Category Archives: sports

Woods responds to Thomas' smack talk

Justin Thomas grew up idolizing Tiger Woods, but he’s not scared of the 14-time major champion.

Thomas is paired with Woods in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge, and expressed his excitement to play with the 41-year-old, but also took a playful jab during his Tuesday press conference.

“I’m also looking forward to trying to kick his ass, to be perfectly honest,” the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year said.

On Wednesday, it was Woods’ chance to respond to the 24-year-old’s comments.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Woods told reporters after his Pro-Am round Wednesday. “It goes both ways.”

Woods is set to make his long-awaited return Thursday, teeing off with Thomas at 12:05 p.m. ET.

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Thomas excited to try to kick Tiger's ass at Hero World Challenge

Last season’s FedEX Cup champ is hoping to flex his muscles when Tiger Woods returns to the links this weekend.

Woods will be making his long-awaited return at the Hero World Challenge, and while Justin Thomas is excited to play alongside Tiger on Day 1, it doesn’t mean he plans to take it easy on him.

“I’m probably just as excited to watch it as you are. I just get a front row seat to it on Thursday,” Thomas said, according to Jay Coffin of “But I’m also looking forward to trying to kick his ass, to be perfectly honest.”

Of course, Thomas’ competitive nature doesn’t mean he lacks any respect for Tiger and his accomplishments.

“If he hadn’t done everything he’s done, we wouldn’t have the sponsors we have,” Thomas said. “If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be playing for the amount of money that we’re playing for.”

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Woods, Thomas highlight tee times at Hero World Challenge

The tee times are locked in.

Hideki Matsuyama and Francesco Molinari will lead off the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, as the two will tee off at 11:10 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Attention is also sure to turn to Tiger Woods when he begins his day at 12:05 p.m. On Sunday, Woods announced he’s finally free of back pain after recently undergoing his fourth surgery.

Related: Woods given 40-1 odds to win Hero World Challenge

Here is the full lineup for Day 1:

Time (Local) Players
11:10 AM Hideki Matsuyama – Francesco Molinari
11:21 AM Charley Hoffman – Kevin Chappell
11:32 AM Patrick Reed – Daniel Berger
11:43 AM Justin Rose – Tommy Fleetwood
11:54 AM Henrik Stenson – Alex Noren
12:05 PM Tiger Woods – Justin Thomas
12:16 PM Dustin Johnson – Brooks Koepka
12:27 PM Kevin Kisner – Rickie Fowler
12:38 PM Matt Kuchar – Jordan Spieth

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Tiger Woods says he's free of pain in lower back

Tiger Woods says his lower back, which caused him discomfort for years and forced him to step away from competitive golf, is finally free of pain.

Woods, who’s set to make his long-awaited return this week at the Hero World Challenge, says he’s not only able to swing the clubs, but also undertake the tasks of daily life, without any discomfort.

“The fact that I don’t have any pain in my lower back anymore compared to what I was living with for years. … it’s just remarkable,” Woods said, per Bob Harig of ESPN.

The golfer underwent surgery in April to remove a disk that had been causing nerve pain. It was his fourth back procedure in recent years, and seemingly the last step on a long and painful road.

“I just didn’t know (when the pain would occur),” Woods said. “That’s tough to live with. And it’s been a struggle for years. To finally come out on the good side of it is exciting. I am stiffer. Of course, (his lower back is) fused. But I don’t have the pain. Life is so much better.”

Woods enters the Hero World Challenge as the 1,199th-ranked player in the world, but has an exemption to play in the tournament due to serving as its host.

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Day fires 69 to take lead heading into final round at Australian Open

SYDNEY (AP) Jason Day is prepared for a pressure-filled final round at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Day moved into position for his first Australian Open title after shooting a 2-under 69 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead. Jordan Spieth didn’t move up the leaderboard much after a 70 but still feels he still has a chance to win his third title Down Under.

Day, making his first appearance back home since 2013, birdied the 18th for a 54-hole total of 203, 10-under par, after a tough, windy day that made low scoring difficult.

He’s expecting more of the same on Sunday.

”It’s going to be just as tough, or if not tougher,” Day said. ”So a lot more patience and hopefully I can pull through with a win.”

Day has a strong recent record of converting 54-hole leads into victories on the PGA Tour. He’s six for 13, but he’s converted five of his past six, including the 2015 PGA Championship.

Second-round leader Lucas Herbert was in second place after a 71. Jonas Blixt of Sweden shot 66 to move into a third-place tie with Australian Matt Jones (68), three behind Day.

Herbert had a two-stroke lead over Day, but on the par-3, 172-meter 11th, he pulled his tee shot into thick native bushes. He and spectators searched but couldn’t find his ball, so Herbert jogged back to the tee to hit his third shot, eventually making a double-bogey 5 to fall level with Day.

”I was actually really happy to make three with the second ball,” Herbert said. ”I tried not to get too stressed about that and just make some more good swings coming in.”

Day, who hit only three of seven fairways on his even-par front nine, was in trouble off the first tee when he pushed his shot into the woodchips and trees. But he made a remarkable shot – between two trees and over another – and was just in front of the green for his third shot. He pitched to about five feet and made the putt for par.

”I think anything in the 60s tomorrow will seal the deal,” said Day. ”I just need to focus on the golf course and not do anything too crazy.”

Defending champion Spieth left himself a daunting task, sitting eight strokes behind Day.

Spieth bogeyed the fourth hole after three pars to open his round. He got that shot back with a birdie on the par-4 sixth, then needed putts of 12 feet and three feet to save par on the next two holes.

He hit wayward tee shots on the final three holes of the front nine, bogeying the ninth for a 1-over 36. On the back, he birdied the par-5 14th to get back to even par on the day, then added a tap-in birdie on the 18th.

When Spieth won his first Australian Open in 2014, he shot a then-course record 63 in the final round at The Australian to win by six shots.

”Yeah, that’s what we need,” Spieth said. ”We need 8-under; that would probably be enough given the conditions for tomorrow, may not even need that much but it’s going to be so difficult tomorrow that I’ll go out and try and get under par early and just see what the golf course gets to.”

Spieth said six strokes was the largest deficit he’d made up in the final round of a tournament as a professional.

”So, if there’s any place to come from way behind, it’s here, from where I’ve seen,” he said. ”Tomorrow’s going to be a grind for the leaders, going off even later. If I can sneak a few breaks in, get a couple of long putts to go or chip in or something like that. I’m going to have to have some magic.”

NOTES: The round of the day belonged to Takumi Kanaya, a 19-year-old Japanese amateur, who had six birdies and a bogey on the back nine for a 65. Kanaya, who was in the third group of the day on Saturday morning, is tied for eighth, six behind Day … Veteran Australian Craig Parry shot 70 and is seven strokes behind, tied for 13th. The 51-year-old Parry won the Australian Open in 2007, also at The Australian.

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Watch: Tiger's swing looks solid ahead of round with Trump

There’s a high-profiled group playing Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla. on Black Friday.

President Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, and Dustin Johnson teed it up together Friday morning, and prior to the round, an Instagram user known as ‘hwalks’ got some great footage of Woods’ swing on the practice range.

Tiger’s swing, which is the fourth slide into the post, looks smooth and solid.

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Spieth shows rust on Day 1 of Australian Open title defense

It had been seven weeks since Jordan Spieth hit a competitive golf shot, and it showed on Day 1 of the Australian Open.

Spieth opened with a bogey-bogey start to his title defense down under, but eventually settled into his round, dropping a 20-foot birdie putt at the last hole to post a 1-under-par 70 at The Australian Golf Club.

“A bit inconsistent,” the 24-year-old American told reporters after the round. “I made … I think five bogeys today, but to shoot under par with that is really good. There was quite a bit of good after a rough start. This is actually the longest time I’ve had between tournaments since college. Even last year here was a week less. I was kinda anxious to get started.”

Spieth made his first start since helping the U.S. retain the Presidents Cup in October. He trails Australian Cameron Davis by seven shots heading into the second round.

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Watch: Golfer hits captivating 'stingers' with his putter

Tiger Woods made the “stinger” one of his trademark swings on tour, but he’s not the only one that can execute the low trajectory stroke.

Dave Benford not only matched Woods’ ability to hit the piercing shot, he did so by nailing it 250 yards with a putter – a club with roughly three to four degrees of loft.

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Keith Pelley Q&A: On being European Tour CEO and modernizing golf

Since arriving as European Tour CEO in August 2015, Keith Pelley has been shaking up the golf world.

Pelley, who has a business background in sport and entertainment, is bringing new ideas to the tour and professional golf. Pelley created the GolfSixes tournament in May, an event that saw two-man teams play in six hole matches with a shot clock, loud music, and microphones on players during the tournament.

The 53-year-old Canadian answered a number of questions through email for a two-part Q&A about the ideas he’s brought to the sport, how they’ve been received, and the future of the tour.

deCourcy: How have the first two years gone for you as CEO of the European Tour?

Pelley: I think we have made significant progress over the past two years but we still have a lot to do. Everything takes time to an extent, and when I took on the role I knew a potential for growth existed on the European Tour, and I think we are starting to see that now. We are truly a global organization and in my time so far there have been some significant milestones achieved. The introduction of the Rolex Series has been transformational for our Tour, plus our players continue to perform admirably on the world stage. Innovation continues to be a hot topic for us, in terms of our digital output, and we have also made significant inroads with Strategic Alliances across Asia, Australasia, and Korea, as we look to continue growing those international relationships.

deCourcy: You believe golf needs to wake up, what part of the product has been lacking in your opinion?

Pelley: There is a narrative for change in the game right now because there is no question that golf needs to modernize to appeal to wider markets. Making a connection with the spectators and fans is key to that, both on site at our tournaments or through our digital output. Introducing innovative formats is a major part of broadening our appeal to new audiences. We also need to continue to address one of the biggest talking points in the game, which is slow play. Our commitment to making golf faster and more appealing to fans has resulted in a new format, the Shot Clock Masters, which will take place in Austria in June. It’s going to be a fascinating addition to our schedule next year, an experiment for us, and hopefully it will help us combat slow play and reduce round times – further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation.

deCourcy: You’ve had a number of innovative ideas, how have fans/players reacted to the concepts?

Pelley: We’re a members’ organization, so you are never going to get every single player fully on board with every single thing we do, but as long as the idea isn’t a hindrance to them, and the majority of the players are behind it, then we will try it. As for the fans, as the saying goes, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time,’ but the majority of golf fans buy into what we are trying to do.

deCourcy: What was the takeaway from the GolfSixes tournament in May?

Pelley: GolfSixes came from the European Tour’s desire to embrace innovation and originality in professional golf. Ultimately, with this shorter format of the game, we want to broaden the appeal of our sport to the millennial demographic. It was a proof of concept but the feedback from all our stakeholders was most definitely that the concept worked. Sky Sports told us that their audience study showed that 19 percent of people who tuned in to GolfSixes had never watched a European Tour event before and it was the second-most watched event from Europe on the Golf Channel in the US. We are in the entertainment content business with golf as our platform and GolfSixes is the perfect illustration of that. I think this format, as well as the interactive digital experience for fans and the innovative television coverage, will help people enjoy the sport more and help speak to a new audience. It returns to our schedule in 2018 and I am very much looking forward to shaping this event from what we learned this year.

deCourcy: Have there been ideas that haven’t worked?

Pelley: Of course there have but in everything we do, the idea is to be entertaining and fashionable, to make watching irresistible and our tournaments the place to be. What drives all entertainment is creativity. You need a working culture in which our employees can unleash their imaginations without restraint. We want daring ideas and want them put into action. We want our people to reek with positivity and know they have permission to fail. I want them to know that my first answer to their ideas will tend to be “yes” rather than “no” or “maybe.” Some awesome ideas – or at least kernels of ideas – have come from this already.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Thompson on missed putt: 'I don't know what happened there'

Lexi Thompson’s lone bogey Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship cost her more than just a potential playoff with Ariya Jutanugarn.

“It wasn’t the way I wanted to end it. I don’t know what happened there,” Thompson told Randall Mell of the Golf Channel.

Thompson was a two-foot putt away on the 18th green from likely winning LPGA Tour Player of the Year and ascending to world No. 1 for the first time. Her putt, however, lipped out, opening the door for Jutanugarn, who drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to pass the young American for the win.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about (the awards),” added Thompson. “Maybe just a little bit of adrenaline. I guess it’s just golf. Crazy things happen like that. I’ll move on.”

The 22-year-old did take home $1 million for winning the year-long Race to the CME Globe, and won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average, but watched Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu share Player of the Year honors.

Earlier in the season, Thompson suffered a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, when she incurred a four-stroke penalty in the middle of her final round.

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