Over the last couple of years, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have become legit friends. They both are under the Nike Golf brand, and have played together in made-for-TV events, had fun in commercials together and just recently, appeared side-by-side on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon".
Rory is in the field this week at the Barclays, and was asked about Tiger and their time together away from the cameras. McIlroy said that despite being pals, Tiger still wants to beat him in everything, and made it clear he's coming for Rory next season as Augusta National.
Rory said Woods told him, "I'm not going to let you win a green jacket next year," a fun little poke at McIlroy considering a win next year at the Masters would complete his career Grand Slam and give him a chance at his own "Tiger Slam" if he went on to win the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
While it is no surprise that Woods wants to win each and every golf tournament he plays in, it's fun to think of the two backstage at a late night show jabbing back and forth about their golf games. Rory, currently the best player in the world and a man that has won the last two major championships, is a big favorite to win at Augusta National next year considering how he is currently playing and how the golf course appears to set up well for his game (anyone that can move the ball right to left can have success at the Masters).
Woods, of course, is dealing with an injury that has basically made his 2014 season a nonexistent one in terms of competitiveness on the golf course, playing in just seven events all year and carding just a single top-25.
But, if Woods is healthy, he can and will be a factor at any major he plays. Despite not winning one since 2008, he finished T-4 at Augusta in 2013 and T-6 at the British Open, so being in the conversation if he is 100 percent healthy is an absolute possibility.
A Tiger-Rory battle at an upcoming major is exactly what the golf world wants, and if it happens as soon as the Masters, it will be must-see TV for anyone that follows sports in any capacity.
It's crazy to think the FedEx Cup playoffs are now in their eighth year, providing us a lot of different champions over the years and even more incredible golf shots.
We all remember what Bill Haas did back in 2011, but you forget about that closing birdie by Jim Furyk when he joined the 59 club, the holes-in-one from some of the bigger names in the game, and even some Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fun.
The video is above, so check out the best shots of the playoffs and let us know which one you think was the best.
While I'm partial to a guy closing a round of 59 with a birdie, I loved the Sergio Garcia reaction to that Vijay Singh birdie putt.
Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at @shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we take a look at the FedEx Cup playoffs that begin this week at the Barclays.
Bacon: It's that time of year again! No, not college football starting or the NFL getting going, but the FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS! It's crazy to think that this is the eighth season of the FedEx playoffs, and while most were skeptical at first at the reasoning behind an end-of-season playoff in golf, it really has made the post-major PGA Tour season interesting. Am I alone here, or do you think the playoffs have become a success?
Busbee: I am totally biased here because the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP (you'd better use ALL THE CAPS) is right in my backyard, virtually, and I'm all in favor of covering events where I get to sleep in my own bed and not some college friend's couch. But personal biases aside, yes, I think that the playoffs are doing what they're supposed to do: bolster interest in a late-season event for a sport that otherwise would effectively shut down until April in the public eye.
Now, I'm curious as to your perspective: do you think this is a legitimate full-season excitement, or is it more about getting fired up over these last few weeks?
Bacon: It seems more and more as the purses grow and the interest in the European Tour increases, it's really tough to get all the top names in the same field for non-majors, so that is the reason I get the most excited. We call the big four "majors" because someone long ago named them as such, but isn't a "major" really just the best in the world competing against each on the same stage? That's the thing I find cool about the playoffs. Rory and Bubba were paired together at the PGA, and they're paired together again this week. Justin Rose, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Sergio ... they're all in the field, and to me, that constitutes a big event. And for all of it to come together as we head to the Ryder Cup, that's pretty cool.
We do always ask this question, and I'll bring it up again — is there something that can change about the playoffs to get non-golf fans interested, or is this just going to be an insurmountable problem considering all the other sports that are coming back at the same time?
Busbee: The way that golf structures its calendar, this is a flat-out impossible problem to get around. You've got college and pro football firing up, and that's going to consume the attention of all but the fans who could tell the difference between Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson. It's just the way it is, at least until another golfer breaks through into the cultural mainstream the way whatsisname did a few years back.
Rory is close. Rory's already a must-watch player in the golf world, and if he plays well all the way through to East Lake, you can expect him to rate high in the highlight shows. (Not above SEC football and Johnny Manziel, of course. Let's not get crazy.) But absent him, it's just impossible for anybody to move the needle with the casual fan.
Which makes me think that golf should probably not spend so much time worrying about this mystical, perhaps mythical "casual fan." Focus on the people who truly care about the sport, who are around Tiger or no Tiger. With that in mind, what changes, if any, do you think are needed to maintain the attention of hardcore fans?
Bacon: To me, it's all about the level of competition. If it's Steven Bowditch versus Troy Merritt down the stretch in Atlanta, I'm not sure the casual golf fan is going to be setting their DVR for Sunday, but if Rory continues to play well and we see Rickie Fowler snag a title or two during the playoffs (something I think he really needs to complete his fantastic year), it'll get sports fans interested.
I will say, a rivalry would be nice in golf. Tiger and Rory are buddies. Rory and Sergio had lunch together before the final round of the Bridgestone. Rory and Rickie seem totally chummy. I'm not saying we need guys to hate each other, but the fact that Tiger and Phil weren't best friends made the rivalry that much more interesting (not to mention Tiger and Garcia).
I just ... these golfers don't really need the controversy. It does "their brand" no good, and when they aren't on the golf course playing practice rounds, they're flying private jets together and sending congratulatory tweets back and forth. Again, that is very much how the game of golf has evolved, but two guys really wanting to kick the heck out of one another would at least give people a side to pick.
Busbee: Man, what a great point. Golf, and indeed all sports, has evolved into a fraternity with a select few chosen to compete for the rest of us unwashed to watch, and those in the circle feel a bond and a connection to their colleagues that transcends competitiveness. Sure, it's lovely for them, but for us? Come on, fellas, this isn't an exhibition.
You almost wish Bubba had erupted at a fellow player, not his caddy, over the last few weeks. At least then we'd have a bit of beef to work with. But you're right, anybody who tries to start anything now will be accused of pushing some agenda, or will get buried on social media, so why even bother?
So we're left with great golf, if not necessarily great stories. Is that a good enough tradeoff?
Bacon: I think so. The British, Firestone and the PGA were all must-see golf events, if not for the people involved for the golf at hand. What Rory is doing is fantastic, but we have a lot of big names (Fowler, Sergio, Scott) all playing great golf at the same time.
I think golf is in a better place than most might think, and I expect the battle for that $10 million bonus in your neck of the woods to be an exciting one from this Thursday up until that last round at East Lake.
Real fast, give me your FedEx Cup champion.
Busbee: I'd love to see Rickie jump up and grab it, but I'm going older-school: Sergio Garcia FTW. And you?
Bacon: Fowler seems like the pick if you are going to go with SNNR (someone not named Rory)! Now we have both the guys that probably will finish 2-3 to McIlroy!
Busbee: And you know what? I'd be fine with that too.
And now your turn ... do you think the FedEx Cup playoffs work, and are you excited for the next four weeks of golf?
There have been plenty of major championships that showed the great side of Bubba Watson. Both his Masters wins come to mind, but his impressive play at the 2010 PGA Championship made us realize that this guy might be more than just a long-hitter when he found himself in a playoff with Martin Kaymer.
This year's PGA was a different story. Bubba spent most of the week complaining about this or that, making some personal statement that nobody really understood during the long-drive competition when he hit 3-iron off the tee despite using driver all four days of the actual tournament, and then complaining on the course about the conditions that everyone else in the field was also dealing with.
Any golfer can tell you that this game can drive you to do stuff that doesn't fit your personality, and Watson came out and apologized for everything that went down at Valhalla.
"You've got to learn from your mistakes," Watson told the Associated Press this week at the Barclays. "You learn from being selfish instead of looking at the bigger picture in life."
"Not competing in the Long Drive was the first mistake. When you look at just me as an individual, that was the selfish part, because I didn't agree with it."
It's all childish stuff and trying to mature and become a better man. Obviously I take it, I take it on the chin. It was my fault."
This isn't the first time Watson has apologized for what happened at the PGA, taking to Twitter during the week to let people know he was sorry for the way he acted.
It's good to hear Bubba acknowledge all of this and let the world know it isn't him. Golf needs stars like Bubba to continue to reach out to a fan base that can grow this game, and the fun-loving Bubba that posts cool YouTube videos and has a lot of fun off the course needs to line up with the man on the golf course that is trying to win big golf tournaments.
It sounds like Watson sees that and wants to change, which is a very, very good thing for both Bubba and the PGA Tour.
You will get to see the new Bubba on Thursday at the Barclays, when he tees it up with Rory McIlroy and Jimmy Walker for the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events.