Alone in a Crowd

By Associated PressApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Seven players stood on the first tee in the morning chill of Augusta National on Tuesday, a half-dozen more waiting on the practice green behind them. They had about 10 minutes to kill before the course opened for practice at 8 a.m.
 
The quiet was shattered by the crack of Tiger Woods hitting his 3-wood off the 10th tee.
 
He was playing alone, getting an early start before anyone in a green jacket could stop him. It was a scene that set the stage perfectly for this Masters: Tiger against the field.
 
Woods is a four-time Masters champion, the favorite just about every year and everywhere he plays. Part of that is a product of being the No. 1 player in the world for the better part of a decade. Part of it comes from having won eight of his last 10 tournaments.
 
And then there was that declaration this year that the calendar Grand Slam was easily within reason.
 
Id like to bet against him, like the whole field here this week, Ernie Els said Tuesday. But its definitely in his reach. Hes definitely capable. I dont think weve seen a player like him ever. Hes really one of a kind, and thats saying a lot.
 
There have been favorites at Augusta for every generation, but its hard to imagine anyone being listed as even-money by the bookies, preposterous odds for golf.
 
Thats taking it very far, Els said. But hes done incredible things.
 
Woods didnt do much on Tuesday, playing only the back nine before calling it a day. He will forgo the Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday as he has done the last couple of years, saying it has become too much of a distraction before teeing off in the Masters.
 
He has spoken openly about his odds of winning the Grand Slam, even before his first tournament of the year, and he was asked if anything has happened in the last three months to change his outlook.
 
No, Woods said, waiting for the snickers to fade before explaining.
 
You have to understand why I said that, Woods said. Because Ive done it before. Ive won all four in a row. The majority of my career'I think this is my 12th or 13th season out here'nine of those years, Ive won five or more tournaments. So (Ive) just got to win the right four. Thats what it boils down to.
 
Woods is the only professional to hold all four majors at the same time, sweeping them in a span of 294 days from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to the 2001 Masters.
 
And he showed up at Augusta last year going for his third straight major.
 
But the modern Grand Slam that Arnold Palmer created on his way to the 1960 British Open means doing it in a calendar year. Except for 1971, when the PGA Championship was held in February in south Florida, that means it starts with the Masters.
 
If he doesnt win this Masters, the slam is over.
 
This major is so important to all of us, he said. Its a special event. You always want to win this event. Ive been lucky enough to have won it four times. But in order to win all on the calendar, you have to win here, yeah. Hopefully, I can get it done this year and move on.
 
Woods got halfway to the slam in 2002, winning the Masters and U.S. Open and contending at the British Open until ferocious wind off the North Sea sent him to an 81 in the third round at Muirfield.
 
Palmer (1960) and Jack Nicklaus (1972) are the only other players to get that far.
 
That was all Nicklaus thought about at the start of each year, and it reached a point in the late 1960s that if he didnt win the Masters, it took him awhile to realize the rest of the year was not shot.
 
I dont remember what year it was that I kicked myself in the rear end, because I sort of wasted a couple of other majors, Nicklaus said. I didnt win the Masters, and I didnt prepare properly for the others. And I went in and said, Thats a bad attitude. Thats kind of an unrealistic way to approach what youre doing.
 
I realized if you didnt win, you do the best you can and win as much as you can.
 
The year must have been 1969, when Nicklaus tied for 24th in the Masters, and didnt seriously contend in the other majors. His only top 10 was at the British Open, and it was the only time in a 21-year span that Nicklaus had only one top 10 in a major.
 
But that doesnt make the Grand Slam unrealistic.
 
Weve been talking about it'or youve been talking about it'for four months, British Open champion Padraig Harrington said. Weve gotten used to it. It shows that its been a long time since a player has been capable of winning a Grand Slam. I think you have to go back to Nicklaus and Hogan and the greats back then to think of somebody who is going to win all four in one year.
 
No one will give Woods anything, least of all the golf course.
 
Zach Johnson sure didnt wilt last year when he held off Woods on the back nine for a two-shot victory.
 
Ignorance and bliss, Johnson said.
 
Phil Mickelson is not one to back down. Lefty went toe-to-toe with Woods in the final round outside Boston last year and beat him, the only tournament Woods didnt win in eight months.
 
Mickelson has won two of the last four times at Augusta, which is one more than Woods. The only part of his game lacking at the moment is his chipping and putting, typically his strength, so hes not overly concerned.
 
Mickelson almost had reason to consider his odds of a Grand Slam after winning the Masters in 2006 and taking a one-shot lead into the final hole of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, only to make double bogey.
 
I dont think its an impossible feat, he said. I just think its going to be a tough one.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.