Golf
Jason Sobel, ESPN Senior Writer 19d

Weekly 18: Wins come in all shapes, sizes for Rose, Cantlay, Tiger

Golf, PGA Tour

What a run for some great golf stories.

A week that began with Tiger Woods' comeback announcement and unyielding support for the city of Las Vegas ended with Justin Rose claiming a second straight win and Patrick Cantlay breaking through for a meaningful first.

I'll get to all of that in this edition of the Weekly 18, starting with the guy who's going to have a few more trophies in his luggage when he finally heads home.

1. It's difficult enough to correctly pick a player to win a single tournament, let alone two in a row, but we at least should've seen good things coming for Justin Rose during the past two weeks. He finished 10th at the opening FedEx Cup event, ranking first in strokes gained tee to green, then claimed three more top-10s to close out the playoffs, including a runner-up in Chicago. The best way to categorize his victories in China and Turkey is that they were classic Justin Rose performances -- which is to say, his ball-striking was pure, he eliminated many mistakes and he converted plenty of birdie opportunities.

2. Not long after Rose's win on Sunday, I spoke with his longtime instructor Sean Foley, who told me that back stiffness early this year forced them to make some changes. "We had to look at everything we were doing and make some wholesale changes on setup, takeaway, and making a transition," Foley said. "He wasn't consistent with it on the course, but he was feeling healthy and hitting some shots maybe in better ways than the past. It wasn't always working out for 72 holes, but we just stuck with the blueprint."

3. There's no PGA Tour statistic for hardest workers, but from what I've observed both on-site at tourneys and off-site, Rose ranks up there with Zach Johnson among the guys who rate pretty highly. That's a notion Foley acknowledged during our conversation. "This is a culmination of all of his reps and workouts," he continued. "He's the consummate professional. What he does and how he does it -- that could almost be the mantra for up and coming players."

4. One last note from my talk with Foley that struck me as interesting: He told me that since 2009, Rose, who's now 37, has gained 35 yards with his driver. Obviously, that's not always shown in PGA Tour driving stats, but for a guy who hits his irons so well, that's a noteworthy improvement.

5. Nicolas Colsaerts could parlay a 36-hole lead into only a share of second place, but it's good to see him relevant once again. The former Ryder Cupper -- he was a stud in his opening match five years ago -- isn't just one of the game's longest hitters; he's also one of the more fun, interesting guys around. I wrote a profile of Colsaerts a few years ago and his fellow players had nothing but glowing things to say about both his personality and his on-course talent. Let's hope he keeps it going. The game needs more guys like him.

6. How much of a character is Colsaerts? After that first Ryder Cup match, he explained his explosive start by saying, "You have just got to go with what's in your pants." I once asked him how he got the nickname The Dude, and he replied, "I was in Europe and I was kind of saying dude to everyone and I'm kind of like a dude." Makes perfect sense.

7. Congrats to UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma for stealing a Tiger Woods scoop away from those newshounds at TigerWoods.com. In a podcast, Woods made headlines by saying he believes the USGA needs to bifurcate and roll back the ball for professional golfers. If you're scoring at home, that's now Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and just about every other legend of the game who opposes the current stance. At some point, that's gotta mean something.

8. Even though his comments about the golf ball drew a stronger reaction, it was Tiger's quote about his distances that really resonated for me: "I can't believe how far I'm hitting the ball. I'm back to hitting it my full numbers." We'll see if that's true when he returns later this month at the Hero World Challenge, but there's no reason for him to over-promise and under-deliver.

9. Nothing brings out the trolls of Golf Twitter like a big Tiger announcement. I can certainly understand there are fans who blindly support and believe in him no matter what. And I get that others root against him, for various reasons. But I've never understood how -- or why -- grown adults could criticize another adult for trying to continue his career. And yet, that idea permeated social media this week. I wish people would look at it this way: Isn't attempting to return from injury a whole lot more admirable than simply giving up and retiring?

10. Speaking of Woods, 21 years ago he earned his first of 79 career PGA Tour wins at the Las Vegas-based tournament. I'm not going to make any Tiger comparisons for Patrick Cantlay -- or anyone else, for that matter -- but it's noteworthy that a victory there has launched a few pretty decent careers in the past. Cantlay is going to be very, very good for a very, very long time, if he can remain healthy. And yes, that's one of the worst-kept secrets in golf right now.

11. How talented is Cantlay? Here's Jordan Spieth talking about him two months ago: "He's extremely talented. He's going to work his way up into the top-10 in the world, in my opinion."

12. I can't recall an up-and-coming 25-year-old professional golfer who has been through more in his professional and personal life than Cantlay. He has already undergone back surgery and played a limited schedule this past season just to try and remain healthy. Then there's the traumatic story of his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, who was killed in a hit-and-run while walking through an intersection with Cantlay last year.

13. If you're in one of those golf pools where you take a player for the entire upcoming year and want to buy (sort of) low on a few, you could do a lot worse than pencil Cantlay into your lineup. I'm still seriously bullish on another guy who didn't fare nearly as well as Sunday. Tony Finau posted a 1-over 72 to finish T-16, but I'll put him down right now for multiple wins this season -- plus a major championship contention or two.

14. The current leader on the Japan Tour money list is an American. Chan Kim won the Heiwa PGM Championship this weekend. The 27-year-old Arizona State product now owns three victories on the Japan circuit this season, along with a T-11 at the Open Championship this past summer. His latest title should move him inside the world's top-100, which could lead to more playing opportunities on other global tours in the coming year.

15. Kudos to tournament organizers in Las Vegas for offering an exemption to local resident A.J. McInerney, who was at last month's Route 91 Harvest Festival when a gunman opened fire, resulting in the worst mass shooting in modern American history. And kudos to McInerney for not only making the cut and finishing in an impressive share of 10th place, but representing himself and his hometown so well while reliving painful memories in interview sessions during the week. He'll go to Web.com Tour Q-School instead of using his top-10 exemption to play Mayakoba this week, but here's hoping the following week's RSM Classic or another event gives him a spot soon.

16. I could have chosen any of about two dozen quotes from McInerney that would've symbolized his eloquence, but I really liked this, from after the opening round: "To have this event here only a month after Route 91 is special. I think Vegas can come together right now and celebrate something and have a reason to have fun and watch some great golf."

17. The truth is, from beginning to end, the tournament easily adapted to the "Vegas Strong" theme, with players donating earnings, wearing ribbons and generally supporting the city in any way possible. No player epitomized this better than Charley Hoffman, who attended UNLV and lived in Vegas for much of his career. He wore special shoes that will be auctioned off to charity and will donate his entire 18th-place paycheck of $98,600.

18. The support didn't stop when the final putt dropped, either. On Nov. 20, at TPC Las Vegas, the PGA Tour and PGA of America will jointly host an event called "Golf Fore Las Vegas" with all proceeds going to the Direct Impact Fund -- a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing immediate and direct assistance to those affected by disasters.

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