Jon Rahm charged into the Farmers Insurance Open lead after firing a seven-under 65 on Saturday, while Tiger Woods was left five shots adrift.

Rahm produced a bogey-free third round at Torrey Pines in California, where all players were on the South Course, making an eagle and five birdies.

The Spanish 2017 champion holed out from 111 yards at the par-four second after a birdie at the first before picking up shots at the sixth and ninth.

Rahm made further birdies at 13 and 16 to get to 12 under, holding a one-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer (71).

Rory McIlroy produced his equal best round of the tournament with a five-under 67 to get to nine under and a tie for third.

The Northern Irishman sits alongside Sung Kang (67), Harry Higgs (69) and Cameron Champ (68) heading into the final round.

Woods, meanwhile, made a brilliant start by holing four birdies on the front nine to get to within two of the leaders in San Diego, where there was a two-hour delay to the start of play due to heavy fog.

A bogey at 11 slowed him down and although he made a great par save at the last, the seven-time champion appears too far back.

Tyler McCumber (68), Tony Finau (68), Marc Leishman (68), Patrick Reed (70), Sebastian Cappelen (71), Brandt Snedeker (72) and J.B. Holmes (71) are a shot ahead of Woods in equal seventh.

Jordan Spieth is back in a tie for 42nd after a one-over 73, although he did manage to hole out for birdie from 87 feet from the rough for birdie at the 15th.

Tiger Woods was on the charge on day three at the Farmers Insurance Open, racing through the front nine with a four-under par 32.

The Masters champion had closed to within two shots of overnight leader Ryan Palmer by the midway point of his third round on Saturday.

After fog delayed the start of the action at Torrey Pines by two hours, Woods bounced back from his four-putt double bogey from round two as he holed from over 15 feet to start with a birdie this time around.

Seven-time champion Woods picked up another shot at three and then chipped in at the fourth so save par and maintain his early momentum.

A missed chance followed on the fifth but he birdied the sixth with another 15-footer and then followed two pars with a superb approach shot on the par-five ninth nine to set up the most easy of birdies.

Victory for Woods this week would see him break the all-time record for the most PGA Tour victories.

Palmer started with three consecutive pars to lead John Rahm, Matthew NeSmith and J.B. Holmes by one stroke, with Woods in a share of fifth position with Sebastian Cappelen.

Ryan Palmer fired a superb 10-under 62 to take a two-stroke lead at the Farmers Insurance Open as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy struggled to make inroads.

Palmer, the 2018 runner-up, capitalised on playing the North Course at Torrey Pines in California to move into 10 under and the outright lead.

The American made five birdies on the front nine and six in eight holes beginning at the 10th, before dropping a shot at the last.

Palmer holds a two-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker, who carded a five-under 67 on the South Course.

The eight best rounds of the day came on the North Course, with Palmer's the highlight.

Woods (71) and McIlroy played the South Course and were left in a tie for 17th at four under.

A seven-time champion of the event, Woods made a double bogey to start his round before following that up with five birdies and two bogeys.

McIlroy struggled to a one-over 73 despite being two under through 11, with bogeys at 12, 15 and 18 hurting his chances.

J.B. Holmes (69), Jhonattan Vegas (68), Sebastian Cappelen (71) and Matthew NeSmith (70) are tied for third at seven under.

Beau Hossler (66), Keegan Bradley (72), Zac Blair (66), Patrick Reed (69) and Harry Higgs (68) are a shot further back.

Jordan Spieth (70) and Jason Day (67) are among the group with Woods and McIlroy at four under, while defending champion Justin Rose (70) missed the cut after being left to rue his opening-round 75.

Keegan Bradley and Sebastian Cappelen share the Farmers Insurance Open lead as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods made decent starts on Thursday.

Bradley and Cappelen opened with six-under 66s at Torrey Pines, sharing a one-stroke lead on what is a congested leaderboard in San Diego.

A bogey-free opening round on the North Course set up 2011 US PGA Championship winner Bradley, who made an eagle at the par-five fifth.

Denmark's Cappelen produced his round on the South Course, mixing eight birdies with two bogeys.

Plenty of eyes were on McIlroy and Woods, who made fine starts, with the Northern Irishman particularly impressive.

McIlroy carded a five-under 67 on the North Course in a round featuring seven birdies and two bogeys.

He is in an eight-way tie for third, alongside Byeong Hun An, Joel Dahmen, Kevin Tway, Zhang Xinjun, Matthew NeSmith, Im Sung-jae and 2011 winner Bubba Watson.

A seven-time champion of the event, Woods fired a three-under 69 to be tied for 21st.

Woods made two birdies and two bogeys on his front nine before picking up shots at the first, fifth and ninth.

Jon Rahm, the 2017 winner, is among a group of 10 tied for 11th at four under, with J.B. Holmes alongside him.

Defending champion Justin Rose struggled on the South Course, shooting a three-over 75.

Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, made a solid if unspectacular start with an opening-round 70 that included five birdies.

Tiger Woods fired a three-under-par 69 in his opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Woods, seeking a record 83rd victory on the PGA tour on a course where he has lifted eight titles previously, carded five birdies in a promising start in San Diego.

The 44-year-old was three off the lead of six under set by Sebastian Cappelen.

Woods, who started on the back nine, recovered from a bogey on the 11th to claim birdies on the 13th and the par-five 17th but dropped another shot to make the turn at level par.

He closed out the round with three more birdies and only missed out on an eagle at the fifth after a 20-foot putt missed to the left.

"Overall, I'm pleased," he said afterwards. "I feel like I drove a little better today.

"My start lines were a little bit tighter, which was nice. I missed competing, so I was just trying to keep everything as calm as I possibly could."

Tiger Woods says he does not give any thought to winning a record 83rd PGA Tour title as he prepares to tee off for the first time this year in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Woods matched Sam Snead's haul of 82 titles by winning the Zozo Championship last October.

All eyes will be on the 15-time major champion when he starts his bid to better that tally at Torrey Pines on Thursday, but Woods says the prospect of making history has not been playing on his mind.

"That number, just trying to get to 83, I really don't think about it," Woods told the media on Tuesday.

"Because I still have to think about all the things I need to do to win the golf tournament. There's so many different shots I have to play. Strategy, thinking my way around the golf course. I'm more consumed in that."

The legendary American ended an 11-year major drought at the Masters last year and says he is merely happy to be in a position to challenge for further honours rather than being driven to hunt down Jack Nicklaus's record total of 18.

"Even to get to the number I'm at right now, 15, is a lot," the 44-year-old added.

"Not too many guys who are around have seen that kind of number before. It's just going to take time. It took Jack about 26 years to get to his number, it's taken me 20-odd years to get to my mine.

"It just takes time to accumulate wins. There were a number of years where I didn't play so there were some missed opportunities. But I'm playing again now so these are blessed opportunities and I didn't think I'd have these."

Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open seven times, most recently in 2013.

Jack Nicklaus, the most prolific winner of major championships in golf, celebrates his 80th birthday on Tuesday.

To mark the occasion, here are 18 facts about the Golden Bear, one for each of his major victories.

 

- Despite his unmatched success at the highest level, Nicklaus only defended a major title on one occasion, at the 1966 Masters.

- Before turning professional, Nicklaus won two U.S. Amateur titles in 1959 and 1961. The second of those wins saw him thrash Dudley Wysong 8 and 6.

- He is one of only two players, together with Tiger Woods, to have completed the triple career grand slam by winning all four majors at least three times. Nicklaus achieved the feat in 1978, claiming his third Open title at St Andrews. Woods followed suit 30 years later with his third U.S. Open win.

- Nicklaus' final appearances at each of the four majors coincided with victories for Woods - at the 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 US PGA Championship, 2005 Masters and 2005 Open.

- There were five years - across three decades - in which Nicklaus claimed two major wins: 1963, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1980.

- Nicklaus' memorable Masters victory in 1986 was his sixth, the most of any player. He played the back nine in six under par as he become the oldest winner of the tournament at 46.

- The most successful seasons of Nicklaus' career - in terms of PGA Tour wins - came in 1972 and 1973. He won seven tournaments in both of those years.

- The Golden Bear held sole possession of the 54-hole lead at a major on eight occasions and went on to seal victory every time.

- His record margin of victory at a major was achieved at the 1965 Masters, a tournament he won by nine strokes. Gary Player and Arnold Palmer were joint second, with the trio having shared the lead after 36 holes. Nicklaus' nine-shot victory was a record triumph at Augusta until Woods won by 12 in 1997.

- Nicklaus holds the record for the most top-10 finishes at every major, recording 22 top-10s at the Masters, 18 at the U.S. Open, 18 at The Open and 15 at the US PGA. His overall tally of 73 major top-10s puts him well clear of nearest rivals Sam Snead (48) and Tom Watson (46). Woods has 41 to date.

- The last PGA Tour cheque of Nicklaus' illustrious career earned him $11,130, when he finished in a tie for 63rd at the 2004 edition of the Memorial Tournament, aged 64.

- A teenage Nicklaus finished 12th on his PGA Tour debut, at the 1958 Rubber City Open. He was only one off the lead after 36 holes.

- In an stunning run from the 1973 Masters to the 1976 Masters, Nicklaus recorded top-10 finishes at 13 successive majors. Hogan holds the record with 18.

- Nicklaus was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 - the highest civilian honour available in the United States. He became only the seventh athlete to receive the honour and the third golfer after Byron Nelson and Palmer.

- When Nicklaus won The Open for the fourth and final time in 1980, it represented his 15th consecutive top-six finish at the event. That remarkable streak featured three of his four wins and six of his seven runner-up finishes.

- Nicklaus won the 1956 Ohio Open as a 16-year-old amateur, beating a host of professional players. He credited the win to Snead, having played an exhibition with the golfing great after round one of the tournament.

- In 17 consecutive seasons from 1962 to 1978, Nicklaus won at least two events on the PGA Tour. He also finished in the top four in the money list in each of these seasons.

- Last but not least, Nicklaus' haul of 18 majors remains the benchmark. Woods claimed his 15th, after an 11-year barren spell, at last year's Masters, but still has lots of work to do to catch Jack.

Brooks Koepka feels everyone in golf will benefit if Tiger Woods can stay fit for the duration of 2020.

Other than his PGA Tour record-equalling 82nd win at the Zozo Championship in Japan, which arrived in October, Woods struggled for form and fitness in the aftermath of his sensational win at The Masters last year.

He had knee surgery in August after missing the cut at the US PGA Championship and The Open, as well as finishing in a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open.

Koepka, who himself suffered a serious knee injury in 2019, hopes Woods will be back to his best and knows his fellow American is still capable of achieving serious success at the age of 44.

"Hopefully his body holds up because it's good for the game, it's good for golf, it's good for everybody," Koepka said to Omnisport after being asked about Woods' prospects for this year and beyond.

"It all depends on his health, I don't know how he's feeling. I'm not in his body. But if he's healthy obviously he can win, we all know how good he is, I don't think that's in question. 

"But it all depends on his body. If he feels good he can definitely compete, he can win, there is no question."

Woods will make his return to the course at next week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, while Koepka will open his campaign at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday.

That European Tour appearance will be four-time major winner Koepka's first outing since he withdrew from the CJ Cup with his knee injury in October.
 

Koepka was talking ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, where they were predicting the future of the game and how it could change over the next 10 years. They were joined by members of the HSBC Future Falcons junior golf programme - an initiative which has introduced nearly 80,000 children to golf since its launch.

The Farmers Insurance Open will be Tiger Woods' first event of 2020 before he competes in the Genesis Invitational as tournament host.

Woods ended last year on a high note by leading the United States to yet another Presidents Cup triumph as player-captain in December.

The 15-time major champion on Thursday revealed that he will tee of the new year at Torrey Pines on January 23.

Woods will then return to the Riviera Country Club from February 13-16 for what will be the first edition of the Genesis Invitational in its elevated status, having previously been the Genesis Open.

The 44-year-old said of the event: "It's an honour for us to be in the same category as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

"Those are two legends of the game. For us to have this type of elevation, all the things we want to have happen for the tournament are going to happen.

"On top of that, to be able to host the tournament each and every year at Riviera, where it all started for me, it's come full circle."

World number seven Woods won The Masters last year and went on to tie Sam Snead's PGA Tour record tally of 82 victories at the Zozo Championship.

Tiger Woods is the face of golf again and will be the undisputed greatest of all time if he wins another three majors, says Jon Rahm.

After multiple back surgeries and personal issues threatened to derail his illustrious career, Woods ended a five-year wait for a win at the season-ending Tour Championship in 2018.

The 44-year-old has since tied Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour wins and claimed his 15th major title 11 years on from his previous one by triumphing at the Masters in 2019.

Rahm is delighted to see Woods getting results again and suggested it will not take much for him to match Jack Nicklaus' record haul of 18 major titles, which the Spaniard thinks would earn him the right to be called the best in history.

"I watched him from the balcony of the clubhouse at East Lake when he got his 80th PGA Tour win [and first since 2013] at the Tour Championship that year," Rahm told Golf Digest.

"As a guy who grew up watching golf and watching him, it was emotional for me to be there and to witness that and just be part of it. Forever I'll be able to say that I watched Tiger make a putt to win and restart his career again.

"I always said he would be able to do it [win again] as long as he was able to swing. I felt that he could win again at some point, even if he played five events a year, because he's Tiger Woods.

"To be at TaylorMade photo shoots with him and pick his brain, it's incredible. He's a golf genius. That's his strongest attribute.

"We don't know if he'll get to 18 majors someday, but he has only three more to go, so who knows. Some people say that Tiger is the greatest player but that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest champion. But if Tiger gets to 18, he's the undisputed greatest of all time.

"Then you add in everything he's done for golf, the amount of money we play for because of him. We should thank him every day. He's the face of golf again."

Rahm is yet to win a first major but has finished in the top five at the Masters, US PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

However, he thinks he knows what he has to do in order to end his wait.

"A lot of times, I've gone into majors somewhat tired. It's a long year, so maybe I need to make some schedule changes," said Rahm.

"I know my game is strong enough to win one; it's just a matter of getting it done. I've been close at Augusta a couple of times. I like the course, and it really fits my eye and my game.

"But as a European, the Open Championship is the pinnacle of golf. I'd love to win any of them, of course, but the Masters is probably the best chance."

The 2010s featured an abundance of drama in men's golf, but one triumph stands alone when assessing the most impactful moment of the decade.

A succession of nerve-shredding Ryder Cups, including Europe's astonishing victory in the 'Miracle of Medinah', will continue to live long in the memory of many, while the number of compelling major storylines has been remarkable.

Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Shane Lowry have all found themselves at the centre of thrilling finishes in the biggest events of the past 10 years. You may well fondly remember other stirring denouements.

Golf also made its long-awaited return to the Olympics, yet there can be no doubt Tiger Woods' success at the 2019 Masters tops everything else since the decade began.

In any circumstances, one of the world's most recognisable athletes ending an 11-year drought at the highest level would represent a significant storyline.

Woods' win at Augusta, though, was particularly remarkable due to the dark depths he had plumbed since last winning a major.

At the end of the 2009 PGA Tour season, Woods was the undisputed world number one and, with 14 majors to his name at the age of 33, he appeared highly likely to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record tally of 18.

No one could possibly have predicted the litany of setbacks that would follow, before he finally tasted major glory once again.

Only by reminding ourselves of Woods' pain can we fully appreciate the true enormity of his stunning redemption.

 

AN AURA STRIPPED AWAY

As he racked up win after win after win throughout the 2000s, Woods carried an air of invincibility few have ever attained. Even when he gave up a final-round lead at a major for the first time at the 2009 US PGA Championship, finishing second to the unheralded Y.E. Yang, it felt like no more than a surprising blip.

However, the man with arguably the most intimidating mentality in sport saw his aura shattered around the turn of the decade as a scandal involving his private life snowballed dramatically.

After suffering minor injuries in a car crash outside his home on November 27, 2009, as the first of several lurid allegations of infidelity surfaced, Woods apologised the following week for "letting his family down", adding somewhat vaguely that he regretted his "transgressions".

His first public appearance in the new decade was unforgettable. On February 19, 2010, Woods delivered an astonishing televised mea culpa, in which he revealed he was receiving therapy and solemnly stated: "I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to."

Although he returned to compete again within two months, finishing fourth in the Masters, a newly vulnerable Woods - whose divorce from wife Elin Nordegren was confirmed in August - endured his first winless season as a professional on the back of his public humiliation, having claimed 64 titles across the previous 10 years.

 

THE INJURY HELL

Injuries had started to hamper Tiger in the previous decade, most notably when he somehow won the U.S. Open on one leg in 2008, but his fitness deteriorated sharply in the 2010s.

Following a truncated 2011 campaign that saw him drop out of the world's top 50, Woods looked to be back to his own self as he gradually recovered his form and won five PGA Tour events in 2013, reclaiming the number one ranking in the process.

A four-year injury nightmare followed, though, comprising four back surgeries and a succession of tournament withdrawals.

On the few occasions Woods was able to take to the course during this period, it generally made for difficult viewing, the low point coming at the Phoenix Open in February 2015 when he shot a career-worst 82.

Increasing back trouble duly led to a 15-month absence starting in August of that year and when Woods' eventual return was cut short by another setback early in 2017, his future prospects looked bleak.

"The cycle needs to be broken," read an article on Fox Sports. "For the sake of the game and in fairness to his peers, he should see the writing on the wall and formally retire."

 

THE MUG SHOT

Woods underwent his fourth back operation in April 2017 - spinal fusion surgery that appeared to represent a final roll of the dice in terms of restoring him to full fitness.

A month later, he reached a shocking nadir.

After he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence at 3am close to his Jupiter Island home, a startling mugshot of a dishevelled and desolate Woods - together with police footage that showed him in an alarmingly confused state - was swiftly shared around the world.

Alcohol was not involved. Woods instead attributed the incident to an "unexpected reaction to prescribed medications", before later pleading guilty to a charge of reckless driving.

More than seven years on from the car crash that effectively heralded the start of his spectacular fall from grace, another vehicle-related controversy left Woods looking a forlorn and troubled figure. Given his prolonged injury nightmare, it was tough to see how he could compete at the highest level again.

 

THE COMEBACK

In September 2017, a recovering Woods was asked if he could see a scenario in which he did not return to competitive golf.

"Yeah, definitely," replied a man who had fallen out of the world's top 1,000. "I don't know what my future holds for me. As I've told you guys, I'm hitting 60-yard shots."

Twelve months later, at the end of a sensational comeback season in which he had repeatedly challenged for victories and come close in two majors, Woods was able to savour his first triumph since 2013 as he won the Tour Championship amid extraordinary scenes that saw spectators swamp the 18th fairway.

It was a truly special moment, but what followed was even better.

 

'THE GREATEST SCENE IN GOLF FOREVER'

As outstanding as Woods' 2018 was in the context of his previous struggles, one thing was missing. The man who won 14 majors between 1997 and 2008 had still not added to that tally.

That changed on April 14, 2019, as Woods held his nerve superbly to claim a fifth Masters crown and send an expectant crowd into raptures.

CBS commentator Jim Nantz fully appreciated the significance of the moment when Woods tapped in his winning putt on the 18th green. After announcing the champion's "return to glory", Nantz remained silent for two minutes and 42 seconds during the celebrations as deafening roars and shouts of "TIGER, TIGER, TIGER" echoed around Augusta.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Nantz said: "I've done 34 Final Fours, had Super Bowls, Peyton [Manning's] farewell. It's the best event I've ever covered. And I feel very fortunate to have been in that spot.

"There was no way I was going to say anything over those images of Tiger with his family. The chanting was in the background and the scene was rich. I knew instinctively I wanted to sit back and enjoy it. All I could do was ruin it."

When the commentary eventually resumed, co-commentator Nick Faldo - a six-time major-winner who has seen pretty much all there is to see in his sport - declared simply: "That will be the greatest scene in golf forever."

Considering the misery that engulfed Woods for much of the past decade, it is hard to argue.

 

When the 2010s began, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka had a combined major tally of zero.

Tiger Woods boasted 14 but was weathering the storm of a very public scandal and about to endure a barren spell almost as remarkable as his reign of dominance.

The holders of golf's four most prestigious titles were Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and YE Yang.

Meanwhile, the Ryder Cup resided in the United States, claimed in dominant fashion against Nick Faldo's beleaguered European side at Valhalla. 

Reflecting now on the 11 majors shared by McIlroy, Spieth and Koepka; the stunning return to glory enjoyed by Woods at the 2019 Masters; the relative obscurity of Cabrera, Glover, Cink and Yang; and Europe winning four of the past five Ryder Cups, it becomes apparent just how drastically the golfing landscape has changed.

It ought to be enough to warn anyone off making predictions for the 10 years ahead, but Omnisport's golf experts Russell Greaves and Peter Hanson have gone ahead and done it anyway.

 

CAN TIGER CATCH JACK?

The facts: Woods' victory at Augusta earned him a fifth green jacket and 15th major, leaving him three behind Jack Nicklaus.

RG: This is one of the longest-running debates in sport, up there with the Messi-Ronaldo argument in football.

I suspect in both cases I will take a different view from my colleague (it's Messi, hands down), as I'm of the opinion that Tiger's long pursuit of Nicklaus' haul of 18 majors will prove in vain. He spent most of the 2010s in decline and has left it too late to pull out of that nosedive.

In mid-May 2024 he will hit a significant landmark in becoming older than the oldest major winner in history – the 1968 US PGA Championship victor Julius Boros, who was 48 years, four months and 18 days old. Time is against Tiger and even he doesn't have a club in the bag to fashion a way out of the hazard that is old age. 

PH: Not unlike the Messi-Ronaldo debate (for which Ronaldo is the obvious answer), this discussion has become a little weary and repetitive in recent years.

But here's the thing, we're not discussing your average athlete. This isn't a mere a golfing mortal. Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-generation talent, one who had been consistently written off before his glorious Augusta triumph in April. Such an achievement did admittedly appear beyond him.

Never again should we make the mistake of saying a target is beyond Woods' reach. Time may be against him but if any player is capable of winning a major in their fifties it's Tiger. Simply, Woods can achieve the unthinkable over the next decade.

RORY'S GLORY DAYS OVER?

The facts: McIlroy won his fourth major in 2014 but has not tasted victory since.

RG: It speaks volumes of McIlroy's quality that people look upon his CV – featuring four major wins and 95 weeks at the summit of the world rankings – and consider him to have underachieved.

It is a compliment and insult all at once; an emphatic underlining of how high expectations are, and also a crude dismissal of his already lofty achievements.

But in the decade to come, McIlroy will enjoy a resurgence in majors and cement his place among the all-time greats. 

PH: When McIlroy won major number four, and a second US PGA Championship, at Valhalla in August 2014, you would have been laughed at hysterically for suggesting he would not win another before the close of the decade.

And yet, for one reason or another, it has not quite clicked for McIlroy since. There have been near misses, plenty of 'what ifs' and no shortage of frustrations. We have seen a much more serene McIlroy over the past few years and you do wonder if some of the edge that made him such a formidable talent is gone.

Still, McIlroy is a phenomenal competitor. It is hard to imagine he will not again be a major winner over the next 10 years. But you sense it may be a return of six or seven career majors rather than the double-digit tally many previously predicted.

WHO WILL ENJOY RYDER CUP SUPREMACY?

The facts: Team Europe have claimed eight of the previous 10 Ryder Cups and won the 2018 edition by seven points.

RG: Thomas Bjorn's Europe produced a superb performance to win the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, but do not expect to see similar scenes again any time soon.

That result in France represented a shock that is not likely to be repeated. Team USA boast far greater strength in depth and how much longer can the likes of Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter continue to defy their relatively lowly ranking to deliver the goods on this stage?

If the USA lacked anything in 2018, it was the sense of togetherness so evident within the hosts, but with that lesson now learned the harsh way they will be raring to go at Whistling Straits and in the tournaments to come this decade, three of which will be Stateside. 

PH: Every time we reach a Ryder Cup it seems as though Europe are written off before a ball has even been struck off a tee. And yet, last year, it was again the Americans preparing for an ugly post-mortem.

There is something about this glorious competition that stirs a response in the Europeans that the Americans just simply cannot seem to replicate – or certainly not on the same consistent basis.

Sure, the likes of Garcia and Poulter are nearing the end of their famous journeys, but the heroics of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in Paris - coupled with the fact the likes of Justin Rose, McIlroy and Jon Rahm have plenty of golf left in them - means there remains a strong nucleus. Home or away, Europe will still have the upper hand when it comes to the Ryder Cup in the 2020s.

AMERICA v REST OF THE WORLD: WHO WILL WIN THE MOST MAJORS?

The facts: Three of the four majors are held by Americans. The most recent US clean sweep was in 1982, while 1994 was the last year that no American won one. In the 2010s, it finished America 21-19 rest of the world. 

RG: There will be another American lockout of the majors in the coming decade, quite probably more than one. It has been a close call in the previous two years and the past eight majors in the US have been won by home hopes.

Consider the five most recent non-Americans who spoiled the party – Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari and Shane Lowry – what odds on any of those repeating the feat? I'll accept Molinari as a 50-50 but wouldn't back any of the others.

With Brooks Koepka (more on him later) such a keen collector of majors, Tiger still prowling (I said he wouldn't get to 18, but I fancy him for another Masters title), Patrick Reed a likely repeat winner, Dustin Johnson surely destined to win another and Justin Thomas a shoo-in, I see a lot of silverware finding its home in the United States.

PH: The Ryder Cup is one thing but the majors are a completely different animal and in that regard the Americans are locked in to dominate.

In each of the previous three years, the United States were missing just once victor to complete a sweep and I just feel it is a feat that is guaranteed to be achieved at some stage in the next decade.

There is enough talent in McIlroy, Rahm, Fleetwood and Rose to keep things close but, I have to agree with Russ here, the strength in depth possessed by America means there is only one outcome to this question.

 

CAN KOEPKA KEEP UP THE PACE?

The facts: Koepka triumphed four times in eight major outings from the 2017 U.S. Open to the 2019 US PGA Championship, while by the end of the latter year his record showed a T6, T4, T2 and outright second-placed finish across the sport's quartet of headline events.

RG: It would be fascinating to see anyone make the case for Koepka failing to add to his impressive major haul, and it's not something I'm willing to attempt.

The guy is a stone-cold winner when it comes to the big tournaments and nothing about him – from his technical brilliance to his mental toughness – suggests he will go off the rails.

He is one victory away from tying with the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson, and two away from Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino – he will surpass them all.

PH: I have to start my answer here with a caveat. You will not find a bigger Brooks Koepka fanboy in the world than me. I simply love the guy. He is someone who is just unashamedly himself and why would you not be with the success he has had?

What is remarkable is the way Koepka came from relative obscurity to become the best in the world. While McIlroy, Spieth, Thomas and countless others were making claims to be the dominant force, Koepka – who cut his teeth on the European Tour, a rarity for an American – came up on the rails to steal a march on more well-known and, some would argue, marketable names.

But that chip on the shoulder is what I admire most about him and what makes him so difficult to beat. At this stage, I genuinely believe it is just a question of how many majors he will win. I don't think it is a stretch in any way to say he will have at least 10 in 2029.

WHO WILL BE THE FIRST-TIME MAJOR WINNERS?

The facts: There are 40 majors in any given decade and in the 2010s there were 25 first-time winners.

RG: As the numbers above suggest, there is a lot of scope for maiden major winners in the space of 10 years, but let's pick out four who are pretty much nailed on. 

Tony Finau has got everything required to join the club and I'm confident his compatriot Rickie Fowler will finally get off the mark too.

On the European side, Jon Rahm will follow in the footsteps of fellow Spaniards Seve and Sergio, while Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood is also a safe bet.

PH: This is always a fun question and one where you can look like the fount of all knowledge or end up with egg splattered all over your face.

Continuing a theme of predicted American dominance, I think the most obvious candidate to break their duck is Xander Schauffele, a man who has four top-five finishes and another inside the top 10 to his name.

Compatriot Patrick Cantlay is another I expect to see win one of golf's big four, while Bryson DeChambeau and Finau are outside bets. Rahm has all the makings of a major winner too, I just hope it doesn't take him as long as it did Sergio to become one. I also see Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick becoming Open champions.

Tiger Woods enjoyed a record-breaking performance as playing captain during the United States' historic Presidents Cup triumph but the American superstar did not feel right physically, according to assistant captain Fred Couples.

Woods led the way with a record 27th match win at the Presidents Cup to inspire the USA's eighth consecutive victory over the Internationals in Melbourne last week.

The 15-time major champion – who underwent back surgery in 2017 and had a knee operation in August – surprisingly sat out the entire third day on Saturday, skipping the morning four-balls and afternoon foursomes at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Woods returned for Sunday's singles and maintained his flawless record as the USA became the first team to win the Presidents Cup after trailing heading into the final day, and Couples explained why the 43-year-old did not play on Saturday.

"Maybe the first time I wanted to throw up with my headset on, at about 10 o'clock, [Woods] said, 'Guys, my body is not going to let me go. I'm not going to play this afternoon'," Couples said on his Sirius XM Radio show.

"Of course, [Steve] Stricker hopped on and said, 'Tiger please, can you go in right now and get loose and warm?' He said, 'Strick, I can't do it.' Zach [Johnson] said, "Tiger, are you sure, you sure?'

"[Woods] said, 'I believe in the team,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, so do I, but I believe that you need to be playing'.

"So that was like a 10-minute gasp and then we got over it. We regrouped and made a new team and they went out and won."

Friday the 13th appeared to be shaping as the beginning of the end of the United States' Presidents Cup dominance. Two days later, their class came to the fore.

Trailing the Internationals 4-1 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club following the opening day's four-ball contests, the USA found themselves behind in every foursomes matchup on Friday.

They were facing a staggering 9-1 deficit before the momentum swung and the session was somehow split thanks to clutch putts from Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.

The USA's 6.5 - 3.5 deficit became 9-5 after Saturday morning's four-ball, but with the talent in their team, they could always look ahead to 12 singles matchups.

Thomas and Rickie Fowler may have coughed up a 5up lead in the foursomes later on Saturday, but the USA were back to within 10-8 and in position for an eighth straight title.

Playing captain Tiger Woods had taken the risk of not playing himself on Saturday despite two wins on the opening two days.

That gamble paid off, the show of faith in his team – and his ability to lead by example on a decisive day – proving crucial.

The USA grabbed a record-equalling eight points in the singles, Woods' 3 and 2 win over Abraham Ancer – the Internationals' best player of the week – setting the tone.

Of the 12 singles matches, the USA had a higher ranked player in 11. The other was world number 24 Matt Kuchar, who halved his match with the 20th-ranked Louis Oosthuizen.

Internationals captain Ernie Els appeared to accept some responsibility for the defeat despite being proud of his team, but his work on the opening days helped set up what would have been a major upset.

His team led 10-8 after his pairings, but the USA's class eventually prevailed in the singles.

The Internationals were left with a sense of what might have been, given the position they worked so hard to put themselves in.

Royal Melbourne was the scene of their only Presidents Cup triumph 21 years ago, and it seemed set to be where the drought would be broken.

But just as Friday the 13th looked set to be unlucky for the USA, it proved to be for the Internationals, Woods and his team showing their class exactly when they needed to.

Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau hailed the "greatest" ever Tiger Woods after the superstar helped inspire an eighth consecutive Presidents Cup for the United States.

The USA made history after rallying to beat the Internationals 16-14 in a thrilling finish at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Sunday.

Trailing 10-8 before the start of the deciding singles, no team had won the Presidents Cup after being down after three days, but the USA - led by playing captain Woods - changed that.

The USA claimed a record-equalling eight points on Sunday, while Woods surpassed Phil Mickelson for the most Presidents Cup matches won after easing past Abraham Ancer in Melbourne.

While it was a collective effort, the star-studded USA team showered Woods in praise, with the 15-time major champion flawless throughout the 13th edition of the event.

Speaking with a large grin on his face, Kuchar told reporters: "It was pretty awesome to play for the greatest player ever. To have a chance to make a team captained by the greatest player ever that is also a player on the team. 

"I can't tell you how unique, how cool of a thing that is, to not only play for him, but alongside of him. And so for us, you know, to be in a hole, to come back and win this thing was such a thrill. One, to win it as a team, but to do it with Tiger Woods as our captain was just a huge thrill."

"It was really cool being part of this team and having Tiger as captain in that you get Tiger to speak up a little more," Kuchar added. "I think a lot of our teams as a player, you let the captain captain and the players play, and to get Tiger to speak up, I mean, we had a room full of some of the greatest golfers in the world, and when he speaks, we all listen. It was awesome to be a part of.

"I think all of us will look back and have these pictures hanging on our walls and say, we played for and alongside Tiger Woods, the greatest player ever. It was awesome. And to have him take that role, take that mantle as captain, was great fun to be part of."

Finau, who came from 4down to tie with Hideki Matsuyama, said: "Tiger, the story of his resilience, coming back from what he has with injuries and everything that he's been through, I think each of us, we just believe in each other because we know we could do what we did today, and we really believed that we could win the cup.

"We were kind of against the odds, but I couldn't give up on my team-mates and my captains and I know everybody on this team felt the same way. But we are very inspired to play for Tiger, with Tiger, and it's so satisfying to win this cup because of that. I think we all believe in each other and we were able to get the job done for our captain and playing captain."

The Internationals were seeking their first Presidents Cup title since they triumphed in Melbourne in 1998. Woods was on that losing team 21 years ago.

"I've been a part of teams before where we have won," Woods said. "Also been a part of, unfortunately, this Presidents Cup when we lost 21 years ago, and so to come here and to do it in this fashion, to do it with this team, in particular, it was an honour for me as a player and even more of an honour to be their captain."

Woods showed plenty of emotion as the USA maintained their stranglehold on the Presidents Cup and he told a news conference: "I've cried in pretty much every cup we've won. I've been doing this a long time. Any time you have moments where you're able to do something that is bigger than us as an individual, is so much more meaningful and so much more special."

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