Is Merion Set Up for Tiger Woods to Break His Five-Year Drought in Majors?

Is Merion Set Up for Tiger Woods to Break His Five-Year Drought in Majors?

It’s almost hard to believe, but the last time Tiger Woods won a major championship was in 2008. In ’08, Maurice Cheeks was head coach of the 76ers, Brian Dawkins was wearing an Eagles uniform, and the Phillies were winning the World Series. Yeah, it’s been that long.

Woods is on the comeback trail though. He has four PGA Tour wins under his belt this year already to build off of his three from 2012, this after winning none at all for two straight years. Clearly Tiger has recovered, and he is on the prowl.

[ For more on The700Level's 2013 U.S. Open, click here ]

A healthy, scandal-free Tiger Woods is probably the favorite to win any tournament in which he participates, and the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club this week is no different. Those of us who have not experienced the privilege of playing there have heard what a challenging course it is, but it is short, especially by Open standards at 6,996 yards – a length Golf analysts say could work to Woods’ advantage.

In Mark Cannizzaro’s Tiger-centric preview of the Open, the New York Post writer examined why Merion could be the place where Woods finally picks up his 15th major victory, and renews his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18.

Merion should set up well for Woods for two reasons: 1, the weakest part of his game is his driver, and using a driver is not necessary on many Merion holes; and 2, no one thinks his way around the course better than Woods.

Woods’ victory at The Players Championship last month seemed to provide a blueprint of how he will play Merion. Woods surgically maneuvered his way around the tight and treacherous Sawgrass Stadium Course using many irons off tees to position himself for easier approach shots, hitting a driver only once in the final round.

Because Woods was striking his irons beautifully and putting well, it worked to perfection.

“Any time you can give Tiger a course that he doesn’t need to use his driver, I think, is to his advantage,” NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said. “The way he won The Players Championship is very similar to what he’s going to do at Merion. If he doesn’t have to hit the driver, I think he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Of course, Tiger still has to go out and actually win the thing, which is always much easier said than done in this game. While he put up a solid effort at the Masters this year (tied for fourth), Augusta ultimately proved uncooperative, extending his slump to 0-for-15 in majors.

Whether you root for him or against him, Woods is always one of the guys you follow, and Cannizzaro says the pressure will be on this week. We’ll find out whether or not he's all the way back in greatest-golfer-in-the-world form.

>> After five years without major win, Open course sets up nicely for Tiger [NYP]

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

After being in the middle of trade rumors over the last few months, Nerlens Noel appears to frustrated with his situation with the Sixers, according to the Inquirer's Keith Pompey.

The Sixers have three starting-caliber centers — Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, who's now healthy — heading into this season.

"I think it's just silly," Noel told Pompey. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to set something done this summer.

"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court. But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense.

"And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."

The Sixers flirted with having two big men on the court at the same time last season, with Noel and Okafor but with no real success. 

He has a point, and the team knows it.

During the summer, reports swirled saying the Sixers were looking to trade either Noel or Okafor for backcourt help.

Noel, who's in the final year of his rookie contract, doesn't appear to believe the current situation will work.

"I think something needs to happen," he said.

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

When Darren Sproles caught the nifty touch pass from Carson Wentz around midfield, there was little doubt about what would happen next.

"Touchdown," running back Kenjon Barner said after the Eagles' stunning 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers (see Instant Replay)
 
Really? With that many yards to go?

"Touchdown," he said. "As soon as he caught the ball. There was nobody there. That guy in the open field — you're not going to bring him down by yourself. With that much space — touchdown."

Barner wasn't the only one.

"Man, it's Sproles! Did you think he was going to get tackled?" receiver Nelson Agholor said incredulously. 

Uhh …

"Man, listen, it's Darren Sproles, and if you second-guessed him, then I don't know what you're thinking," he said. "I'm surprised if he gets tackled."

So is center Jason Kelce. 

"I was actually celebrating before he scored the touchdown, because I watched the whole thing unfold," Kelce said. "It was just a great play. [Wentz] scrambles out and then has the common sense to when the defender comes to him to dump it over top to Sproles, and that dude, once he gets the ball in space, it's incredibly special."

It sure was. 

First, Wentz stepped away from charging defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had gotten away from Allen Barbre. 

“I came out and saw Sproles and he just turned up the field,” Wentz said. “Anytime that you can put it in [his hands], something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it.” 

Wentz did a little more than that (see story). After escaping the sack, he rushed to his right and made a right turn. Then he parallelled the line of scrimmage, drawing linebacker Ryan Shazier toward him — and allowing Sproles to get wide open.

Whoops.

"I thought he crossed the line of scrimmage, so I ran up," Shazier said. "It was my fault."

Sproles caught the pass, snaked his way the remaining 50 yards, spinning Steelers rookie safety Sean Davis around a couple times and watching rookie corner Artie Burns flail at him helplessly right before crossing the goal line.

"When they do that, it kind of gets everyone off their job when he extends the play like that," Davis said. "Me being a deep player, I just tried to buy us some time once I saw that we got broken down and let the defense rally up, and it's just a good play [by] him."

An amazing play. It was a 73-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the third quarter, a 3rd-and-8, and put the Eagles up 20-3 (see 10 observations). It was the second-longest catch of Sproles' career and longest since 2009 while with the Chargers (an 81-yarder vs. Baltimore). It was easily the longest TD of Wentz’s career and a main reason he was able to become only the second rookie in team history to reach 300 passing yards in a game (Nick Foles is the other).

“It was so much fun,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Those are the kinds of plays you can’t design. It’s players making plays. … Sproles did his thing and wiggled down there, and it was fun to watch.”

That’s what Agholor should have done. Just watch.

"I was trying to chase him down and almost pulled my hamstring," Agholor said. 

"You see those moves he put on them? Pffft. And DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) ran downfield — that downfield block. Think about that. We were having a lot of fun tonight man, and I'm very happy about that."

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!