Big Five Now the Big Two
He already has won three times, including the Masters for his first major since 2002, and he has finished in the top three in seven of his 13 starts on the PGA Tour. He has returned to No. 1 in the world. And when Woods says his game is coming together, no one rolls his eyes.
Still, this is a year in which nothing is what it seems.
The lasting image of Woods is not of him slipping on a green jacket at Augusta National for the fourth time, but making a mess of the final two holes at the Masters and having to sweat out a sudden-death playoff. True, he has given himself a chance to win just about every other time he has played, but he also missed a cut for the first time in seven years.
And while he nearly staged dramatic comebacks from a six-shot deficit at the U.S. Open and a five-shot deficit at the Western Open, his rallies ended with errors he rarely makes.
I guess thats the one negative of being the best. Everyone expects you to be perfect, Jim Furyk said after ignoring Woods charge and winning the Western Open. If he makes a mistake, it sticks out more than anything else. People pay notice to it. People will mention it to him. He has to relive those moments a little bit more critically than everyone else because the spotlight is on him.
Hes human. But sometimes, it doesnt seem that way.
Woods is not alone.
With so many players poised to do so many great things, the spotlight on the first half of the year seems to shine as much on their shortcomings as anything they have achieved.
Six months ago, the stars were aligned for a blockbuster season. Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson have done their part, each winning three times. In fact, 15 of the 27 tournaments have been won by players ranked in the top 10.
But heading into the British Open, the Big Five is more like the Big Two.
Ernie Els has won in faraway lands'twice in the Middle East, once in China'but the Big Easy has had a tough time on the PGA Tour. He squandered two great chances to win at the start of the year in Hawaii, and his only decent opportunity since then was at Congressional. He shot 72 in the final round of the Booz Allen to finish five shots back.
Whether he can turn it around remains to be seen, although history is not on his side.
Els is coming off a devastating year in the majors'a playoff loss in the British Open to journeyman Todd Hamilton; a bogey on the 18th hole that cost him a spot in the playoff at the PGA Championship; a great round that went unrewarded when Mickelson beat him at the Masters, and an 80 from the final group at the U.S. Open.
The last time he felt so empty was when he was runner-up in the first three majors of 2000. He went through the motions in 2001, failing to win on the PGA Tour for the only time in his career.
Retief Goosen also has laid an egg.
He was a forgotten figure at the start of the year, only making news when he didnt play. Goosen overslept and missed his pro-am time by 10 minutes at Riviera, making him ineligible to tee off in the Nissan Open. Then, it looked like he slept through the final round of the U.S. Open.
Described as unflappable and nearly unbeatable, Goosen lost a three-shot lead in three holes at Pinehurst No. 2 and wound up with an 81. Turns out he was unflappable in defeat, taking in stride the worst final-round score by a 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open since Gil Morgan shot 81 in the final round at Pebble Beach in 1992.
Everybody else seems to be more worried about it than I am, Goosen said last week. It was a disappointing day, but nothing like that is going to bother me.
Despite three trophies, Mickelson hardly could be considered a threat to No. 1.
None of his victories this year came against more than one other member of the Big Five'Singh was at Phoenix and Pebble Beach, Goosen was at the rain-shortened BellSouth Classic. Lefty gets high grades for the best round of the year'not his 60 in the FBR Open, but his 10-under 62 at tough Spyglass Hill that sent him to a wire-to-wire victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He was so hot in February that he was atop the leaderboard for 10 consecutive rounds of stroke play going into the last day at Doral. Mickelson practically begged for Woods best game on the Blue Monster and got every bit of it, losing by one shot in the only head-to-head battle by any two members of the Big Five.
But he hasnt been the same since.
Mickelson won in Atlanta, but only because Jose Maria Olazabal twice missed 5-foot putts on the 18th hole. His preparations for the majors are just as calculating, but the game hasnt been there, and his only tussle on the weekend has been over spike marks.
Singh has top 10s in both majors, although he was an afterthought in the Masters and U.S. Open. He still leads the PGA Tour money list, but thats more a product of playing 20 times'seven more tournaments than Woods.
Woods and Singh have swapped spots atop the world ranking six times this year, and No. 1 could continue to be a revolving door through the end of the year.
But for all the talk of a Big Five, the first half of the year has narrowed it down to two.
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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
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
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
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.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
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.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.