourth to be purchased by the Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia. The resort featured a Palmer course that opened in 2001.”

Eventually the resort hit financial troubles and sold the trophy to a private collector, who then put it up for auction this year.

Courtesy of Golfwire

Chambers Bay, 2015 US Open Site, Covered In A Rare Snow Is Gorgeous

There’s something about a beautiful blanket of snow that makes a golf course stand out — especially if it’s at a place where snow isn’t common.

Our most recent example is 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, which was blanketed with snow and closed to the public on Friday. Chambers Bay, located in University Place, Wash., — 38 miles from Seattle — isn’t used to this kind of weather. Sure, it receives a ton of rain, but Seattle gets less than seven inches of snow per year. (This also happened to Chambers in 2011.)

But what a difference a day makes? Chambers Bay’s official Twitter account tweeted that just eight hours later the snow was all gone and the course would be open the following day. The golf spikes don’t have to be put away for too long.

Courtesy of golfwire

David Leadbetter On Split With Lydia Ko: ‘It Was A Bit Of A Shock’

In a surprising move on Tuesday, World No. 1 Lydia Ko fired her coach of three years, David Leadbetter. Leadbetter says the decision may have been influenced by Ko’s parents and their unrealistic expectations for the teenage prodigy.

In interviews on PGA Tour Radio and with Golf Digest, Leadbetter mentioned the interference of Ko’s parents in her career. “It was a bit of a shock. But there are other forces involved. The parents are involved,” he said of the split on Sirius XM on Friday. Leadbetter praised Ko as a role model and a “delight” to work with, but attributed her faltering performance in the last part of her season to parental pressure and too many commitments: “With all these outside pressures and people in her team, I’ll call it that, expecting that she should win every week…She’s not a machine.”

Leadbetter’s comments about Ko’s parents to Golf Digest were even more damning. “They tell her when to go to bed, what to eat, what to wear, when to practice and what to practice,” he said. “And they expect her to win every tournament. They are good people, who love their daughter and want the very best for her…But they are naive about golf. And at some point, they’ve got to let the bird fly from the nest. I would often think, ‘It’s not easy coaching three people.’” Leadbetter said that Ko’s father had taken to correcting and criticizing Ko’s swing, overwhelming his daughter with extraneous and, Leadbetter says, unhelpful information.

The coach dates Ko’s wobbling this fall to the Olympics, where she had her heart set on taking home a gold medal (a goal that was strongly encouraged by her father, according to Leadbetter). She walked away with a silver, and was “mentally and physically shattered” after the struggle to win was over. “There was so much pressure on her,” he said on the Radio.

For all she has accomplished in her short career, Ko is only 19-years-old. Leadbetter hopes his former student will find a way to navigate her own path. He said he was hopeful she would heed his final advice to her: “Take control of your life. Take control of your golf game. Make more of your own decisions.”

Courtesy of golfwire



U.S. Might Change Process of Selecting Ryder Cup Captain’s Picks

CHASKA, MN – OCTOBER 02: Ryan Moore of the United States hits off the third tee during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on October 2, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott Halleran/PGA of America via Getty Images)   Ryan Moore was the final captain’s pick for the Americans at Hazeltine.

The U.S. Ryder Cup committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday by telephone, the first step toward picking a new captain. Attention has focused on Jim Furyk, mainly because he answered a hypothetical question at Sea Island that he would take the job if offered. He said he was not lobbying to be captain.

At some point after a captain is selected, the next decision will be how to pick a team.

Davis Love III, the winning captain and part of the committee, hinted that the entire U.S. team will be set before the Tour Championship. This year, Ryan Moore was the 12th and final player selected for the team after his playoff loss at East Lake.

The 2018 Ryder Cup is Sept. 28-30 in France.

“One thing we’ve got to really work on is picking this team, make sure we have a week to get everyone ready,” Love said. “Rushing off to Paris at the last minute when a guy has just made the team, throw him on a plane and we’re going to Paris, we’re wondering if that’s the smartest thing to do. That’s one of the discussion points.”

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods also are on the committee. The PGA of America is represented on the committee by Pete Bevacqua (CEO), Paul Levy (president) and Suzy Whaley (vice president).

AP News

Harold Varner III Wins Australian PGA, Adam Scott Finishes Third

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 04:  Harold Varner III of the USA celebrates after winning the Joe Kirkwood trophy on day four of the 2016 Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on December 4, 2016 in Gold Coast, Australia.  (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 04: Harold Varner III of the USA celebrates after winning the Joe Kirkwood trophy on day four of the 2016 Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on December 4, 2016 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Harold Varner III didn’t really know the protocol, so he filled the Australian PGA Championship trophy with champagne, took a sip and then shared it around.

The 26-year-old American won a title for the first time outside the U.S. mini tours when he fired nine birdies in a closing 65 on Sunday to finish at 19 under, two clear of Australian journeyman Andrew Dodt and four ahead of 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott.

He finished runner-up after a playoff here last year, then had four top-10 finishes in his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

“After last year, it feels good to come back and finish it off,” he said. “This is my first win since the mini tours, so this is my first win, I guess, as part of an organization such as the PGA Tour, the European Tour. It’s just a step in the right direction and I’m just super excited.”

Varner had a hectic week at the event that is co-sanctioned by the Australasian and European tours. After lightning and rain stopped his first round after 14 holes, he had to set the alarm for 2:45 a.m. Friday to get up in time for an early courtesy car ride to his 5:30 a.m. tee off.

He finished his first round in a share of the lead at 7 under, then went out and finished his second round before lunch on day two. His spare time has included black jack at the Casino where he’s staying, and where he was headed Sunday night. This being his first win abroad, Varner admitted he wasn’t fully across the routine for a champion that included extra interviews, news conferences and photos opportunities.

“I’m ready to get to the casino but no one told me about the other stuff that goes along with winning – which I’m totally cool with – I just didn’t know there was so much stuff. There might have been 1,000 pictures out there,” he told the news conference where he filled the trophy with champagne and shared it around. “Winning is cool.”

Varner started the last round two shots behind Dodt. He surged into the lead with a run of four birdies at the start of an entertaining span of nine holes that contained seven birdies and two bogeys. He took a two-shot lead into the last hole and tapped in for par.

Dodt held a two-shot lead before the final round but couldn’t match it with Varner’s nine birdies and closed with a 69. Scott closed with a 67, his best round of the tournament to finish in outright third at 15 under.

Ashley Hall dropped from second to fourth at 14 under after a final round of 70. His fellow Australian Brett Rumford finished at 10 under, two shots ahead of a group of three that included Dutch golfer Darius van Driel, amateur Brett Coletta and John Senden. New Zealander Ryan Fox was ninth at 7 under.

was wayward off the tee. He kept in touch with three birdies in four holes from the eighth and added an eagle at the par-5 15th.

“It was my best round of the week and it wasn’t good enough unfortunately,” he said.

The former No. 1-ranked Scott said he planned to put the clubs away for a while and catch up on family time, surfing, and watching some cricket and tennis.

The clubs “will be away for a couple of weeks and if they’re not too rusty by Christmas I might bring them back out and shake some of the rust off,” he said. “I’ll just play around for fun and then I’ll get serious once the new year starts.”

Varner, who is the only player other than Tiger Woods with black heritage on the PGA Tour, is hoping this win is the launching pad for a better 2017.

He was the first American to win the Australian PGA title since Hale Irwin in 1978 at Royal Melbourne, and the first non-Australian to claim the title since 1999.

“Winning is just … different,” he said. “Three years, I haven’t won, so this is special.”

AP News

Tiger Woods Will Not Win This Week, But He’s On Track to Emerge a Winner Anyway

tiger-woods-third-round-hero-ritter-960.Now it gets interesting.

Actually, scratch that — Tiger Woods’s return this week at the Hero World Challenge was already fascinating. What credible golf fan hasn’t at least glanced at the headlines flowing out of the Bahamas? No, we have already sailed past the point of novelty. Now it gets serious. On a breezy, overcast Saturday afternoon, Woods rang up seven birdies against three bogeys and one double for a 2-under-par 70. His final score could’ve been better if not for some scratchy play over the closing holes that knocked him out of contention to win.

But Woods has already exceeded most reasonable expectations for his return after a 15-month layoff. That layoff, it should be reminded, followed two back surgeries, missed cuts at the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA, several alarmingly high scores — including an 85 at the Memorial — and a litany of flubbed shots and on-course gaffes that made you wonder if the 14-time major champion would ever again play golf competently, let alone competitively.

It’s all still a little dizzying, but here is where Woods stands: 8 under par, 10th place, 11 shots behind the leader, Hideki Matsuyama. Woods is not going to win this golf tournament, but he’s on track to emerge a winner anyway.

“Probably the biggest surprise for me as a player who has taken time off in the past has been finding the flow early in my rounds. For three straight days I’ve gotten off to great starts,” Woods said afterward during an appearance in the NBC broadcast booth. “Overall, I’m so happy to be back out here and competing against these guys. It’s been a tough road to get to this point. I’ve missed it.”

While galleries in the Bahamas have been predictably thin, there is an undeniable buzz surrounding Woods’s return, especially on social media. Even President-elect Donald Trump fired a supportive tweet at Woods Saturday morning.

Woods teed off alongside Rickie Fowler at 12:26 ET in an all-gray ensemble that matched the sky, and he started sublimely, stuffing iron shots on 1 and 2, and feathering a pitch shot on 3 to kick-in range for a third straight birdie. After dropping a six-foot par-saver on 4, he fanned his tee shot on the par-3 5th into a front bunker, but jarred the ensuing sand shot for his most spectacular highlight of the day.

Woods blew a five-footer on 6 for his first bogey in 24 holes but bounced back with another birdie and turned in 32. Yet another birdie putt on 11 pushed him to 11 under, and into the top five.

But then Woods lost the feel with his driver, missing four straight fairways while making bogeys on 13 and 14. He canned one more long birdie putt on 17, but drove into a waste area on 18 and hooked his approach into a pond — the second time he splashed one on the 18th in three rounds — before closing with a double bogey.

It’s still very early in this comeback, but we can begin to take stock. Here are a few things these 54 holes are not:

They are not part of a major championship, or even a mid-level Tour event. Albany has been completely devoid of big crowds. It is not a particularly arduous golf course. This week hardly resembles the pressure caldron that awaits Woods back on the mainland in 2017.

But here are few things these 54 holes most certainly are: They are part of a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, one comprised of 18 of the world’s greatest golfers. (After Woods at 898, Zach Johnson entered with the second-worst World Ranking, at 38) They count towards World Ranking points, and a $1 million check will be handed to Sunday’s winner. Each golfer in the field would very much like to win one million dollars. And Woods, to this point, is beating seven of them, including the reigning PGA Championship winner (Jimmy Walker) a two-time Masters champion (Bubba Watson) and America’s Ryder Cup hero (Patrick Reed).

While it isn’t Augusta, the pressure and attention have been squarely on Woods this week. All things considered he has responded well.

“One thing I’ve been good at over the years is eliminating the noise,” Woods said. “Coming back for this one in particular, there was a lot. I had to stay focused on what I had to do. I had to get these guys happy, and host an event. But my mind was able to switch over to competitor-mode again, and that felt great.”

Three rounds into his latest comeback, Woods has also answered several questions that were unknown Thursday morning: Can he play a tournament round without re-injury? He has now played three. Did he craft a swing that allows him to compete? He’s made 19 birdies. Has he squelched the short-game jitters that plagued him in 2015? For now, it seems so.

“I wouldn’t be here doing this if I didn’t feel like I can play at the highest level,” Woods said. “I have too much pride, and if I can’t prepare to play at this level anymore, then I won’t do it. But I know that I can.”

From here, Woods will face more questions, including one of the most significant of all:

How will he perform on a Sunday?

That one will be waiting for him on the first tee.

by Jeff Ritter (