The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

Tiger Woods is far from done, and a win may be coming soon

Tiger has been close at times this year. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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There’s plenty of time to talk about the Astros’ magic numbers. Even more time to dissect the Texans’ struggling start or ponder just how seamlessly Melo is going to slide into the Rockets’ lineup.

So for the time being, we turn your attention to the end of a season and a way it could end with an exclamation point.

Yes, we’re talking the PGA TOUR’s wraparound season that comes to a close next week in Atlanta. The top 30 players on the FedEx Cup list will be at East Lake to tee it up for a $10 million first prize and a Tiffany trophy.

The favorite? Depends on how you look at it. You could go with Bryson Dechambeau, who leads the FedEx Cup points list and has won three of his last eight events including the first two FedEx Cup playoff events. Or FedEx No. 2 Justin Rose, who just happened to take over the No. 1 ranking in the world. Or red-hot Tony Finau, who just made his first Ryder Cup team or Brooks Koepka, who won two majors this season and went back-to-back at the U.S. Open.

Or Houstonian and reigning Masters champ Patrick Reed, ranked 15th in the FedEx Cup.

Actually, you could make a case for just about anyone in the field, but the exclamation point we’re talking about?

Tiger Woods.

Sure, he hasn’t won since 2013, but what the heck? And why the heck not?

The greatest player of his generation has simply blown us away this season. He’s gone from No. 656 in the world to No. 21 with a fused back and a new swing. He’s gone from curious afterthought to a top-five fixture once again; from Ryder Cup vice-captain to member of Jim Furyk’s team.

In case you haven’t noticed, the man who won the inaugural FedEx Cup in 2007 at East Lake is on a roll. He has six top-six finishes this season and two runner-ups. Just a week ago he made a run at the BMW Championship throwing out an opening 62 and closing 66-65. He finished T6 and left us wondering what if he  hadn’t shot 70 in the second round.

He had us dreaming at the PGA Championship, too, where a closing 64 brought the kind of rumbling, body shaking roars we haven’t heard in years. And a runner-up finish. A shot here or there and it could easily have been his 15th major title.

You know he’s far from done. And maybe not too far from that elusive next win.

Tiger heads into East Lake ranked No. 20 in the FedEx Cup standings and as a 14-1 shot to win. He knows the course. He’s won here before and, well, there’s no question he has something to prove.

To himself.

Forget about the critics. This season, he’s rebuilt not only his swing, but his reputation – one shot at a time. He’s tackling his image and his climb back to the top with similar precision.

He’s not the only one trying to finish off a comeback. Jason Day snapped a 33-tournament winless streak earlier this year. Ditto for Phil Mickelson, who went 96 starts without a win until he picked up a victory in Mexico in March. And there’s quirky Ian Poulter, who won in Houston in April and snapped a winless streak dating back to 2012.

Yes, Tiger is back. He’ll never been the same dominating player he was two decades ago. He’s pushing back at middle-age and, for the moment, winning. He doesn’t ask more of his swing than he should and his focus? That’s thisclose to as sharp as it was when dominated the sport.

Tiger winning next week? It’s really not that far-fetched. He’s put in the work, had a week off and he’s on a roll. He wants this and he wants the Ryder Cup.

A year or two ago, we would have been crazy to think he would even be here, let alone in a position to win. Back then, he couldn’t swing a club. Now he’s doing it with close to best-player-on-the-planet-again precision.

He has our attention. He has us thinking another major championship.

A win next week? Why not?

It would close out a great comeback season and open the door to those major possibilities we’ve been thinking about in 2019.







 

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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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