Oct 20

Tiger Woods back hitting full golf shots in preparation for Dec. return

Tiger Woods is taking full swings again with the hope of returning to competition at his annual Hero World Challenge in December. Woods' doctors have given him the go-ahead to take full swings, making his way through the bag.

"The doctors said he could hit golf balls again, and he's listening to his doctors and to his body," Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said to USA Today. "He will keep listening to his doctors and body."

Woods has been dealing with back issues since 2013. At The Barclays that August, Woods blamed pain on a soft hotel bed. The problem worsened, leading to microdiscectomy surgery on March 31.

For what Woods admitted were somewhat political reasons, he returned at his Quicken Loans National in June, missing the cut. He finished 69th at the Open Championship three weeks later.

In August, Woods withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in the final round after tweaking his back hitting from an awkward stance on the second hole at Firestone Country Club. Woods made a last-minute effort to play in the PGA Championship the following week, missing the cut. He then announced he was withdrawing his name from Ryder Cup consideration.

Woods intends to return at the World Challenge, which has relocated to Orlando, Fla., played Dec. 4-7.

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

Oct 20

McIlroy bows out of pair of China events to prepare for trial

Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions, citing the need to prepare for an upcoming trial in his lawsuit against his former agent.

"I'm going to need time away from tournament golf to prepare for the trial over my legal dispute with Horizon Sports Management," McIlroy said Monday, accoridng to the Irish Independent

McIlroy split with, then sued Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management in late 2013, saying the company locked up the world No. 1 in 2011 with unfair contract terms, including fees McIlroy deemed unreasonable. McIlroy agreed to a contract extension in 2013 with revised terms and lower commissions on off-course earnings but reversed course later in the year. He now represents himself in a company called Rory McIlroy Inc.

Horizon, led by Conor Ridge, has countersued McIlroy, looking to recover commissions for deals it arranged with Nike, Bose and Omega, as well damage to its reputation.

In September, an Irish Commercial Court judge recommended mediation between the parties when McIlroy's lawyers made a motion seeking detailed documentation about friend Graeme McDowell's relationship with Horizon Sports. (It's also the source of Phil Mickelson's Ryder Cup joke about litigating against teammates.) McDowell, who essentially recruited McIlroy to join him under the Horizon banner, announced last month an amicable split from Horizon set to happen at the end of the year.

McIlroy and his lawyers met Horizon representatives in Dublin for mediation this past weekend, but told the court Monday they had failed to reach a settlement that would avoid a trial, according to The Telegraph.

The reigning Open and PGA champion may have to jettison more previously scheduled events in 2015, as well. With a trial set for early 2015 and McIlroy expected to spend up to two weeks giving testimony, he may have to cancel planned starts in the European Tour's two-event swing through the United Arab Emirates in the second half of January.

Preparation will be crucial for McIlroy, who will look to complete the career grand slam with a Masters win next April.

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

Oct 20

Ian Poulter slams Nick Faldo in last-minute add to new memoir

Ian Poulter had to get in the last word, literally. 

In his new book entitled "No Limits", the Englishman criticized six-time major winner and losing 2008 Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo for saying teammate Sergio Garcia was useless during the matches at Valhalla six years ago.

“Sergio puts a brave face on it but the rest of the guys are fuming,” Poulter wrote. “I’m shocked that he has said it. It’s highly disrespectful. It’s a cheap shot and it’s the worst possible timing.

“It makes me laugh. Faldo is talking about someone being useless at the 2008 Ryder Cup. That’s the Ryder Cup where he was captain. That’s the Ryder Cup where the Europe team suffered a heavy defeat. And he was captain. So who’s useless?

“Faldo might need to have a little look in the mirror. I have always got on great with Faldo in the past and I have a great deal of respect for everything he has achieved but this feels like sour grapes. It feels like a guy who is still bitter that he lost in 2008."

Poulter revealed his peers have lost considerable respect for Faldo, who did apologize for the remarks made in reference to Garcia's emotional state after a break-up with Greg Norman's daughter prior to the '08 Ryder Cup. 

“Faldo has lost a lot of respect from players because of what he said," Poulter said. "There were plenty of things a lot of the players were unhappy with at Valhalla but none of us criticized him. He may find that begins to change now.” 

The section appears to have been a last-minute addition in a chapter dedicated to the Ryder Cup matches at Gleneagles. Whether or not the chapter was planned is unclear.

Poulter also joined the Monday morning quarter-piggy-backing on Tom Watson's decisions as captain.

"[Q]uite a few of us are surprised by Watson’s decision-making during Saturday's play," Poulter said. "Most of all I’m astonished he does not play Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. He leaves them out of both sessions. It completely baffles me. It gives us a double boost because it tells us there are problems in the U.S team room. Watson’s choices mean seven of his players play 36 holes on Saturday. I find it hard to see the sense in that."

However, don't expect Poulter, who now resides in Florida, to give any counsel to the PGA of America's Ryder Cup task force.

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

Oct 20

Huge eagle propels Ben Martin to first PGA Tour win in Vegas

In Vegas, go big or go home. Ben Martin did just that to notch his first PGA Tour win on Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.

Neck and neck with Kevin Streelman and defending champion Webb Simpson, Martin made a 45-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th to regain a lead that was two shots at the start of the day and as high as four on the back nine. After a textbook tee shot and approach to 20 feet at the par-4 finisher, the Clemson product calmly drained the birdie putt for a two-shot win. 

"It was an awesome way to finish," said Martin, who also birdied the 15th hole in a fierce final stretch. "I didn't feel like I had much going all day. Four under on my last four to cap my first win was just awesome."

Not only did the eagle give Martin the advantage again, it may well have stymied Streelman's great run into contention. The Duke product has stuck his approach to the 18th to five feet as Martin hit a gutsy 6-iron over water from 197 yards. Martin drained his unexpected eagle putt from beyond the hole. Streelman missed his birdie putt.

"I saw I was 1 up on the 18th green, and then I saw I was 1 down," Streelman said.

Martin, who posted 20-under 264, gets a second trip to the Masters in April. He was last there in 2010 when he qualified as runner-up in the prior year's U.S. Amateur.

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

Oct 19

Jack Nicklaus hates to see critics ‘hammering’ Jameis Winston

Jack Nicklaus doesn't believe Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is getting a fair trial in the court of public opinion. The 18-time major winner, thinks the beleaguered signal caller deserves better.

“I just hate to see them hammering a 20-year-old kid,” said Nicklaus, whose grandson Nick O'Leary is a teammate of Winston's. “Has he made mistakes? Maybe. But you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, I think. Not charged and convicted and sentenced."

Winston had made more than his fair share of mistakes in his time at FSU, ranging from not paying for crab legs at a supermarket, to yelling out a sexually explicit phrase made popular during the World Cup in a school cafeteria. He was accused of sexual assualt in Jan. 2013. While he wasn't formally charged in the case, the school has informed Winston he'll face a disciplinary hearing and possible code of conduct sanctions pertaining to those allegations.

In the past week, over 2,000 Winston-signed items appeared on a memorabilia authentication site. The school cleared Winston of any wrongdoing in the matter, including if Winston was paid for signing the items.

Nicklaus, who is generous with his John Hancock in infrequent public appearances, didn't seem to think that 2,000 number was all that high. 

“I wonder how many autographs I have out there. Every game I go to I sign, probably 20 or 25 (people) and four or five each," Nicklaus said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "Start adding that up. And he’s a lot more available than I am. He’s not the only kid with a couple thousand out there. A bunch of those kids have to have a couple thousand.”

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

Oct 19

81-year-old Pennsylvania man makes 3 aces in 3 straight days

Dom DeBonis already got his hole-in-one, back in 1969. But, at 81 years old, the Pennsylvania man had gone longer waiting for his second than he had for his first. That all changed last week in an incredible span where he made four aces in a 33-day span, including three in consecutive days in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

On Sept. 3, DeBonis made an ace at the par-3 fifth on one of the many courses where he lives in The Villages, Fla., sinking a pitching wedge from 101 yards.

A few weeks later, DeBonis went to Myrtle Beach on a golf trip with 11 buddies. He made his first ace of the trip at Farmstead Golf Club in Calabash, N.C., when he used a 9-iron from 112 yards at the par-3 17th. Awesome. 

The next day, DeBonis did it again. On the 129-yard, par-3 sixth at the Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., he jarred a 7-iron for another one on the card.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Mr. DeBonis, who is from Sharpsburg, Pa., according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The guys were going bananas. They said we got to buy lottery tickets, so we went and bought a bunch of lottery tickets.”

The odds of an ace in one round are about 12,000 to 1. Then the odds get exponentially higher for each successive ace.

Of course, on the third day of the trip, DeBonis fininshed the trifecta at Blackmoor Golf Club. This time, it was an 8-iron from 118 yards. No one in the group saw the ball go in the hole. Then again, after the last couple of days, they couldn't be faulted for figuring it was good.

"One of the guys said, ‘I think it’s in.’ So we walked up to the hole and there it was," DeBonis said. "I just couldn’t believe it. It was the most memorable week.”

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

Oct 18

Justin Thomas one-upped Phil Mickelson from a hospitality tent

Justin Thomas needed a couple of late birdies to make the weekend at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. He came to the driveable par-4 15th, hoping to get all he needed at once. Unfortunately, he nuked his drive behind the 15th green -- and into an empty hospitality tent at TPC Summerlin.

Undeterred, Thomas had a clean shot to the hole from the outdoor carpet, so he decided to play the ball from a fairly clean lie back toward the hole location. He got the ball within 10 feet and then made the putt for an unlikely birdie. 

Of course, it's hard not to think about Phil Mickelson's turns in the hospitality tent at a different driveable par 4 during The Barclays in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Mickelson didn't get a circle on the card in either opportunity to play amid the fans. 

Thomas couldn't find another birdie in his final three holes, however, and missed the cut.

But the trend of PGA Tour players choosing to play among the people continues.

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

Oct 18

Jack Nicklaus defends Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup captaincy

Jack Nicklaus believes the formation of a Ryder Cup task force is going overboard in a search for answer to U.S. woes in the biennial matches.

The 18-time major champion also subtly lamented Phil Mickelson's verbal outburst and subsequent reporting that amounted to the venting of players' frustration with outgoing captain and Nicklaus close friend Tom Watson.

“When I had teams and guys had problems, we went back to the team room and talked about it. That’s where the conversation should be," said Nickalus on Friday at PGA National in Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Nicklaus was captain of a pair of American Ryder Cup teams, on the winning side in 1983 and the losing side at his own Muirfield Village in 1987.

"I feel the same about the task force thing," he added. "That’s sort of overkill. We’ve had 70 years of the Ryder Cup and it’s gotten along just fine. The pendulum will swing back without making a monumental thing about it.”

In Nicklaus' assessment, Watson did a good job as captain, but was helpless to overcome a superior European side.

“(The Europeans) just played better,” Nicklaus said at a ceremony to mark the reopening of the Champion Course, to which he made some design tweaks. “It doesn’t make any difference how much planning you do, if the other team plays better, they’re going to win.”

Nicklaus credited Watson, who had been labeled as underprepared and out of touch with his players, with extensive preparation.

“He went to I don’t know how many tournaments — he knew he was older, so he had to get to know the kids, who he was going to pick, and what to do. Tom, Raymond (Floyd), Andy North and Steve Stricker made the selections and pairings, did what they thought was best, and probably did a pretty good job.”

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