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.

Jul 28

Power rankings: Quicken Loans National

The PGA Tour rolls into the national capital area this week for the Quicken Loan National. Tiger Woods' event has a new date and, this year, a new course in Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, former host of four of the first six Presidents Cup matches.

Defending champion Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are two of just a handful of top 50 players in the field this week, so our weekly power rankings are pretty top heavy.

1. Rickie Fowler -- Fowler's the class of the field and a two-time worldwide winner this year. He's not the most consistent guy in the field, but he has the highest ceiling on an unknown course that commands an aggressive approach game.

2. Justin Rose -- It wouldn't be hard to make a case for Rose as the No. 1 guy in our ranking this week. He makes plenty of birdies per round, and he has to feel good coming off a T-6 effort at the Open heading into a title defense -- albeit at a new track.

3. Tony Finau -- This is just the kind of course where Finau could bust loose. He can use his massive length as an edge and parlay his aggressive style into a slew of birdies.

4. Will Wilcox -- Wilcox bailed on the Canadian Open last week to rest a nagging wrist problem, and it was a well-deserved vacation after securing his 2015-16 PGA Tour card at the Barbasol Championship. Playing free and loose should suit Wilcox well.

5. Pat Perez -- Perez has become a reliable player this year, snagging a T-18 finish at the Canadian Open. He hasn't been a threat to win but twice this year, but he's been a practical lock for four rounds and a good check.


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

Jul 28

Robert Allenby’s ex-caddie doesn’t believe former boss’ Hawaii story

Robert Allenby's former caddie, Mick Middlemo, is speaking like a man liberated.

Middlemo, who split with Allenby halfway through the first round of last week's RBC Canadian Open, said in an Australian radio interview that he doesn't believe Allenby's story of being kidnapped and robbed on the night after missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January.

“Do I think he got mugged and bashed and absolutely robbed? No, I don’t," Middlemo said to News Corp Australia. "That’s the story I told because that’s the story he told me to tell because I wasn’t there.

“Do I think he just fell over and cracked his head? Honestly I do … I think he fell over and someone picked up his wallet and had a great time with his credit card."

Middlemo accompanied Allenby for at least part of the night in question. Both player and caddie were at a Waikiki wine bar, where Allenby claims he was kidnapped after leaving, beaten, robbed and dropped off in a nearby park. Allenby said he only recalls waking up to being harassed by homeless people in the park and that he was without his credit cards.

A man, Owen Harbison, pleaded guilty in June to using Allenby's stolen credit cards. However, police did not further investigate how Allenby sustained his injuries.


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

Jul 26

Day wins as Canadian drought continues in the Canadian Open

The Canadian drought in their national golf championship will extend to a 62nd year.

Canuck David Hearn, who carried a two-shot lead into the final round of the RBC Canadian Open, came up two shots shy of a maiden PGA Tour win and ending a winless Canadian streak dating back to Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Hearn's even-par 72 at Glen Abbey Golf Club paved the way for Jason Day to win for the second time in 2015, making birdies on the final three holes of the tournament to secure a one-stroke win over Bubba Watson, who himself birdied the final four holes. A 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 finisher at the Jack Nicklaus-designed track completed a 4-under 68 to win in 17-under 271.

The win is Day's fourth on the PGA Tour and marks the first multi-win season of his career, backing up a playoff win earlier in the season at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Day has finished in the top 10 in each of the last two majors, including a T-4 finish on Monday at the British Open. Not that he wasn't already, but Day will now be considered even more highly as a contender for the PGA Championship in three weeks at Whistling Straits. When the Wisconsin venue last hosted the season's final major in 2010, Day finished tied for 10th place.


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

Jul 26

U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up scores prom date with Fox Sports’ Holly Sonders

It was an up-and-down kind of weekend for 16-year-old Andrew Orischak.

The South Carolina teen blew a 5-up lead in the final of the U.S. Junior Amateur, losing in 37 holes to complete the largest collapse in the championship's history.

Then he locked up a prom date with Fox Sports host and former Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders.

Orischak, through his dad, made a deal with Sonders earlier in the tournament whereby she would agree to go to his Hilton Head-area high school prom if he won the championship on Saturday.

"I liked the kid’s confidence," Sonders wrote in a piece for Golf Digest.

When Orischak made the final match on Friday with a semifinal win, Sonders gave her phone number to his mom, as Sonders wrote, "show I was serious."

He obviously came up short, losing to Philip Barbaree. However, Sonders took to Twitter to tell Orischak that she would still escort him to prom next year.

That's not a bad deal for Orischak, who has already committed to the University of Virginia for his high school golf. While he missed out on holding the trophy at the biggest championship in junior golf, Orischak still came away a winner.


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

Jul 26

Paula Creamer surprised by husband as pilot to Women’s British Open

Paula Creamer was boarding a plane headed for Scotland and this week's Ricoh Women's British Open when she got quite a surprise from the cockpit: her husband would be piloting her flight.

Paula Creamer and husband Derek Heath, who flies for United, in the cockpit of a flight to Scotland (via Paula Creamer/Instagram)

Creamer's husband, Derek Heath, is a former military pilot who now flies commercial jets for United Airlines. Knowing the date and location from where his wife would be flying toward Turnberry for the LPGA's fourth major of the year, Heath made arrangements to make the surprise plot a reality.

The 28-year-old, who turns 29 almost a week after the start of the British Open, is searching for a second major title to back up her 2010 U.S. Women's Open victory. It's a good event for Creamer; she has four career top-10 finishes.


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

Jul 26

Boxing injury didn’t keep Lexi Thompson from Meijer LPGA win

Lexi Thompson has been dealing with an injury from inside the ring, but it didn't stop her from winning inside the ropes.

With a final-round, 6-under 65, Thompson overcame a four-shot deficit to win the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan. Entering the day, Thompson trailed 54-hole leader Lizette Salas by four shots. Thompson made five birdies on the front nine against one bogey, going out in 4-under 32. A pair of birdies after the turn got her to 6 under on the day, and she hung on from there to sweat out a one-shot win over Salas and Gerina Piller.

Thompson has been dealing with a right wrist injury that she suffered while showing off her boxing moves for a February Golf Digest photo shoot (the same edition of the magazine where she appeared draped only with a workout towel on the cover).

The deep bone bruise happened when Conde Nast Entertainment associate producer Tony Hernandez asked the 20-year-old if he could film an interview with her while she was sparring with him, according to Golf Channel. Thompson played this week with a taped-up wrist.

"Without the tape, it still hurts pretty bad," Thompson said. "I’m icing it a ton. So, we’ll see where it goes.”

Next stop is the Ricoh Women's British Open, an event where her best finish is T-17 (2012) in three prior starts.


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