Category archive: Tiger Woods

Editor's note: See Sobel's NCAA tournament-style bracket predictions here.

Trying to predict golf tournaments is an exercise in futility, but trying to predict the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship might be the literal definition of "inexact science."

And yet, that doesn't mean we can't employ some prior knowledge in an attempt to prognosticate what might take place this week outside Tucson, Ariz.

Let's break down the four brackets to help with those annual office pools -- for, uh, entertainment purposes only, of course.


BOBBY JONES BRACKET

Strength: Youthful exuberance. The only bracket with two teenagers (Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero) also features a half-dozen players in their twenties.

Weakness: Recent wins. Plenty of proven champions in this mix, but only one player owns a victory so far this season -- Charl Schwartzel at the Joburg Open.

Best opening-round match: There isn't a non-winner playing better on the PGA Tour than Nick Watney, who owns three top-six finishes in three starts this year, but Anthony Kim is a fiery competitor who thrives in this format.

Best potential later-round match: It would take the desert stars aligning precisely right, but if the Molinari Bros. each pull off three victories, they would face each other on Saturday morning.

Upset special: Steve Stricker is a wily veteran and one of the world's best putters. His opening-round opponent, Manassero, has nothing to lose, though -- and plenty to gain.

Retief Goosen</a>
Goosen

Sleeper: Martin Laird has proven his Scottish roots translate to great desert golf, as he's posted a win and a playoff runner-up in his past two starts at the PGA Tour's stop in Las Vegas.

Winner: Only Matt Kuchar posted more top-10 results on the PGA Tour last year than Retief Goosen, whose overall consistency failed to capture a victory. That said, consistency is rewarded in match play and the now grizzled -- and sometimes grizzly, depending on his facial hair decision -- veteran has plenty of experience in this format.


GARY PLAYER BRACKET

Strength: Ball-striking. There isn't a better collection of pure swings in any other bracket, as these guys should hit many of the course's large greens in regulation very frequently.

Weakness: Jetlag. Five of these 16 players are not regular members of the PGA Tour, which ties for the most in any bracket and means there could be plenty of redeyes going out on Wednesday -- and maybe coming home, too.

Best opening-round match: Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair are close friends, employ the same swing coach (Sean Foley) and often play practice rounds together. It will be interesting to see if they can get into a more competitive mode against each other for this one.

Best potential later-round match: Adam Scott was Rory McIlroy about a decade earlier. A can't-miss superstar with a billion-dollar swing, he's been very good at times and very average at others. Perhaps young McIlroy will seek tips on how to better remain on the championship path.

Upset special: In 10 career starts at this event, Jim Furyk has never advanced beyond the third round. He'll face a guy in Ryan Palmer who is already playing some strong early-season golf.

Martin Kaymer
Kaymer

Sleeper: Yuta Ikeda has now played in 13 career PGA Tour-sanctioned events and never finished better than T-22. It's only a matter of time before the 25-year-old makes a splash, though. He owns eight career international victories.

Winner: Tough road game for European Tour member Martin Kaymer, huh? Not exactly. The world's No. 2-ranked player actually lives just 75 minutes away in Scottsdale and while he won't commute during the week, he's not quite a foreigner when it comes to playing desert golf.


SAM SNEAD BRACKET

Strength: Overall talent. Top to bottom, no bracket has more raw talent than this one. Though Tiger Woods obviously skews the numbers as far as major victories, three others own such hardware and another three have already won titles this season.

Weakness: Injuries. Tim Clark has a bad toe, Camilo Villegas has a bad back and Ernie Els has a bad neck -- all of which has caused them to withdraw from tournaments in recent weeks.

Best opening-round match: There might not be a better first-day pairing on the entire sheet than Geoff Ogilvy versus Padraig Harrington. Someone should mike these guys up, too; as two of the game's more thoughtful and eloquent speakers, their conversations could be riveting.

Best potential later-round match: Chicks dig the long ball. So, too, does everyone else, which means a possible second-round matchup between Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson would be a fun "anywhere you can hit, I can hit farther" experience for all.

Upset special: Peter O'Malley. Nick O'Hern. And now ... Thomas Bjorn? Tiger Woods has been felled by unexciting, methodical plodders in the past. Coming off a recent victory in Qatar, the veteran Bjorn will hardly be in awe of his decorated opponent.

Jeff Overton
Overton

Sleeper: It's been a quiet year so far for Jason Day, but this is the type of event that has turned very good players like Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson into high-profile ones and Day's ready to make such a leap.

Winner: There aren't many more talented PGA Tour members without a win than Jeff Overton. He proved last year that he can not only hang with the world's best, but can do so in this format, playing brilliant golf at times during the Ryder Cup. Boom, baby.


BEN HOGAN BRACKET

Strength: Match play experience. Exactly half of the players in this bracket have competed in at least one of the past two editions of the Ryder Cup.

Weakness: Driving distance. In this format, it's often an advantage to hit your approach shot second and on this course booming drives have plenty of fairway to find. Only Phil Mickelson and Alvaro Quiros qualify as big hitters from this group, though.

Best opening-round match: Only one Wednesday game features a matchup of former AMPC finalists, as Ian Poulter is the defending champion and Stewart Cink was runner-up in 2008.

Best potential later-round match: Rickie Fowler has long looked up to Phil Mickelson and the veteran has taken the youngster under his wing, even pairing with him in one match during last year's Ryder Cup.

Upset special: After skipping this event last year, Mickelson decided to forgo vacation with his family and play this time around. You've got to wonder whether his heart will really be into it, though, or whether he'll have the jet gassed up and ready to join Amy and the kids as soon as possible.

Ross Fisher
Fisher

Sleeper: Anders Hansen is only two weeks removed from coming up one stroke shy of forcing a playoff with Quiros in Dubai. That result did allow him to become the last man to automatically qualify for this week's field.

Winner: Is there a more underrated player among the world's elite than Ross Fisher? He might not look pretty, but he gets the job done, including a fourth-place performance in this event two years ago and a World Match Play title later that season.


The semifinals: Fisher over Goosen and Kaymer over Overton.

The finals: Kaymer over Fisher.


Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Editor's Note: See Sobel's NCAA Tournament-style bracket here.

Trying to predict golf tournaments is an exercise in futility, but trying to predict the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship might be the literal definition of "inexact science."

And yet, that doesn't mean we can't employ some prior knowledge in an attempt to prognosticate what might take place this week outside Tucson.

Let's break down the four brackets to help with those annual office pools -- for, uh, entertainment purposes only, of course.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Youthful exuberance. The only bracket with two teenagers (Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero) also features a half-dozen players in their twenties.

Weakness: Recent wins. Plenty of proven champions in this mix, but only one player owns a victory so far this season -- Charl Schwartzel at the Joburg Open.

Best opening-round match: There isn't a non-winner playing better on the PGA Tour than Nick Watney, who owns three top-six finishes in three starts this year, but Anthony Kim is a fiery competitor who thrives in this format.

Best potential later-round match: It would take the desert stars aligning precisely right, but if the Molinari Bros. each pull off three victories, they would face each other on Saturday morning.

Upset special: Steve Stricker is a wily veteran and one of the world's best putters. His opening-round opponent Manassero has nothing to lose, though -- and plenty to gain.

Retief Goosen
Goosen

Sleeper: Martin Laird has proven his Scottish roots translate to great desert golf, as he's posted a win and a playoff runner-up in his last two starts at the PGA Tour's stop in Las Vegas.

Winner: Only Matt Kuchar posted more top-10 results on the PGA Tour last year than Retief Goosen, whose overall consistency failed to capture a victory. That said, consistency is rewarded in match play and the now grizzled -- and sometimes grizzly, depending on his facial hair decision -- veteran has plenty of experience in this format.


XXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Ball-striking. There isn't a better collection of pure swings in any other bracket, as these guys should hit many of the course's large greens in regulation very frequently.

Weakness: Jetlag. Five of these 16 players are not regular members of the PGA Tour, which ties for the most in any bracket and means there could be plenty of redeyes going out on Wednesday -- and maybe coming home, too.

Best opening-round match: Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair are close friends, employ the same swing coach (Sean Foley) and often play practice rounds together. It will be interesting to see if they can get into a more competitive mode against each other for this one.

Best potential later-round match: Adam Scott was Rory McIlroy about a decade earlier. A can't-miss superstar with a billion-dollar swing, he's been very good at times and very average at others. Perhaps young McIlroy will seek tips on how to better remain on the championship path.

Upset special: In 10 career starts at this event, Jim Furyk has never advanced beyond the third round. He'll face a guy in Ryan Palmer who is already playing some strong early-season golf.

Martin Kaymer
Kaymer

Sleeper: Yuta Ikeda has now played in 13 career PGA Tour-sanctioned events and never finished better than T-22. It's only a matter of time before the 25-year-old makes a splash, though. He owns eight career international victories.

Winner: Tough road game for European Tour member Martin Kaymer, huh? Not exactly. The world's No. 2-ranked player actually lives just 75 minutes away in Scottsdale and while he won't commute during the week, he's not quite a foreigner when it comes to playing desert golf.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Overall talent. Top to bottom, no bracket has more raw talent than this one. Though Tiger Woods obviously skews the numbers as far as major victories, three others own such hardware and another three have already won titles this season.

Weakness: Injuries. Tim Clark has a bad toe, Camilo Villegas has a bad back and Ernie Els has a bad neck -- all of which has caused them to withdraw from tournaments in recent weeks.

Best opening-round match: There might not be a better first-day pairing on the entire sheet than Geoff Ogilvy versus Padraig Harrington. Someone should mic these guys up, too; as two of the game's more thoughtful and eloquent speakers, their conversations could be riveting.

Best potential later-round match: Chicks dig the long ball. So, too, does everyone else, which means a possible second-round matchup between Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson would be a fun "anywhere you can hit, I can hit further" experience for all.

Upset special: Peter O'Malley. Nick O'Hern. And now & Thomas Bjorn? Tiger Woods has been felled by unexciting, methodical plodders in the past. Coming off a recent victory in Qatar, the veteran Bjorn will hardly be in awe of his decorated opponent.

Jeff Overton
Overton

Sleeper: It's been a quiet year so far for Jason Day, but this is the type of event that has turned very good players like Geoff Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson into high-profile ones and he's ready to make such a leap.

Winner: There aren't many more talented PGA Tour members without a win than Jeff Overton. He proved last year that he can not only hang with the world's best, but can do so in this format, playing brilliant golf at times during the Ryder Cup. Boom, baby.


XXXXXX BRACKET

Strength: Match play experience. Exactly half of the players in this bracket have competed in at least one of the last two editions of the Ryder Cup.

Weakness: Driving distance. In this format, it's often an advantage to hit your approach shot second and on this course booming drives have plenty of fairway to find. Only Phil Mickelson and Alvaro Quiros qualify as big hitters from this group, though.

Best opening-round match: Only one Wednesday game features a matchup of former AMPC finalists, as Ian Poulter is the defending champion and Stewart Cink was runner-up in 2008.

Best potential later-round match: Rickie Fowler has long looked up to Phil Mickelson and the veteran has taken the youngster under his wing, even pairing with him in one match during last year's Ryder Cup.

Upset special: After skipping this event last year, Mickelson decided to forgo vacation with his family and play this time around. You've got to wonder whether his heart will really be into it, though, or whether he'll have the jet gassed up and ready to join Amy and the kids as soon as possible.

Ross Fisher
Fisher

Sleeper: Anders Hansen is only two weeks removed from coming up one stroke shy of forcing a playoff with Quiros in Dubai. That result did allow him to become the last man to automatically qualify for this week's field.

Winner: Is there a more underrated player among the world's elite than Ross Fisher? He might not look pretty, but he gets the job done, including a fourth-place performance in this event two years ago and a World Match Play title later that season.


The Semifinals: Fisher over Goosen and Kaymer over Overton.

The Finals: Kaymer over Fisher.


Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

At some point every April, the following rhetorical question is anxiously posed by golf fans on couches around the world.

[+] Enlarge
Masters
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/Golf WeekIf you can't get to Augusta National, EA Sports' new "Tiger Woods '12" game will get you close.

"Wouldn't it be cool ... if you could play Augusta National Golf Club ... and the actual Masters Tournament ... on a video game?!"

Wonder no longer, my friends. The world's most revered golf course and the year's first major championship will soon be available in the long-standing EA Sports "Tiger Woods" series.

And yes, it will be very cool.

This is the golf and gaming equivalent to the first time someone dipped a chocolate bar into another person's peanut butter. Or more pertinently, the first time someone slapped pimento cheese on white bread -- the unofficial must-have lunch of the Masters Tournament.

For the first time ever, a virtual version of the entire course will be available to play from the luxury of your living room starting on March 29, just nine days before the opening round of the actual tournament. As if that isn't enough, the goal of the game's "career mode" will be to qualify for and win the Masters.

Green jacket sold separately, of course.

This move is the latest in a recent trend from Augusta National to not only grow the game globally, but make itself more visible.

Consider it a refreshing departure from the previous exclusivity of the course. Think about it: The first and second rounds of the Masters weren't even televised until 1982; broadcast coverage wasn't allowed to show competition on the front nine holes until 2002.

[+] Enlarge
Masters Bridge
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAugusta National's scenic views used to be available in April during the Masters. Now, golf fans will be able to see them in their living rooms all year long.

And now? In recent years, the tournament has been the first major shown in both high-definition and 3-D television, the first to offer live bonus coverage on the Internet and the first to allow free admission to all children under 16 accompanied by an adult. Each of those decisions has helped the Masters appeal to a younger generation, and its inclusion in the video game continues along that pattern.

"Our desire to help grow the game of golf throughout the world is sincere, and it is that commitment that first led us to EA Sports more than three years ago," said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, in a statement. "EA Sports, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour have developed an extremely successful franchise that responds to one of the popular entertainment choices of kids today. We hope our inclusion will foster an appreciation for the history and traditions of the Masters and inspire the next generation of golfers."

It's often been said that no one can realize exactly how hilly Augusta National's terrain really is without seeing it in person. Same goes for the overwhelming colors that permeate the course. Watching on television may grant observers a glimpse into the course's beauty, but it fails to capture the other senses in a way that only being there really can.

I'm reminded of a piece I wrote upon my first day on assignment at Augusta National years ago. It began:

Look to the left. The world is simply green, as far as the eye can see. Look to the right. More green, with hills and swales topped in that constant outdoorsy hue. Look behind you. Straight ahead. Anywhere. It's all the same. It's all serene, peaceful, yet exhilarating. It's all so much a part of history, yet so alive today. It's all so ... perfect.

The point in sharing this passage isn't to point out how much those who haven't made the pilgrimage have missed, but to prove what advantages might await in video game form -- all from the comfort of your own home. It's because of this ability to pull back the curtain that such an addition should intrigue hard-core golf fans as much as -- if not more than -- fanatical gamers. This is a chance to walk through the vaunted gates of Augusta National without needing access to drive down Magnolia Lane.

It's a win-win proposition. You can play the world's most famous golf course for the first time ever. Meanwhile, 100 percent of Augusta National's proceeds from the video game will be contributed to the newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which is designed to annually invest in development programs for the game of golf worldwide.

Actually, that makes it a win-win-win proposition, the last of those being the ability to capture a Masters title. For Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the world's elite golfers, that chance will come over four days in April. For the rest of us, it will soon be readily available anytime, at the click of a button.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

At some point every April, the following rhetorical question is anxiously posed by golf fans on couches around the world.

[+] Enlarge
Masters
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/Golf WeekIf you can't get to Augusta National, EA Sports' new "Tiger Woods '12" game will get you close.

"Wouldn't it be cool ... if you could play Augusta National Golf Club ... and the actual Masters Tournament ... on a video game?!"

Wonder no longer, my friends. The world's most revered golf course and the year's first major championship will soon be available in the long-standing EA Sports "Tiger Woods" series.

And yes, it will be very cool.

This is the golf and gaming equivalent to the first time someone dipped a chocolate bar into another person's peanut butter. Or more pertinently, the first time someone slapped pimento cheese on white bread -- the unofficial must-have lunch of the Masters Tournament.

For the first time ever, a virtual version of the entire course will be available to play from the luxury of your living room starting on March 29, just nine days before the opening round of the actual tournament.

Green jacket sold separately, of course.

This move is the latest in a recent trend from Augusta National to not only grow the game globally, but make itself more visible.

Consider it a refreshing departure from the previous exclusivity of the course. Think about it: The first and second rounds of the Masters weren't even televised until 1982; broadcast coverage wasn't allowed to show competition on the front nine holes until 2002.

[+] Enlarge
Masters Bridge
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAugusta National's scenic views used to be available in April during the Masters. Now, golf fans will be able to see them in their living rooms all year long.

And now? In recent years, the tournament has been the first major shown in both high-definition and 3-D television, the first to offer live bonus coverage on the Internet and the first to allow free admission to all children under 16 accompanied by an adult. Each of those decisions has helped the Masters appeal to a younger generation, and its inclusion in the video game continues along that pattern.

"Our desire to help grow the game of golf throughout the world is sincere, and it is that commitment that first led us to EA Sports more than three years ago," said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, in a statement. "EA Sports, Tiger Woods and the PGA Tour have developed an extremely successful franchise that responds to one of the popular entertainment choices of kids today. We hope our inclusion will foster an appreciation for the history and traditions of the Masters and inspire the next generation of golfers."

It's often been said that no one can realize exactly how hilly Augusta National's terrain really is without seeing it in person. Same goes for the overwhelming colors that permeate the course. Watching on television may grant observers a glimpse into the course's beauty, but it fails to capture the other senses in a way that only being there really can.

I'm reminded of a piece I wrote upon my first day on assignment at Augusta National years ago. It began:

Look to the left. The world is simply green, as far as the eye can see. Look to the right. More green, with hills and swales topped in that constant outdoorsy hue. Look behind you. Straight ahead. Anywhere. It's all the same. It's all serene, peaceful, yet exhilarating. It's all so much a part of history, yet so alive today. It's all so ... perfect.

The point in sharing this passage isn't to point out how much those who haven't made the pilgrimage have missed, but to prove what advantages might await in video game form -- all from the comfort of your own home. It's because of this ability to pull back the curtain that such an addition should intrigue hard-core golf fans as much as -- if not more than -- fanatical gamers. This is a chance to walk through the vaunted gates of Augusta National without needing access to drive down Magnolia Lane.

It's a win-win proposition. You can play the world's most famous golf course for the first time ever. Meanwhile, 100 percent of Augusta National's proceeds from the video game will be contributed to the newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which is designed to annually invest in development programs for the game of golf worldwide.

Actually, that makes it a win-win-win proposition, the last of those being the ability to capture a Masters title. For Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the world's elite golfers, that chance will come over four days in April. For the rest of us, it will soon be readily available anytime, at the click of a button.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Tiger Woods gave a 17-minute interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" program on Thursday morning, discussing the fallout from his personal scandal of the past year. He remained introspective, but not revelatory; articulate, but not impassioned; regretful, but not distraught.

We shouldn't have expected anything more.

Ever since making his 2010 season debut at the Masters Tournament, Woods has been interrogated about his private affairs and how they have affected his family, his golf and his life overall. A scratch-handicap in avoiding a question if there ever was one, he has sidestepped these issues time and again, proffering only the most canned responses rather than speaking off the cuff.

The result is exactly what we heard once again on Thursday -- a man who says all the right things in exactly the wrong way.

Woods once again furnished stiff answers straight out of an IMG how-to handbook to questions which should elicit more emotional responses. If there's anything the public still wants to hear from him, it's passion. Some intonation in the voice. A little exasperation. Something to show that this entire ordeal has affected him internally, still eats away at him every day. Instead, he has offered all the emotion of a guy reading off cue cards.

"It's amazing how much better I feel internally each and every day. How thankful I am to have the connection to my kids," Woods said during the interview. "I feel so much better and everything is in much better perspective now."

Those aren't the true inner feelings of a guy who has just gone through the roughest patch in his life. They are a summation of his feelings, as told to him by a public-relations wag in an effort to sound more forgivable.

The truth is, Woods might not even know how to speak passionately anymore. The same talking points and interview strategies have been ingrained into his head for so long that he might not even recall what true emotion is supposed to entail. Call it "The Emperor's New Clothes" for the 21st century.

Look, this can't be easy. Most of us would have a difficult time discussing such private matters with our closest friends and relatives, let alone a worldwide audience. Tiger has never been the most comfortable guy in front of the camera -- or in this case, on the phone -- so how can we expect him to be even more forthcoming when speaking of his personal life?

Really, we can't and we shouldn't. It's been almost a year since Tiger's single-car accident in front of his home led to revelations of marital infidelities, and it's been many months since he first addressed the questions. What you see is what you're going to get with Woods. Or, to use one of his favorite phrases, "It is what it is."

It's almost appropriate that Woods is coming off the first winless season of his professional career. This latest Q&A session mirrored his 2010 season on the links. At times he appeared very much in control; other times he struggled to perform. In the end, it wasn't a victory, but he avoided embarrassing himself again. And for Tiger Woods these days, that might be the most important thing.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

For a golfer who has spent much of his professional career as the best in the world, Tiger Woods has often embraced change and welcomed progress in various forms. While most players of his caliber would likely be more stubborn than malleable, he has undergone swing modifications while working with multiple instructors and utilizing new equipment.

[+] Enlarge
Tiger Woods
Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty ImagesTiger Woods started posting to a Twitter account on Wednesday (@TigerWoods.) Will he take to it like PGA Tour veterans Stewart Cink and Ian Poulter? That remains to be seen.

And yet, when facing the public and speaking with the media, Woods is almost robotic in nature, reluctant to say anything the least bit forthcoming, instead offering such favorite phrases as, "It is what it is," as a catch-all response without providing any pertinent details. This blueprint has gained even more momentum in the past year, as he has attempted to distance himself from a personal scandal that elicited worldwide recognition.

Well, nearly one year after details of that public embarrassment came to light, it seems Woods may be ready to employ a new swing change to his persona, if you will.

On Wednesday, he posted to an official Twitter account that was largely devoid of any content for years. He also penned a first-person op-ed for Newsweek entitled, "How I've Redefined Victory" and will appear on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

Consider it an all-too-apparent attempt to restore a public image that many considered irreparably damaged. Not that such a strategy is a bad maneuver. Woods' response to his issues -- ranging from complete silence to a globally televised speech to simple, mundane answers to questions -- haven't exactly endeared him to the many fans he's lost along the way. So it's best to try a new approach through the use of social media and other avenues.

One question remains, though: Is it all too little, too late? Don't count on it. While Woods endured a few hecklers along the way, his winless 2010 season was largely witnessed by galleries that wanted him to succeed. The optimal way for him to win over the remainder of the masses is to, in order, keep his name out of the tabloids and win golf tournaments. He has succeeded at the former as of late, and continues to work on the latter.

In the meantime, making himself more available and personable should become a priority.

It shouldn't be too difficult, either. Anyone who has spent time around Woods knows he's a regular guy who enjoys sports, music and needling his pals. His first few attempts haven't sparked much in the way of entertainment or insight -- his initial Twitter posts were completely benign and his Newsweek piece was simply a reiteration of many press conference responses throughout the year -- but Woods should endeavor toward opening up as much as possible.

That means using social media much in the same way players like Stewart Cink and Ian Poulter have embraced the phenomenon. Answer questions from fans -- and not just one-word responses. Post some photographs. Tell a joke. Anything, really, that elicits an emotional response should be seen as a positive at this point.

Woods is now arming himself with the necessary artillery to show that he's a real human being with thoughts and feelings rather than the automaton we've so often seen on golf courses and in front of microphones. The scandal will always remain as a detrimental piece to his legacy, but if he can prove there's a personality behind the pervading fašade, it will go a long way toward restoring his image.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

This was inevitable. Whether he maintained the world's No. 1 ranking for another decade, continuing this reign into the latter stages of his career, or faltered along the way, enabling another player to overtake his position, there was always bound to be a day when Tiger Woods was no longer the best golfer in the world -- according to the number-crunching, at least.

That day will be Oct. 31, 2010.

With Woods failing to claim an individual title in a dozen appearances so far this season, he will be passed on the Official World Golf Ranking by gritty English pro Lee Westwood in less than three weeks.

After more than a half-decade atop the list for Woods, this will mark a historic occasion, but hardly an unprecedented one. On Labor Day of 2004, he was ousted from the spot by Vijay Singh, who was in the midst of a nine-win campaign. The two men parried for the honor well into the next season, when Woods took such a stranglehold of the top spot that he hasn't relinquished it until now.

Don't expect him to claim it back so efficiently this time around.

The OWGR is golf's version of the Bowl Championship Series formula that exists in college football. Take a healthy dose of numbers, punch 'em into a computer and watch it spit out the results. Although at least the BCS takes into account popular opinion; there's none of that in the OWGR.

Without getting too deep into what could be a mind-numbing explanation, the ranking is based on a two-year rolling calendar which measures a player's credentials through results and strength of fields. Sure, Woods -- or any other golfer, really -- could climb back into the No. 1 position by simply playing dominant golf, but there are other factors at work here, too.

The OWGR uses a 40-tournament minimum for this two-year period, meaning players who fail to reach that number are invariably penalized by not competing more often. This hasn't been a detriment to Woods in the past, as he often carries a total below that standard, but without any wins this season, it will be more difficult for him to regain those points.

The truth is, it's surprising that it took this long for Woods to be ousted from this position. Last year, Sergio Garcia -- remember him? -- had an opportunity to surpass him, but couldn't do it. Phil Mickelson had more than a dozen such chances this year, but faltered every time.

And so now the man who will become the 13th top-ranked player since the OWGR was introduced in 1986 is Westwood, though he is not without fault, either. A perennial bridesmaid at the major championships, he will join Fred Couples and David Duval as the only players to reach this level prior to winning one of golf's four big events. The honor could be fleeting, though, as Westwood has announced he will take a leave of absence until next month due to a recurring ankle injury.

That leaves the door open for Woods, Mickelson or the world's hottest player right now in Martin Kaymer, who has won each of his last three individual starts, including the PGA Championship, to elevate into the No. 4 position on the ranking.

Expect the subject to be a hot topic at the upcoming HSBC Champions event in Shanghai on Nov. 4-7, where each of those three players -- along with Westwood, depending on that injury -- will be teeing it up with No. 1 on the line. It will likely hold as an underlying subplot to the season's final few noteworthy tournaments and well into next year, when the ranking could be up for grabs on virtually a weekly basis.

Really, though, becoming the best player in the world -- by the numbers, at least -- is a marathon, not a sprint. Of the 12 players who have been No. 1, only four (Woods, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros) held the honor for more than a full calendar year. Ascending to the top spot is an impressive accomplishment, but it will be the player who remains there over the long term who truly comes out on top.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Go ahead. Criticize his wild-card picks. Tell United States captain Corey Pavin that Tiger Woods isn't a team player or Rickie Fowler isn't experienced enough or Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson are too vanilla.

He doesn't care -- or so he says.

"I'm not very concerned about it personally," Pavin said during Tuesday's news conference. "My job is to put together the team that I feel is the best team and to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup. What other people's opinions are, I cannot control and I'm not concerned about it. I am just trying to get the best guys together to go over there and win."

The truth is, with the announcement that Woods, Fowler, Cink and Johnson are his choices, the skipper made smart, safe picks which likely ensure that he will neither receive credit for winning with this quartet, nor shoulder the blame for losing with them.

History has shown this isn't always the case. There have been Ryder Cup captains who lived and died by their picks. They were defined by these selections, their entire tenure judged upon whether their guys led the team to glory.

In 1999, Europe captain Mark James infamously chose head-scratcher Andrew Coltart, only to bench him until Sunday, when the Scotsman contributed to a historic loss. Seven years later, Ian Woosnam went with Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke -- the latter just a month after his wife's death from cancer -- and they combined to claim seven points in the landslide victory.

Pavin won't be similarly remembered.

Of course, this is in stark contrast to his European counterpart Colin Montgomerie, who was roundly lambasted for his three captain's picks last week.

In choosing Edoardo Molinari, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, the captain omitted world No. 9 Paul Casey and two-time 2010 champion Justin Rose. If his side wins because of these players, Monty will be received as the toast of the continent; if they flounder en route to defeat, he will bear the brunt of the criticism.

Pavin, though, failed to put his stamp on the Ryder Cup with these selections. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. One of the captain's main duties is to provide his team with the best roster of players needed to win the biennial competition, and it's difficult to argue that America's man in charge hasn't done exactly that.

Three of his four picks were no-brainers, easily duplicated by any mass polling of Internet speculators. The fourth went to an adroit 21-year-old rookie who already owns five top-10s this season, though none since the Memorial in early June.

Even those who preferred another player understand that it's not as if the selection of Fowler is completely out of left field. Consider this: At 33rd in the world, he is actually ranked two spots higher than Cink, a major champion who has played on four previous editions of the team.

If the youngster -- who was competing in the amateur-only Walker Cup just a year ago -- fails to succeed in Wales next month, it's tough to believe many Monday morning quarterbacks will be pining for one of the other candidates.

Anthony Kim could have been an option, but he has yet to play well after returning from thumb surgery. Lucas Glover was on the short list, but other than last year's U.S. Open victory, he's shown a knack for melting under pressure.

Nick Watney? Sean O'Hair? J.B. Holmes? Bo Van Pelt? All good players. That's right -- good, not great. Even recent Deutsche Bank Championship winner Charley Hoffman can't be too upset about being overlooked, considering he was 57th on the points list when it ended three weeks ago.

When previous U.S. captain Paul Azinger retooled the Ryder Cup qualification process prior to the last edition of the event, expanding from two wild-card selections to four, he immediately made this part of the role not only twice as difficult, but twice as important, too.

More than ever before, the onus is on the skipper to ensure that one-third of his roster blends with the already-qualified participants. With his selections of Woods, Fowler, Cink and Johnson, the current captain did everything in his power to certify that the players will determine the eventual result as opposed to himself -- quite the opposite of Montgomerie's current predicament.

And if you disagree? Well, that's OK, too. After all, Corey Pavin isn't worried about the criticism.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

NORTON, Mass. -- There's this golfer. Born in the good ol' U.S.A. Competed on five previous Ryder Cup teams.

Came close to qualifying this year, but didn't make it. Has played in only 11 events so far due to some personal issues. Doesn't have any wins and has been wildly inconsistent at times, but owns a pair of T-4 results at majors.

In the past few weeks, when the captain's picks were likely being determined, he finished T-11 and T-12.

He also happens to own 14 major championship titles and though his Ryder Cup record is hardly stellar, he hasn't lost a singles match since 1997.

So, would you pick him for your squad?

The player in question, of course, is Tiger Woods. And if your name is Corey Pavin, the answer to that query is an easy one.

Yes. Of course you would.

In fact, chances are that by the time you read this, Woods will have already been informed that he is indeed one of Pavin's four captain's selections.

We won't know officially until those picks are announced at 10:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, but analyze the writing on the wall and you'll be able to read between the lines.

After all, we already know this much: Pavin wants Woods on the team, recently saying, "He's high on my list. He's certainly a big consideration, no doubt." And Woods wants to be on the team, maintaining, "I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully Corey will pick me on the team."

Immediately following his final-round 3-under 68 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Tiger was asked about the prospects of being named to the roster.

Will he be on pins and needles in advance of a phone call from the captain?

"I think he has my number. No, I'll talk to him this afternoon, give him a call."

Does he have any plans for 10:30 the next morning?

"That's what I'm going to call him about."

Could he make himself available for that biennial conference call?

"I would like to find out first before that happens."

It would be utterly shocking -- and perhaps the greatest bluff in the history of Ryder Cup captains -- if Pavin leaves Woods off his list to round out the roster.

There are a few reasons. Most notably is the fact, simply put, there aren't four players who deserve spots more than Woods. It would be futile for the U.S. skipper to attempt to put together a group that gives his team a better chance to win in Wales.

That leads to another one. Unlike his European counterpart Colin Montgomerie, Pavin is more likely to play the percentages. Which is to say, whether the team wins or loses, it won't be because of or in spite of his actions. If the team loses without the world's No. 1-ranked player in attendance, all of the fault therein lies with him.

Those who contend that Woods doesn't warrant a place on the roster use the 2008 Ryder Cup as Exhibit A. While he was recovering from season-ending knee surgery, the team was victorious for the first time in nearly a decade, prompting speculation that it's better off without him.

Some will also question his desire, as he once famously commented that no one remembers Jack Nicklaus' record in the event, only his individual accomplishments. While there is no scale to measure such inner thoughts, Woods has certainly said all of the right things in the weeks and months leading up to the event.

"It would be nice to be on the team," he said on Monday. "I enjoy playing in the Ryder Cup and going out there against those guys with my teammates and see if we can get it done."

There is little doubt Woods will once again be part of the U.S. team. He likely already knows, while the rest of us will find out for sure on Tuesday.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

NORTON, Mass. -- Stop me if you've heard this one before: Tiger Woods looked very much like the Tiger Woods of old on Saturday.

[+] Enlarge
 Tiger Woods
Michael Cohen/Getty ImagesFor the first time since the 2009 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods played an entire PGA Tour round without a single blemish on his scorecard.

We've been down this road before. The back nine of Round 3 at the U.S. Open. The entire opening round at last week's Barclays. In each instance, pundits were quick to declare Woods "back" to his vintage self, ready to compete and contend and win tournaments once again. In each instance, that notion never materialized.

If there's any major proclamation to make following his second-round 6-under 65 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, it's that we should take the performance at face value. Which is to say this: Though Woods played mistake-free golf for the first time this season and stands T-29 after 36 holes, it shouldn't serve as a determining predictor for any upcoming results.

The one thing we've come to learn about Woods this year -- on the course, at least -- is that he's been consistently inconsistent. Though it's difficult to view his latest round without a healthy dose of optimism, momentum has eluded the world's No. 1-ranked player in recent months. There is no reason to believe this one will lead to a Monday victory any more than it may lead to subsequent disappointment, considering he's put together consecutive under-par rounds just once in his previous seven appearances.

That's not to take away from what he accomplished on Saturday.

One day after posting a pedestrian 1-over 72 -- he was one of just 13 players to shoot over par -- Woods apparently took his Clark Kent persona into the phone booth for an overhaul. Although the "S" on the chest of Woods' white shirt stood for Stanford University in honor of college football's opening weekend, it was a super turnaround in the span of just more than 12 hours.

Whereas he opened his first round with four bogeys on the first six holes, this time he carded four birdies on the first seven to get himself on the right side of the cutline.

"The first six holes were nice," he said after tying his season-low 18-hole score. "I didn't miss a shot. I striped it on every shot. To start off that way, that was nice."

The final stretch of holes could have been just as nice, but Woods missed a handful of putts that kept his 65 from being, well, even lower.

Many times this year we've seen such blunders turn a good round for Tiger into a poor one, but the fact any missed putts were for birdie should serve as a testament to his ball-striking on Saturday. Often employing driver off the tee, he hit 11 of 14 fairways (five more than in the opening round) and 14 greens in regulation (three more than the previous day).

The result was Woods' initial bogey-free round in 39 attempts this season and his first in more than a year, dating back to the first round of the 2009 PGA Championship.

It was enough that even the player who is always his own worst critic was unduly satisfied with the performance.

"It was a clean card today," he said. "Could have been a little bit lower. I missed a few out there, but overall with the wind blowing like this, it's a little bit swirly and a little bit gusty, I feel very pleased with the number I was able to post."

Woods wasn't the only one who was impressed with his play. John Senden and Michael Sim each bested their playing partner by four strokes over the first two rounds, but said they caught glimpses of the "old" Tiger, as well.

"He played great golf today," said Sim, who has posted rounds of 68-66 so far. "He was 330 in the middle all day; he drove it fantastic. ... I didn't see him all day, he was way in front of me."

"He certainly brought out his A-game today, I thought," agreed Senden, who's started 66-68. "It's always good to see the best in the world play golf. He drove the ball real well today and he really looked sharp."

The next step for Woods is following this with another sharp performance in Round 3. Building on these successful rounds has been an obstacle for him throughout this season, as he's rarely been able to back one up with another directly afterward.

It's something he is well aware of, too.

Asked after his round what he needs to do for the final two days, he responded: "Continue building what I'm building on. Each and every day I'm trying to build on what I'm working on, and it takes time. I'm pleased that yesterday I was able to turn it around yesterday after a poor start, figure out what changes I need to make in my swing, and I did that, and that continued today."

If he can continue that on Sunday, he might find himself in contention going into the final round. As we've seen so far this year, though, another strong performance remains a big if for Woods.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

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