November 30, 2016 - 2:42pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
It's not often we get excited about an exhibition event in late-November/early-December, but this is definitely one of those weeks.

If we're being completely honest with one another, there's no a whole lot in the world of professional golf to really, truly get excited about in late November-early December, right?

Well, that's a little different this year... actually, a lot different. Outside of majors -- and Ryder Cup, of course -- this might be the most anticipated tournament of the year, even though it's "unofficial..." and it has to do with the highest ranked player in the world -- No. 898 to be exact -- who we'll get to in a minute.

But here are the five reasons we're so excited for this week's Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

RELATED: What should we expect from Tiger this week? | Hero World Challenge tee times

5. Twelve competitors from the 2016 Ryder Cup make up two-thirds of the field. For the USA, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker, J.B. Holmes, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are all teeing it up, while Europeans Henrik Stenson and Bahamas resident, Justin Rose, are also on hand.

4. Jordan Spieth could be halfway to a monster 2017 season. What does that mean? Well, Spieth is fresh off a win in the Australian Open. Last time he did that was in 2014. In his next start -- the Hero World Challenge -- Spieth won again. That set the stage for an incredible 2015 season in which he won the Masters and U.S. Open, tied for fourth at the Open Championship and was runner-up at the PGA Championship (to go along with three other wins in regular PGA Tour events). Can he bottle up the magic again?

3. Ryder Cup teammates Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are paired together for the first 36 holes. Or, in other words, to of the longest hitters in the game today. There aren't going to be a lot of divots from where these guys will be hitting their approach shots.

2. The field features three of 2016's four major champions. U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson is there. Henrik Stenson, the Open Champion is there (no truth to the rumor he travled to the Bahamas via jet ski with the Claret Jug). And PGA Champion Jimmy Walker is there. Masters winner Danny Willett is the only grand slam winner not in the field.

And if you needed just one more reason to be excited...

1. For the first time in 15 months, TIGER WOODS IS BACK, BABY! That's right. The No. 898th-ranked player in the field is teeing it up. The level of excitement for Tiger's return this week is so high that people were actually live-tweeting his pro-am round on Wednesday. Injury setbacks aside, this will be the first time we see Tiger play 72 holes golf since a T10 in his last PGA Tour start at the Wyndham Championship in August 2015.  

5 reasons to be excited for this week's Hero World Challenge
November 30, 2016 - 2:27pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Branden Grace
@europeantour on Instagram
Is there anything more fun during a boring practice round than watching pro golfers take a crack at skipping their golf ball across a water hazard?

South Africa's Branden Grace has made some noise the last two years in major championships, racking up top-5 finishes in four of the last eight he's played, most notably a third-place showing at the 2015 PGA Championship (which he followed with a T4 this year).

On Wednesday, the seven-time European Tour winner made noise at the Leopard Creek CC in Malelane, South Africa ahead of this week's Alfred Dunhill Championship, with this skip shot over the water:

What's left? About 5 feet? Not bad at all.

BUT... we will see your 5 feet skipping it across the water, Branden, and raise you this water-skipping ace from Vijay Singh on the 16th hole at Augusta National during a practice round in 2009:

Wow. 

Branden Grace skips ball over water to within 5 feet of hole
November 30, 2016 - 10:47am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
After a 15-month layoff, what should we expect from Tiger Woods in his return this week? We take a look from three different perspectives.

Whether people want to admit it or not, the simple fact is that no player in the game today moves the needle quite like Tiger Woods -- even as he enters his own Hero World Challenge this week in the Bahamas with a world ranking of 898.

What's not to be excited about? The 14-time major champion is teeing it up for the first time in 15 months. Unlike other comebacks after injury setbacks, all accounts out of the island paradise suggests that Woods is looking good.

Of course, practice is far different from competition. How will he perform while experience the nerves? And make no mistake -- even though this is essentially an exhibition with just 18 players, there will be nerves for Woods. He'll get to see where his current game stacks up against the world's best.

RELATED: Everything you need to know for Tiger's return | Hero World Challenge tee times

Sure, it's only one event, but this is a big one for Tiger.

That world ranking of 898 is a bit unfair too. You can't accumulate points when you don't play. Also... Woods can gain some serious ground in the Official World Golf Ranking just for FINISHING 72 holes this week:

Theoretically, a victory in the 18-player field could mean a 775-position rise for Woods come Sunday. That's crazy.

So what should we expect from the 79-time PGA Tour winner this week after more than a year away from competitive golf? Here's a look at nine expectations from three very different perspectives...

The Pessimist

3. Tiger won't complete 72 holes. He'll re-aggravate an old injury, or he'll be playing so poorly that he'll blame an injury just to withdraw and avoid further humiliation. He's cooked. The career is over. The sooner we all accept it, the sooner we can get on with our lives and stop getting excited about these ridiculous "comebacks." Hang it up, Tiger.

2. Tiger will play all 72 holes, but the chipping yips are back and he finishes dead last. Seriously, guys, name me a player who has come back from the chipping yips. I'm waiting... Still waiting... Here, let me help you -- you don't come back from that. The game is all about touch and the strokes you save around and on the greens. Once that goes, you might as well take up tennis.

1. Regardless of outcome, it's a 18-man field. Tiger's performance this week means nothing. Woo hoo -- he finished 72 holes and finished in the top 10. What the heck are you excited about? To finish in the top 10, all he needed to do is beat eight players -- guys that came to the Bahamas from places like Japan and Australia. In other words, a handful of the eight he beat were battling jetlag. That's something to get excited about? It's not like there was pressure to make a cut... in case you missed it, there wasn't a cut in this tournament.

Editor's Note: "The Pessimist" sounds like a real jerk. Given the season, it's probably fair to call him the "Ebenezer Scrooge of Golf."

The Optimist

3. Tiger will play all 72 holes and hit shots that remind us -- and him -- that the Old Tiger is still in there somewhere. We're not saying it's going to be the chip on 16 at Augusta National in 2005, or the bunker shot on 18 at the Canadian Open in 2000 at Glen Abbey, or the 3-iron bunker shot at Hazeltine on 18 in the 2002 PGA Championship, or even the "better than most" putt at TPC Sawgrass. But that to-die-for shot-shaping? The mile-high 3 woods that land like a feather by the hole? Why not?

2. Tiger will card all four rounds at par or better. On the surface, that may seem like a tall order. But is it really? Bubba Watson won this tournament a year ago on the same course with a four-day total of 25-under par. All but four players finished the tournament with scores that were double-digits under par. No player in the field finished 72 holes worse than 4 under.

1. Tiger won't win, but will be in the mix come Sunday. He's saying all the right things -- he's been able to practice a lot, pain-free; he's hitting all the shots he needs to hit; he's excited, inspired and rejuvenated. If he's all those things, why shouldn't we expect him to be in the mix on Sunday in an event with such a small field? Is a top 5 completely out of the realm of possibility? Remember: This guy is TIGER WOODS.

The Completely Unreasonable

3. Tiger's going to open the tournament with a score of 64 or better. What? You think that's ridiculous? The guy's been waiting 15 bloody months for this round! He keeps talking about "Phase 2" of his career. All you fools think that's about his business portfolio. What he really means is he's ready to be back and dominate once again -- The Year 2000 style.

2. Tiger will have a healthy 54-hole lead. At least five strokes ahead of the field. While everyone else has been bouncing around the world playing, Tiger has been focused solely on this week. Shoot, I'll be disappointed if he doesn't have a large lead going into Sunday.

1. Tiger's going to win wire-to-wire. Dude -- he's using the Scotty Cameron putter he won 13 of his 14 majors with again. It's going to be the greatest reunion since Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito decided to give it another shot. Maybe even better. This week -- this win -- is going to be the catalyst for getting back on the train for the race to catch and surpass Jack's 18 majors!

Let's get serious for a second. Regardless of how it plays out, aren't we all just at least a little excited to see the Big Cat strolling the fairways again? 

What should we expect from Tiger Woods this week?
November 30, 2016 - 9:31am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Wanamaker Trophy
@PGAChampionship
To celebrate the next year's final major in the Tar Heel State, the Wanamaker Trophy made an appearance at Duke University's Cameron Indoor Arena on Tuesday night.

The 2017 PGA Championship will be contested at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C.

To celebrate the next year's final major in the Tar Heel State, the Wanamaker Trophy made an appearance at the college basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Arena in conjunction with the relaunch of remaining ticket inventory on December 1.

Duke -- No. 5 in the latest AP Ranking -- won the tilt, 78-69.

Before the game tipped off, the Wanamaker Trophy was placed on the Duke campus for students and fans to pose for photos:

 

 

ESPN college hopps analyst, and avid golfer, Jay Bilas was also sure to get in on the photo op:

 

 

Here are more photos from the Wanamaker's trip to Cameron Indoor, where it will return in February for the Duke/UNC game:

 

 

With 2017 PGA Championship in North Carolina, Wanamaker Trophy visits Duke
November 30, 2016 - 9:08am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
George Bryan
@bryanbrosgolf
If you like to shoot billiards and love to play golf, you're going to enjoy this video, which incorporates the two -- nailing all the angles and the combinations.

Much like billiards, golf is a game that's all about the angles.

George Bryan -- one-half of the famous Bryan Bros. trick-shot duo -- pulled off one of the coolest golf-ball combination putts you'll ever see.

First negotiating a sweeping left-to-right putt around a small bunker in the middle of a green, Bryan then bumps a ball off a golf tee that bumps another ball off a golf tee and straight into the bottom of the cup.

Check it out:

Here's a better angle:

And, for good measure, here's our all-time favorite golf-ball combination shot -- Louis Oosthuizen's combo-shot ace off the golf ball of J.B. Holmes on No. 16 at Augusta National in the final round of the 2016 Masters:

 

Three-ball combination putt finds nothing but cup