Big Five All Major Contenders

By Associated PressApril 1, 2006, 5:00 pm
Tiger Woods doesn't have it as easy as it might appear.
 
He already has won 10 majors as he enters the second decade of his career, more than halfway home to Jack Nicklaus' record, equal to the majors won by Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen -- combined.
 
Woods has a revolving door of rivals, but nobody who consistently goes head-to-head against him at the majors.
 
Nicklaus won the U.S. Open in a playoff over Arnold Palmer and lost the U.S. Open in a playoff against Lee Trevino. Woods' two playoff victims were Bob May and Chris DiMarco.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els has six runner-up finishes in the majors, including two at Augusta National.
Nicklaus lost that amazing duel at Turnberry with Tom Watson. Woods won by 15 shots at Pebble Beach, by 12 shots at Augusta National, by eight shots at St. Andrews.
 
That raises two questions.

Is Woods that good?
 
Or is everyone else so spooked that they rarely beat him?
 
'Majors are the toughest to win, but they're also the easiest to win,' Nicklaus said in a recent interview at his Bear's Club. 'If a guy can get his act together, he mentally can have a leg up. That's why Tiger has got a leg up on the guys every time he plays, because he's now got the background and the history that he nows
how to win them. And that's the leg I had up.
 
'But I also had Palmer and (Gary) Player and Trevino and Watson. Those guys all knew how to win them also.'
 
Those guys combined to win 30 majors.
 
Starting with his playoff victory at the Masters last year, Woods emerged from his longest drought in the majors by winning two of them last year, seemingly turning the Big Five into the Big One.
 
But that's only a snapshot.
 
A broader view shows the Big Five -- Woods, Singh, Mickelson, Goosen and Els -- clearly separating themselves from the pack, especially in the majors. Dating to the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, the Big Five have won 16 of the last 25 majors. Woods skews the number by winning nine of those, a testament to his
skill.
 
At least one member of the Big Five has finished first or second in 21 of the last 25 majors.
 
'Am I surprised? Not really,' Els said at Bay Hill. 'The mainstream media forgets quickly from the previous week to the next week. That's how the whole world has gone. They keep saying, 'There's nobody challenging Tiger.' This group of players has been there for 25 straight majors.'
 
Els has only one major during that span, but he was five times a runner-up, including to Mickelson and to Singh at the Masters, and to Woods at the U.S. Open and British Open.
 
He refers to Woods as the 'rock' in the group.
 
'He's there all the time,' Els said. 'The rest of us, we're in and out the rest of the time. So yes, he's winning. But there is competition.'
 
Colin Montgomerie paid tribute to the Big Five in his own way.
 
Montgomerie, the best player to never have won a major, got another sniff at one when he challenged Woods briefly on the weekend at St. Andrews, eventually finishing five shots behind.
 
'This winning majors business is difficult today, because Tiger takes two of them, so that leaves two for everyone else,' Montgomerie said. 'If you give one to Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Retief, that only leaves one, doesn't it? So there's only one left every year. Well, it's difficult now, isn't it?'
 
The Big Five were in full force at the 2002 Masters, the first year Augusta National was vastly renovated to add length and strength to the par 4s. Woods powered his way to victory, building a lead on the back nine and forcing everyone to take risks in a fruitless attempt to catch him.
 
Goosen finished second that year, followed by Mickelson in third. Els tied for fifth, and Singh was in seventh.
 
Woods again is the favorite for this Masters, where he will try to become the first player to twice win back-to-back at Augusta National. He recognized the competition last month when someone said he was lacking a rival.
 
'You've seen the top guys up there,' he said. 'Maybe not myself, Mickelson, Goose, Ernie or Vijay, but generally one of us five in just about every major championship down the stretch.'
 
In the last 25 majors, Woods has 15 finishes in the top 10. Els, Mickelson and Singh each has 14, while Goosen -- the late-bloomer in the bunch -- has nine top 10s.
 
Aside from the majors, Singh has 28 victories on the PGA Tour, while Mickelson has 27. Els has 15 tour victories, a number that likely would be higher if he played the U.S. tour as often as the others. Goosen often is left out of the group because of only six PGA Tour victories, even though they include two U.S. Opens and the Tour Championship, where he became one of only three players to rally against Woods in the final round.
 
Woods already has 48 victories on the PGA Tour.
 
'It wasn't the Big Five when I was No. 5. As soon as I'm No. 4, they make it the Big Three,' Goosen said with a laugh. 'But those are the guys you've got to beat. They're going to be up there on the weekend.'
 
Woods and Nicklaus talked about rivals at the 2003 Presidents Cup in South Africa, and Nicklaus went through his list of rivals, stretched over decades instead of years.
 
'He said, 'Just make sure you're always part of the conversation,'' Woods said.
 
Any talk about dominance these days, especially in the majors, starts with Woods. But he bristles when anyone suggests that he lacks competition.
 
'It's a discredit to those guys,' Woods said. 'As talented as they are? As many times as they have won? As well as they have played? It's a total slap in their face.'
 
Even so, Nicklaus wonders whether the competition is equipped with the same experience.
 
Woods was 21 when he won his first major. Els was 24 when he captured his first. The other members of the Big Five were in their 30s when they finally broke through.
 
'Look at the guys now under 30, the Americans particularly,' Nicklaus said. 'Has anyone won more than one tournament? There's no experience. And it's difficult to get experience because the competition is difficult, and the competition is broad. For guys to win very often, it's very difficult.
 
'Although,' he added, 'Tiger finds a way.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 70th Masters Tournament
  • Full Coverage - 69th Masters Tournament
     
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    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.