Big Four Go After Golfs Fifth Major

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2005, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The 'Big Four' have been going their own direction for most of the year, two months of travels and trophies that lead them to The Players Championship.
 
Ernie Els was in Dubai when everyone else was at Doral. Phil Mickelson was skiing in Utah when the rest of the best were battling at Bay Hill. Tiger Woods was on his boat when he wasn't playing, while Vijay Singh was on the range the two tournaments he skipped this year.
 
The one thing they have in common is winning.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is widely regarded as the biggest of the Big Four.
'They all play well. They're all at the top of their game. They've all won one or two tournaments,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday. 'They're joined by a lot of other players that are playing well. But Vijay, Tiger, Ernie and Phil have the opportunity this week to create some stories that could be pretty special.'
 
It doesn't always work out that way at golf's fifth major.
 
The Players Championship is the richest tournament in golf ($8 million) with the strongest and deepest field of the year, with 82 of the top 100 in the world ranking gathered on the TPC at Sawgrass, and all 146 of them capable of winning the $1.44 million prize.
 
The roll call of champions is worthy. In the 31-year history, only six champions have not won a major.
 
But the Big Four usually are a Big Flop at Sawgrass.
 
Woods and defending champion Adam Scott are the only players among the top 10 who have won The Players Championship, and Scott made it interesting last year by pulling a 6-iron into the water and having to salvage bogey with a testy up-and-down from 40 yards.
 
'Maybe I've run out of patience here in the last couple of years,' Els said. 'So I think this week I've got to be really patient, sometimes just throttle back and put the ball in play -- play it like a major.'
 
Els has only two top 10s in his 11 years at Sawgrass, and the others aren't much better. Singh has just two top 10s, his only year in contention ending with a tee shot he hooked into the water on No. 14 in 2001 when he finished second to Woods. Mickelson's best finish came last year, when he was four shots behind Scott.
 
Woods has no qualms with his record. Four years ago, he became the only guy to win The Players Championship and the Masters in the same year. He also was runner-up to Hal Sutton in 2000. And he won the first of his three U.S. Amateur titles at Sawgrass in 1994.
 
'I've had a nice run here,' Woods said.
 
But he has gone three straight years outside the top 10, and last year nearly missed the cut after opening with a 75.
 
And for those who want to throw Retief Goosen into the mix and make it a 'Big Five,' the stoic South African has missed the cut five out of six years at Sawgrass.
 
'I like the look of the course,' said Goosen, who played a practice round Wednesday with Woods. 'But for some reason, I'm just not hitting the right shots around it.'
 
Precision is everything at Sawgrass.
 
The course is not long by today's standards, measuring only 7,093 yards. Woods, Singh and Els were pounding drivers on just about every hole last week at Bay Hill, but Sawgrass is more about position.
 
And rain could change everything. The course got nearly an inch of rain overnight, and there is virtually no chance of getting it firm and fast by the end of the tournament. With more rain in the forecast later in the week, some already are bracing for a Monday finish.
 
Much of the focus is on Singh.
 
He is coming off two torturous weeks, missing a 30-inch par putt on the second extra hole to lose in a playoff to Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic, then hitting a 7-iron into the water on the 18th hole while tied for the lead with Kenny Perry at the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
'It still plays in my mind,' Singh said. 'It's nothing that you just kind of forget about a week later. It's a disappointing thing to lose tournaments like that. But you have to look ahead all the time, and that's what I'm doing.'
 
Singh wants to win this tournament as much as any other.
 
He has a house down the street and had his annual Monday night bash with some 200 guests. When he's not on the road, he's at home on the range at Sawgrass, and probably knows this course better than anyone in the field.
 
To help his chances, he even cut out one of his practice rounds this week.
 
'This is where the biggest gathering of players are, and it'll be one of the biggest achievements of my career if I can win this thing,' Singh said. 'My focus right now is to play as I good as I can.'
 
Mickelson also is looking ahead.
 
His last PGA Tour event came at Doral, where he wanted Woods in the final round, but watched as the eight-time major winner rallied from two shots behind to beat him.
 
There has been a lot of speculation how Mickelson will respond to losing another showdown, but he already is back at work. He spent two days on the Stadium Course over the weekend, taking 8 hours in a practice round to study virtually every angle around the greens.
 
Then, he headed up to Augusta National for two days of practice for the Masters.
 
'I think I'm pretty close to being ready,' Mickelson said. 'I'm excited to get the tournament started.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - The Players Championship
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee: