Tiger Woods is back, and all is right with te golf world. Masters.com
Here we are folks! The 2018 PGA TOUR season has officially begun. Now before you go off and tell me that “technically it already started,” I know. But let’s be honest with each other, those events between the Tour Championship and the Tournament of Champions (sans the WGC event in Shanghai) are borderline meaningless. At any rate, the 2018 season is under way with both new and old excitement. Let’s take a look at some of the news we’ve had and news to look forward to in 2018:
Tiger is back
It would be silly not to start with the most exciting/interesting news that’s been permeating the golf landscape in 2018. That’s right, one Eldrick Tont Woods, a.k.a. Tiger, has officially committed to play in two official tournaments so far. The first (Farmers Insurance Open) is coming up at the end of January (officially, Jan 25-28). This tournament takes place at Torrey Pines where he has won an incredible eight times. Those eight wins include his 14th (and most recent) major, the 2008 U.S. Open. If anyone knows how to get around Torrey Pines, it’s Tiger Woods. The other tournament he has committed to is the Genesis Open (Feb 15-18) at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA. Now remember, it’s 2018, not 2000. Tiger is not the player he was back then, and his name no longer carries the weight/intimidation that it once did. However, everyone benefits from Tiger playing in tour events. More people watch, more people attend, and golf is all around better (and richer) when they can bank on Tiger. It’s highly doubtful that Tiger will be near the top of the leaderboard at either tournament, but the oddsmakers feel a bit differently. Tiger hosted and played in the Hero World Challenge back at the end of November. This was a limited field event (only 18 players) and the course was rather tame by PGA standards. However, before the tournament started Tiger was a 66-1 longshot to win at Augusta in 2018. After his opening round 69 at the Hero, that dropped to a ridiculous 33-1, and after Friday it was even lower at 15-1. Some books still have him at that number, while others have come to their senses and brought the number back up. While I won’t put any money on Tiger to win a major this year (or ever again for that matter), it would not surprise me if he did. Bottom line is that Tiger is back playing in meaningful tournaments, and we are all the better because of it.
DJ is from another planet
In other news, Dustin Johnson is not human. If you haven’t seen his near ace on the 433 yard par 4 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, then you are severely missing out. Check it out here even if you have seen it, because it is that good. Johnson went on to win that tournament by an incredible 8 shots, with a total score of 24-under par. With the ability to drive it that far, and stay that accurate, it’s hard to imagine he would ever lose a golf tournament. He finally broke his major drought in 2016 at the U.S. Open, and ascended to No. 1 in the world at the beginning of 2017. He still sits atop the OWGR and looks poised to make a statement in 2018. It’s my opinion that DJ will win the Player of the Year award for 2018, and will take home multiple tournaments including a couple majors. Quite a bit of my betting dollars will be used on DJ this year (barring any more tumbles down a short set of stairs).
Spieth is still pretty good, too
Jordan Spieth is still good at golf, and even added a Claret Jug to his trophy case in 2017. It took a some incredible putting, and a ridiculous drop that lasted more than 20 minutes; but the Open Championship was his in the end. This makes the PGA Championship in 2018 quite a bit more interesting to watch. He will be competing for the Grand Slam, which only five other players have done (one of them being Mr. Woods an amazing three times.) Jordan also got engaged at the end of 2017, which I assume will be a good thing, but who knows. Congratulations Jordan, but remember where the money comes from: GOLF!
Plenty of other interesting names
Other players to watch out for are the norms: Rory McIlroy is out of the Nike equipment, and looks to be fully recovered from his rib/back injury that occurred last year. He’s been through somewhat of a lull in the past years, but he still has four majors and will be gunning for the Grand Slam at the Masters this year. The reigning Player of the Year, Justin Thomas, has 10-3 odds to win a major this year. He won the 2017 Tournament of Champions, and then shot a 59 in the Sony the very next week. He seemed to be a bit out of form at the Sentry last week, but it’s still very early in the year. The unfortunate part of 2018 is that there is no reason to root for Sergio anymore. After finally capturing that elusive first major at the Masters, it’s not likely that he’ll be getting the same acquiescence from the crowds. However, he did just leave long time sponsor Taylormade, and signed with Callaway. That may not make him any more popular with the fans, but I do think he will play better with the new equipment. There are a few low key names to be on the look out for this year. Tony Finau is a name that few outside the golfing world will know, but he is young and coming into form. He is tall (6’3”) and can mash it like Dustin. Combine that with his improved greenside ability and scrambling strength, and he is a dark horse to win big this year. Another young up-and-comer is Xander Schauffele. He won the Tour Championship at the end of 2017 and just signed a big deal with Callaway. (Callaway seems to be rounding everyone up lately). Without the pressure of needing to win to make money, The X-Man can relax and play his style of golf.
All in all, it looks to be an exciting season of PGA TOUR golf. Perhaps somewhat heightened by the long-awaited return of Tiger, and bolstered by it being a Ryder Cup year. I’m looking forward to each week on the TOUR, and plan on attending the final major (The PGA Championship) this year. Here’s hoping the bets pay off, and the beer continues to flow all year.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.