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:
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.