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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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