A Close Vote A Wide Gap

By Associated PressDecember 10, 2003, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The voting for PGA Tour player of the year was close.
The gap between Tiger Woods and everyone else is not.
Not yet, anyway.
'We got closer,' Kenny Perry said Tuesday. 'But I don't think the gap is closing.'
Woods has been in a different league, and judged by higher standards, ever since he took his game to another stratosphere during a 21-month stretch that ended with his victory in the 2001 Masters for an unprecedented sweep of the four majors.
He won 50 percent of his PGA Tour events during that time (17-of-34), an astounding rate of success.
Since then, rivals have come and gone. Awards have become routine.
This year was different.
Not only did Woods fail to win a major or the PGA Tour money title for the first time since 1998, he didn't know if his name was going to be on the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as the tour's player of the year until all the votes were counted.
That might be the best indicator yet that the gap is closing.
But the real measure is whether Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Ernie Els, Mike Weir, Jim Furyk or Kenny Perry - six guys who also had big years - can do it again in 2004.
History is not on their side.
From the time Woods turned pro, only one other player has been able to sustain a high level of play for more than one season. David Duval won 11 of 34 tournaments from October 1997 through March 1999, culminating with him replacing Woods as No. 1 in the world ranking.
Phil Mickelson has had great seasons, such as his four victories in 2000, but he's gone without a victory twice in the last five years.
Love won four times this year, including The Players Championship. He won only once the previous four years.
Els, the most consistent rival to Woods, won seven times around the world this year. Still, it was only two years ago that the Big Easy failed to win and started to question his desire and focus.
'It validates their career more by doing it year in and year out,' Woods said. 'Look at all the great players. They've done it more than just one year. To have a rivalry, or a conglomerate of guys, you have to do it consistently. Some guys have done it for decades.'
He proceeded to tick off some of the greatest players in golf - Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo.
'These guys are consistent for about 10 years at a high level,' he said.
There is no denying Singh had a phenomenal year, easily his best.
The big Fijian has been a world-class player since his first major in the 1998 PGA Championship, and he affirmed that status by winning the Masters two years later.
Still, he's never been a consideration for player of the year until now.
Maybe all the hard work grooving his swing has paid off to the point that Singh will be a common name on the leaderboard for the next several years, just like Woods.
Only then will the gap close.
Woods believes that could be the case, that Singh will play just as well if not better when the season starts next month in Hawaii.
'Without a doubt,' Woods said. 'He's only going to continue to work on it in the offseason. He'll be ready next year.'
Singh is 40, although age is not a factor yet. He's in such good shape that Singh figures to have at least five more years of prime play.
'We'll see what happens next year,' Perry said. 'Will this motivate Tiger? I'm anxious to see how he plays. I'm anxious to see what Davis does, what Vijay does, and Jim Furyk and Mike Weir. What will these guys do with their success?
'Will they rest on it? Does it make them refocused, and rededicated?'
Perry won three out of four tournaments in the middle of the year - the exception was a tie for third in the U.S. Open - and went one stretch with eight consecutive finishes in the top 10. Woods has never done that.
'I don't know how long I can keep playing well,' Perry said. 'You want to be competitive every week you play. For some reason, I held it together longer this year than all the other 17 years I've been out here. I never could put my finger on it.'
That superb stretch of golf made Perry realize one thing.
'It's not easy being that good each week,' he said.
And that gave him a higher appreciation of Woods.
Woods has gone through periods of mediocre play, but they last weeks, not years.
'You ride those highs as long as you can,' Woods said. 'And you get through those lulls as quickly as you can.'
Some have suggested that Woods has gone through mini-slumps because he's gone eight tournaments without winning, or an entire season without winning a major.
But the hard facts about this year speak volumes about the gap: Woods' least productive season in five years was still better than anyone else's.
And his great seasons are why the gap got to be so huge in the first place.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”