Golf

Tiger Woods is still an enormous draw 20 years into his career

Tiger Woods is still an enormous draw 20 years into his career

I've been playing golf since I was barely old enough to swing a club. I was born two months before Tiger Woods won his first major at the 1997 Masters.

Ever since I can remember, I've been a Tiger Woods stan.

But the only real memory I have of Tiger being Tiger was when he won the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff against Rocco Mediate. I was 11. He'd won 13 majors before that, but I was too young to truly remember much of any of them. But the 91-hole Monday playoff I left elementary school early to go watch will stick with me forever.

That Tiger has hardly been seen since. His injury history and unceremonious fall from grace are well-documented. He may never actually be that Tiger again. Even if he's not, he'll always carry the same expectations, because that's what he expects of himself.

Thursday at the Quicken Loans National, a tournament he hosts, I got to watch him in person for the first time. Even though he shot an even-par 70, it was awesome.

The most famous golfer of all time doesn't need to be playing well to draw massive crowds.

Tiger was stuck in neutral for most of the first round. He had one bad hole that resulted in a double bogey and put a few approach shots close on the back nine to make a pair of birdies to get back to even. It never once seemed to matter to fans, who were several rows deep on all 18 holes all afternoon.

Rickie Fowler, who's undoubtedly the second most popular golfer in the field, also had a large following, which was noticeably younger than those following Tiger. But even Fowler, who's having a better season and has actually won in the last two years, couldn't match the crowds Tiger drew.

It seemed as though all the fans on the course were following one of those two groups, which were just one tee time apart, meaning they were on the same hole much of the afternoon. The group behind Tiger's featured Troy Merritt, Harris English and J.J. Spaun, who just so happens to be tied for the lead after a 7-under 63. There were no more than two dozen people following him at any point Thursday afternoon.

No, not even a young gun who was tying the course record could draw fans away from Tiger's average round.

Perhaps they thought he would get it going at some point like the old Tiger always seemed to. Perhaps they were waiting to see if they could catch a glimpse of anything that reminded them of the Tiger that once dominated the PGA Tour.

I know I was.

The Open Championship 2019: Tiger Woods is playing poorly and it's stressing us all out

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Golf Channel

The Open Championship 2019: Tiger Woods is playing poorly and it's stressing us all out

Tiger Woods carded a front-nine five-over-par 41 during his first round of the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

It looked bad from the very beginning as he pulled an iron off the first tee into the fescue on the left and grimaced.

That's not just any "Aw shucks, I hit it in the rough" grimace. That's the grimace of a 43-year-old with a fused spine playing golf in cold, windy and rainy weather after not playing competitive golf since the U.S. Open about a month ago.

Woods said that the chilly, damp weather at Pebble Beach made it difficult for him to get loose during the U.S. Open, which would make it a fair assumption that the 15-time major winner is struggling with his back in similar weather at Royal Portrush.

But if there's anybody who can overcome physical issues on the course, it's Tiger Woods. He did, after all, win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg. He seemed to weather the storm with a world-class par on the first after two poor shots. He had makeable birdie opportunities on the second and third holes, but missed both.

Then the squares on the scorecard came. Woods went bogey, double-bogey, bogey, par, bogey, bogey between the fifth and 10th holes. He hasn't looked particularly comfortable at any point during the round.

That reality has drawn reactions from just about everybody watching. 

It hasn't gone much better for Big Cat since. As somebody who moves the needle more than anybody else in the sport, nobody wants to watch him play like this. There's still some time left in Round 1, but things aren't looking good for Woods.

2019 Open Championship: How to watch, TV Channel, Tee Times, Groupings, Odds

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USA Today Sports Images

2019 Open Championship: How to watch, TV Channel, Tee Times, Groupings, Odds

For the first time in 68 years, the golfing world will convene in Northern Ireland for a major championship, as Royal Portrush Golf Club will host the 148th Open Championship.

The final major of the season will provide an unfamiliar test for players of all ranks, as many have never before played this links course nestled along the northern Irish coast.

Rory McIlroy will be competing for a major title in his home country for the first time. The world No. 3 is having one of his strongest seasons in recent memory, winning two tournaments and finishing inside the top-10 at the most recent two majors. McIlroy, looking for his first major title since 2014, is the betting favorite in Vegas (8-1). Why not win the next one on home soil?

As with any major, all eyes will be on Tiger Woods. He has never played Royal Portrush, but his three Open Championship titles illustrate that he knows how to win across the pond. Woods has not teed it up for a competitive round since last month's U.S. Open, but many will anticipate a strong showing this weekend.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka will continue to be a favorite in every major until he proves otherwise. The bomber has won four major titles since June of 2017 and has finished no worse than runner-up in this year's three previous major championships. Although his results have fallen off since his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open last month, Koepka can never be counted out on the big stage.

With many other tantalizing storylines and plenty of golfers with a realistic chance to win this week, sit back, relax and watch as many hours of golf as you can:

2019 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP HOW TO WATCH:

What: The 148th Open Championship

When: Thursday, July 18th – Sunday, 21st

Where: Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland

DAY 1 COVERAGE (Thursday, July 18):

Time (ET)/TV Channel: 1:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Golf Channel)

DAY 2 COVERAGE (Friday, July 19):

Time (ET)/TV Channel: 1:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Golf Channel)

DAY 3 COVERAGE (Saturday, July 20):

Time (ET)/TV Channel: 5 a.m. - 7 a.m. (Golf Channel), 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. (NBC)

DAY 4 COVERAGE (Sunday, July 21):

Time (ET)/TV Channel: 4 a.m. - 7 a.m. (Golf Channel), 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. (NBC)

All four rounds of the tournament can also be streamed online at GolfChannel.com, TheOpen.com and NBCSports.com.

2019 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP FIRST ROUND TEE TIMES (ET), GROUPINGS (ALL OFF No. 1):

1:35 a.m. -- Darren Clarke, James Sugrue (a), Charley Hoffman
1:46 a.m. -- Emiliano Grillo, Sung Kang, Thomas Thurloway (a)
1:57 a.m. -- Andy Sullivan, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Alexander Levy
2:08 a.m. -- Chan Kim, Zander Lombard, Brandon Wu (a)
2:19 a.m. -- Richard Sterne, Romain Langasque, Matthias Schmid (a)
2:30 a.m. -- Padraig Harrington, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andrew Putnam
2:41 a.m. -- Bubba Watson, Eddie Pepperell, Rafa Cabrera-Bello
2:52 a.m. -- Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Branden Grace
3:03 a.m. -- Alex Noren, Mike Lorenzo-Vera, Sam Locke
3:14 a.m. -- Webb Simpson, C.T. Pan, Sergio Garcia
3:25 a.m. -- Ryan Palmer, Andrea Pavan, Dylan Frittelli
3:36 a.m. -- Kyle Stanley, Andrew Johnston, Robert Macintyre
3:47 a.m. -- Mikko Korhonen, Oliver Wilson, Curtis Knipes (a)
4:03 a.m. -- Ian Poulter, Sungjae Im, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
4:14 a.m. -- Henrik Stenson, Xander Schauffele, Graeme McDowell
4:25 a.m. -- Haotong Li, Russell Knox, Bernd Wiesberger
4:36 a.m. -- Jason Kokrak, Connor Syme, Austin Connelly
4:47 a.m. -- Zach Johnson, David Duval, Corey Conners
4:58 a.m. -- Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Scott
5:09 a.m. -- Rory McIlroy, Gary Woodland, Paul Casey
5:20 a.m. -- Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Kisner
5:31 a.m. -- Jim Furyk, Si Woo Kim, Jimmy Walker
5:42 a.m. -- Luke List, Alexander Bjork, Paul Waring
5:53 a.m. -- Shugi Imahira, Nate Lashley, Benjamin Hebert
6:04 a.m. -- Mikumu Horikawa, Callum Shinkwin, Garrick Porteous
6:15 a.m. -- Prom Meesawat, Matthew Baldwin, Jack Senior
6:36 a.m. -- Tom Lehman, Joaquin Niemann, Miguel Angel Jimenez
6:47 a.m. -- Ben An, Jorge Campillo, Chris Wood
6:58 a.m. -- Joel Dahmen, Adri Arnaus, Dimitrios Papadatos
7:09 a.m. -- Stewart Cink, Rory Sabbatini, Innchoon Hwang
7:20 a.m. -- Erik Van Rooyen, Kurt Kitayama, Jake McLeod
7:31 a.m. -- Ryan Fox, Shaun Norris, Dongkyu Jang
7:42 a.m. -- Tyrrell Hatton, Keith Mitchell, Thomas Pieters
7:53 a.m. -- Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjorn Olesen
8:04 a.m. -- Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Shubhankar Sharma
8:15 a.m. -- Billy Horschel, Aaron Wise, Jazz Janewattananond
8:26 a.m. -- Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett, Marc Leishman
8:37 a.m. -- Cameron Smith, Adam Hadwin, David Lipsky
8:48 a.m. -- Paul Lawrie, Chez Reavie, Justin Harding
9:04 a.m. -- Takumi Kanaya (a), Tom Lewis, Brandon Stone
9:15 a.m. -- Lucas Glover, Joost Luiten, Nino Bertasio
9:26 a.m. -- Ernie Els, J.B. Holmes, Abraham Ancer
9:37 a.m. -- Brandt Snedeker, Lee Westwood, Brian Harman
9:48 a.m. -- Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Lucas Bjerregaard
9:59 a.m. -- Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley
10:10 a.m. -- Tiger Woods, Matt Wallace, Patrick Reed
10:21 a.m. -- Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Kuchar
10:32 a.m. -- Kevin Streelman, Doc Redman, Robert Rock
10:43 a.m. -- Adrian Otaegui, Yuta Ikeda, Isidro Benitez
10:54 a.m. -- Patton Kizzire, Sang Hyun Park, Yuki Inamori
11:05 a.m. -- Yoshinori Fujimoto, Doyeob Mun, Andrew Wilson
11:16 a.m. -- Gunn Charoenjul, Yosuke Asaji, Ashton Turner

2019 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP TOP-10 ODDS & NOTABLES (as of July 16th):

Rory McIlroy: 8-1
Brooks Koepka: 10-1
Dustin Johnson: 16-1
John Rahm: 16-1
Tiger Woods: 16-1
Justin Rose: 20-1
Francesco Molinari: 25-1
Xander Schauffele: 25-1
Henrik Stenson: 28-1
Tommy Fleetwood: 28-1
Justin Thomas: 30-1
Matt Kuchar: 30-1
Rickie Fowler: 30-1
Jordan Spieth: 35-1
Phil Mickelson: 100-1