Jul 31

Tiger Woods rallies from rough start for 3-under 68 at Quicken Loans National

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Through four holes, it was looking like another reprisal of the Passion of Tiger. Snap-hook and a bogey on the first hole. Missed 5-footer for par on the second hole. Another dropped shot at the fourth.

At 3 over through four holes, it seemed Woods was a few more bad ones away from indifference, the subsequent reemergence of the chipping yips and then a post-round head-hanging explanation of what went wrong -- again.

That's not what happened.

Instead, Woods somewhat surprisingly rallied to shoot a 3-under 68 that has him in the top third of the field at the Quicken Loans National.

The 14-time major winner began the comeback with routine-looking birdies on the two par 5s on the front nine at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, completing the opening half with a par at the ninth.

It was on the 10th tee where Woods started his rally. He his four consecutive approach shots inside 12 feet, making all four birdies putts to turn a 1-over round into a 3-under effort that had the weather-weakened crowd buzzing as though Tiger was actually back to his old self. 

Woods played effective golf to the house, but couldn't sink any of three slightly longer mid-range birdies bids to improve his score. He trails Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa by five shots heading into Friday's second round.

The world No. 266 admitted this was a test of will.

"I didn't do anything different (after the poor start)," Woods said afterward. "I said stay patient and it will turn, which I did. I turned it around."

Woods said he aimed to get back to even at the turn, which wasn't outlandish considering the two par 5s still ahead of him. He was able to attack some of the easier holes on the first-time host course, managing to fix a hook tendency at the start of the round. 

Ahead of the tournament, Woods said in a news conference that he hasn't been able to use his strengths to turn potential disaster rounds into respectable scores. Reminded of that comment after his Thursday effort, Woods savored in what he accomplished.

Woods said, "This is one of those days."

Baby steps, perhaps.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30

Support wounded warriors by playing in World’s Largest Golf Outing

Entering its fifth year on Aug. 3, the World's Largest Golf Outing has become a day of gratitude, charity and patriotism.

The brainchild of Billy Casper Golf, WLGO is a one-day, nationwide event which brings together four-player teams to enjoy a day of golf and raise money in support of Wounded Warrior Project. Some 140 courses, owned and operated by BCG, Troon Golf and Toll Golf, participate, offering a 9- or 18-hole round, cart, lunch and prizes, and includes a $10 per player donation to WWP. 

Players do not need a USGA handicap to participate and can sign up as a single or part of a group of two or four. Over 8,100 players have signed up so far, with 500 wounded warriors among the entrants. In 2014, over 10,000 players participated.

All players are entered into a drawing to win a trip for four to the Nike headquarters in Oregon for custom club fitting. The highest fundraising team wins a trip for four to Kiawah Island, S.C., to play the Ocean Course at the resort which hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.

Participating courses often organize unique events to inspire reflection on the purpose of the day, ranging from a performance of the national anthem to color guard ceremonies to the presence of military vehicles.

In the previous four years of the event, more than $2 million has been raised in support of the organization which offers programs to help injured soldiers integrate back into society and live fuller lives.

The deadline to sign up to play is July 31, with online fundraising continuing through the day of the event.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30

Rickie Fowler make last-shot ace, buys beer for the media after round

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Cheers, Rickie.

Rickie Fowler ended his first round at the Quicken Loans National on Thursday with a hole-in-one at the par-3 ninth at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Fowler used a 7-iron on the 200-yard downhill hole to make his second career PGA Tour ace and first since his pro debut at the Frys.com Open in 2009.

"We had 176 was the adjusted number," Fowler said of the shot that finished off a 4-under 67. "Spun to the right. I was trying to cut it. Rolled in with perfect speed."

Fowler could have walked off then and there, leaving playing partners Ben Crane and James Hahn to finish out, but the 2015 Players winner stuck around to shake hands and wrap everything up formally. 

However, the celebration continued for Fowler after the round, as he sent a bucket of beer to the media tent. 

Tony Lema was dubbed "Champagne" for his willingness to buy the bubbly for the scribes. So what should Rickie be called? Suds?

Fowler's ace wasn't the only one on a soft Day 1. Ryo Ishikawa made an ace at the par-3 fourth hole that took him to 8 under par, where he finished his round with a 63 to take a share of the lead.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 29

The 19th Hole Golf Show: With Rory in doubt for the PGA, is this Jason’s time?

On this week's podcast, we start with what we might glean from Rory McIlroy missing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

We touch on Tiger Woods' indifference about golf and the sudden rumor that he has fired swing consultant Chris Como in search of his own golf game.

Finally, Robert Allenby reaps what he sews in his incident with ex-caddie Mick Middlemo.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.

Jul 29

Donald Trump to visit Women’s British Open at his Turnberry Resort

Donald Trump couldn't help himself.

The 2016 presidential candidate will leave the campaign trail and head to Scotland for a two-day visit at his Turnberry resort, which hosts the Ricoh Women's British Open starting Thursday.

“I own Turnberry, in Scotland, one of great resorts in world,” Trump tweeted. “Women’s British Open there this week. I’ll go for two days & back on trail.”

Just great.

Trump's appearance, complete with a self-indulgent news conference on Thursday, takes away from the start of the LPGA's fourth major of the year. Instead, it brings into view Trump, who outraged golf's governing bodies with an assertion that the sport supports his position concerning Mexican immigrants. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan added that he would have preferred to move this championship from Trump's property, but the timing of Trump's comments made that impossible. In response, Trump wrote an open letter to Whan, saying he would let the LPGA out of a contract (it actually doesn't have) with his company to put on the Women's British at Turnberry.

Reaction to Trump and his forthcoming visit were mixed.

''It really distracts us from the great tournament that we have this week,'' said Michelle Wie.

Lizette Salas, the child of Mexican immigrants, said Trump's comments were wrong.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but, his words, a lot of people listen to him and hear him because he’s a big name,” Salas said, according to the Telegraph. “I’m proud of my heritage, proud of where I come from, not ashamed of being born of Mexican immigrants."

Karrie Webb seems to represent the opinion of most players, hoping that Trump will quickly step aside to let the historic venue, which will undergo a renovation starting in late September, and the tournament shine.

“We are playing such a great historical venue,” Webb said, according to Golfweek. “I really just think that’s the focus of the week.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 29

Rory McIlroy out of WGC-Bridgestone, but PGA status remains unknown

Rory McIlroy still isn't ready to play golf. He announced Wednesday that he won't defend his title next week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament he won as part of a three-event winning streak including the final two majors of 2014.

"Unfortunately, I will not be defending my Bridgestone title," said McIlroy. “Best of luck to all the competitors, and I look forward to returning to Firestone in 2016.”

Instead, McIlroy will continue to nurse the ruptured ligament he suffered in his left ankle during a July 4 soccer game with friends.

With the WGC in Ohio serving as the final tune-up before the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, there's more doubt that the world No. 1 will be able to defend the Wanamaker trophy in Wisconsin. The last PGA champion to not defend his title was Ben Hogan, who won the 1948 title but did not play the next year as he was recovering from a near-fatal car accident.

McIlroy's absence from Firestone Country Club also opens the possibility of Jordan Spieth becoming the top-ranked player in the world. Were Spieth to win the week before the PGA, he would take over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 28

Barring a win, Tiger Woods in home stretch of season to forget

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Tiger Woods is still mired in the process of installing a baseline shift, trying to figure out spin rates and feels and traj. He's done it before and he feels close to doing it again. 

The problem for Woods is that he's seemingly running out of time in this 2014-15 PGA Tour season to make much more progress inside the ropes.

Barring an unlikely win at this week's Quicken Loans National, Woods, who enters the week at No. 266 in the Official World Golf Ranking, will not qualify for next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. A win at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, which would be his 80th career PGA Tour title, is the only way Woods can crack the world top 50 and land a tee time at Firestone Country Club, a place he has won eight times in his career.

"Kind of funny I won there a couple years ago," Woods said Tuesday. He added, "Unfortunately, I can't get an invite there unless I win."

If that's the case, then Woods likely has just one more tournament remaining on his schedule this season: the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in two weeks. As a four-time Wanamaker trophy winner, Woods is set for life in the year's final major. Without a sudden return to form, Woods will miss out on qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the third time in five seasons. That'll leave him without a place to play for the four-event, five-week stretch.

Woods won't humble himself to play in Reno opposite the WGC event, and he's not going to show up in the Web.com Tour Finals, which runs alongside the FedEx Cup playoffs. He talks about needing and wanting reps, but he doesn't need them that badly. 

In other words, we're probably not going to see Woods for a while -- at least until October, when Woods is set to play in the Frys.com Open in California, a start promised to the PGA Tour as a favor being given the green light to play the European Tour's Turkish Airlines Open in 2013.

Woods doesn't seem all that concerned about the lack of golf on his calendar. He's been spending time with his children in the Caribbean, fishing and snorkeling. He caught some of the highlights of the British Open's Monday finish, but he wasn't glued into Jordan Spieth's chase of the single-season Grand Slam. 

The 39-year-old 14-time major winner looks like a guy tired of answering the same questions with the same answers. He mostly spared the media of the buzzword bingo that has recently accompanied his poor results. He didn't have excuses nor newfangled ways of explaining fairly innocuous golf concepts. That could only mean one of two things: either Woods is finally ready to seek out answers instead of explanations or he's tired of trying to convince us and himself that things are getting better inside the ropes.

It has to be difficult for Woods to maintain his I've-done-this-before mantra when it's so evident that he is struggling to take what he does so well when it doesn't count into the arena where he used to dominate. He knows he's just not getting the job done right now. So why not spend some time with the kids? It's more fun.

His kids also represent the few people who Woods knows will be at his side for the rest of his life. In 10 years, he'll still have an agent and a press representative, but the calls won't be as constant.

Woods' friends he made when he came out on Tour 20 years ago are all either on the Champions Tour, on TV or on TV while moonlighting on the Champions Tour. The rotating door of new faces leaves Woods, who is a part-time player, looking for familiarity when he looks up and down the range. None of the new guys are scared of him. He has earned their respect, but not their fear.

Every great athlete goes through this phase of decline before their superstar fades to nay a burning ember. For golfers, it's especially painful since careers are so long and the money connected to the game remains good despite a bad turn of form. However, Woods, the first billionaire athlete, is unique. Woods doesn't need the 50-plus circuit. Hell, he doesn't need golf anymore. But he still has things he wants to accomplish, including a burgeoning course-design business that could be the link to the game that keeps him engaged long after the chases of Nicklaus and Snead are finished.

Perhaps Woods is checking out of the game temporarily and all it would take is one truly good tournament to awaken his interest. However, at the moment, Woods looks in a funk and tired of the sport's repetitive practice -- that is, of trying to convince everyone, including himself, that the best, or at least some good, is still ahead.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 28

Billy Hurley III asking for help in finding missing father

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Billy Hurley III made a public plea on Tuesday at the Quicken Loans National in the search for his father, Willard Hurley Jr., who has been missing for the last nine days.

Hurley cried as he explained that his father, a retired police officer, hasn't been seen since getting into his 1998 Ford F150 truck and driving away from the family's Leesburg, Va., home on July 19 with some clothes and cash.

The Naval Academy graduate, who said he learned his father was missing on Monday afternoon, said his father does not have a history of mental illness. Hurley's mother has filed a missing persons report with local police.

The 33-year-old PGA Tour player said he is in this week's field with the hope that his father will see him on TV and return home. In lieu of that, Hurley hopes someone who has seen his father will come forward and help the family locate Hurley's father.

Hurley said, "I’m just hoping that there’s a story, that maybe he goes to PGATour.com to check my tee time or check my score and sees this and understands that, Dad, we love you and we want you to come home.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.