How will Tiger Woods fare in return to golf?

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How will Tiger Woods fare in return to golf?

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 4, 2011

AKRON, Ohio (AP) Add another list of numbers to show how much has changed in the world of Tiger Woods.

Geoff Ogilvy ran across a bookmaker's odds for the Bridgestone Invitational when he noticed Woods at 20-to-1. This would only be startling because Woods hasn't competed in three months while letting injuries to his left leg fully heal. In this case, however, Ogilvy considered that Woods has won a record seven times at Firestone, and until last year and never finished worse than fifth.

"Did you think you could ever get Tiger at Firestone at 20-1? Ever?" Ogilvy said to one of the caddies. "He was on 2-to-1 for a while."

Then he paused on the putting green, which was filled with players getting ready for a World Golf Championship that starts on Thursday.

"It's been an odd year," Ogilvy said.

The goal for Woods is to restore some normalcy, at least to his own game. He is coming up on the two-year anniversary of his last win on American soil. The last time he faced any competition inside the ropes, it lasted no more than nine holes at The Players Championship until he withdrew because of leg injuries.

Now, he claims he is as healthy as he has been in years - he wouldn't say how many years, just "plural." He has looked solid in a nine-hole practice round alone on Tuesday, and with Hunter Mahan and Arjun Atwal on Wednesday. Then again, practice rounds haven't always been a good indicator for Woods, except at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews in the summer of 2000.

What to expect Thursday? Not even Woods knows.

"I still haven't been in a competitive environment yet, so that's a totally different atmosphere," he said.

The Bridgestone Invitational features a 76-man field, which includes only four past champions in the 11-year history of this WGC event at Firestone - one win each for defending champion Mahan, Stewart Cink and Darren Clarke, and seven titles for Woods.

But that was the old Woods, the guy who won at least one World Championship every year since 1999.

The recovering Woods?

He said his expectation was to win, just like always. Some of his peers, who have seen his action over 20 winless months and haven't seen him the past three months, aren't so sure.

"No one expects him to come out and play well," U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy said. "I'm sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete, but given the length of layoff and considering that he's only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete. But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish top 20 would be a really good effort."

After playing the back nine under gray clouds, Mahan said this about Woods on Twitter: "The swing looks great and the knee looks even better."

Then again, Mahan is slightly biased because both employ Sean Foley as a swing coach.

Whatever the expectations, the level of curiosity about Woods is close to what it was when he returned from his sex scandal at the 2010 Masters. There was something about the way he left The Players Championship on May 12 that made it look as though he would never be the same, that the four surgeries on his left knee would keep him from dominating the way he once did.

Three months later, there was a confidence with Woods when he spoke about his health, and being patient to let his legs heal properly.

"I think for some of the young guys, they've never seen Tiger Woods play Tiger Woods golf," Mahan said. "They've never even come close to seeing it. I don't think he has to prove anything, but I think he's one of those guys, kind of like (Michael) Jordan, he takes every single thing that someone says and he's going to turn it into this massive gas on a fire that he's got burning right now. I think he's ready, man.

"A motivated Tiger and someone who has a challenge in front of him is a good thing for him."

Woods tees off at 1:40 p.m. with Clarke, a longtime friend who last month captured his first major at the British Open. Two groups behind them will be Adam Scott, noteworthy only because Scott now uses Steve Williams, whom Woods fired as a caddie a month ago. Woods is using Bryon Bell, a childhood friend who last worked for him six years ago at Disney.

Another reunion occurred during his practice round when he put his old Scotty Cameron putter - the one he used in 13 major wins - back in his bag. Whether it stays there won't be known until he tees off.

The field is comprised of the last Ryder Cup team members from both sides, selected winners on six tours around the world and the top 50 in the world ranking. Firestone South looks strong as ever, with rough framing the tree-lined fairways and greens that are as pure as ever.

It's a World Golf Championship, with an even greater prize waiting next week in Atlanta for the PGA Championship.

This week could go a long way in determining whether Woods can be a factor, there, too. Once a sure thing at Firestone, he now is an unknown.

"It would be maybe a little intimidating if you knew for sure that he was going to come back and play the way he did in 2000 or 2001," McIlroy said. "But who knows for sure what way the game is going to go?"

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

Remember that infield hit by Jonathan Villar of the Brewers off Craig Kimbrel on May 11 in Milwaukee?

Don't worry, nobody does. That's the last hit off the Red Sox closer. That's right. One hit this month.

How dominant has Kimbrel been? Going into Saturday, right-handed hitters don't have a hit off him in their past 39 at-bats. Opponents are hitting .083 against him. Move the decimal point and 0.83 happens to be his season ERA, too, to go with 13 saves. 

Here's more via @SoxNotes:

Kimbrel, 28, has been one of baseball's best closers for years with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. His first year in Boston last season was solid with 31 saves and a 3.40 ERA, but his walks climbed (30 total and 5.1 per 9 innings, the second-highest totals of his career). He also struggled in non-save situations.

There's been no struggling lately. The last run Kimbrel gave up was a home run by Kendrys Morales of the Blue Jays in the ninth inning on April 20 in Toronto that tied the score at 1 in a game won by the Red Sox 4-1 in 10. Kimbrel got the win and his only blown save of the season.

His three-out save Friday night was his first outing without a strikeout since a one-out save April 23. That followed his four-strikeout inning Thursday night.