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Tiger Woods looks ready to win again — and he will

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Tiger Woods looks ready to win again — and he will

No, this was not Ben Hogan winning the U.S. Open 16 months after he was nearly killed by a Greyhound bus. This was Tiger Woods and his young son Charlie finishing second in a silly-season golf event 10 months after Woods could have died while crashing his own SUV. 

But if you broke away from yet another miserable Jets and Giants Sunday on CBS and Fox and found a sanctuary in the form of the PNC Championship on NBC, you likely came away with a couple of right-minded observations: 

1) It was surreal seeing Woods dressed to kill in red, launching a 350-yard drive and lashing dead-eye irons after saying this of his mangled right leg: “I’m happy it’s still attached.” 

2) Tiger Woods will win another golf tournament. 

Win on the PGA Tour for the 83rd time and break his tie with Sam Snead for the all-time record? Yeah, I think that’s going to happen. 

Win a major championship for the 16th time? Yeah, and I think the moment will make his epic comeback victory at the 2019 Masters feel like a first-place finish in a local member-guest. 

After Woods returned from spinal fusion surgery in 2018, he called himself “a walking miracle.” When he missed the U.S. Open cut at Shinnecock that year, I wrote that he would still win another major, in part, because (with the possible exception of Jack Nicklaus) he was better than all the many players who had won majors in their 40s. On cue, Woods would win next time around at Augusta National. 

Tiger Woods after his shot on the 16th hole of the PNC Championship Sunday.
Tiger Woods after his shot on the 16th hole of the PNC Championship Sunday.
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Tiger will turn 46 in 11 days. Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at 50 and, you know, Tiger has always been clearly better than Phil. 

Of course, the condition of Woods’s leg makes it more complicated than that. He needed to ride a cart at the PNC, and he dearly missed walking side by side with his son Charlie like he did last year. Woods made his way around with a pronounced limp. He grimaced on a few swings over the weekend, even grimaced here or there when bending over to pick up his tee. He was seen lifting his right leg and flexing it, like a running back trying to shake off an awkward twist or tug at the bottom of a scrum. 

Told Sunday that the Tour veteran he was paired with, Matt Kuchar, had effectively declared his game Tour-ready, Woods said, “No, I totally disagree. I’m not at that level. I can’t compete against these guys right now.” 

Woods and his 12-year-old son had just finished the two-round scramble at 25-under, two strokes behind John Daly and John Daly II, a college player at Arkansas. Team Tiger had just set a tournament record by making 11 consecutive birdies, and had just accomplished its stated goals of playing bogey-free golf and having a ton of fun. 

Charlie’s swing is Snead-level pretty, and his tee shot at the par-3 17th might’ve been better than any shot struck by his dad. The kid outfoxed so many accomplished adults, pretty soon they’ll be calling him Charlie Hustle. But Tiger’s game represented by far the most remarkable sights and sounds of the event. He had spent three weeks in the hospital and three months in bed, and yet in his fifth round of golf since the accident (and second round competitively) he was standing on the 18th tee tied for the lead. 

Given that the Dalys were still birdie-ing up a storm behind him, Woods knew his team needed eagle for a chance. After father and son missed the green on their approaches, Tiger didn’t bother heading for his cart. He would walk the final 237 yards by his boy’s side, another small victory on a day defined by a zillion of them. And when Woods missed his chip for eagle, and then his putt for birdie, he betrayed his true emotions. 

He lowered his head and looked pissed off. Despite everything he’d said about never needing to climb the mountain again, Woods had entered this tournament just like he’d entered every other tournament — hellbent on winning it. 

Tiger would take off his cap and wrap Charlie in a big hug — reminding of their indelible scene at the 2019 Masters — and then kiss the top of his son’s head. When he hugged Kuchar and his own caddie Joe LaCava, Woods semi-staggered like an old and sore man who didn’t want to be squeezed too hard. 

Tiger Woods mebraces his son Charlie.
Tiger Woods embraces his son Charlie.
USA TODAY Sports

He would tell reporters on site that the time spent with Charlie was “the best time ever” and “worth all the pain.” Woods said this comeback was far different from his 2018 comeback because this one “was whether I would have a prosthetic or not, and I don’t.” He reiterated that he will never again play a full schedule, and that his body might not cooperate with his desire to return in any meaningful capacity. 

But Woods also said that he took no off-days in preparing for this weekend, and that sometimes his medical staff had to rein him in while he pushed his recovering body to the brink. During the PNC, Charlie would tell his father, “Hey Dad, don’t hit that shot. You know what that does [to your body].” Tiger would respond, “You worry about your own game,” before hitting that shot. 

This was supposed to be a leisurely 36-hole outing, a mere male-bonding exercise, at least until Team Tiger started Sunday birdie-birdie-eagle, and then finished it by beating Justin Thomas (and his father) by a shot. 

Silly season or no silly season, the whole thing was a stunning reminder that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest athletes this country has ever produced. And that yes, somehow and some way, he will win another golf tournament.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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