Comparisons to 2000 Season Linger for Tiger

By Associated PressDecember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- No matter how often he won, by however many shots, no matter how wide the gap grew between Tiger Woods and the rest of the world, he could never escape comparisons to 2000.
Some thought such a year could never be matched.
Woods won the last three majors, including record-setting wins at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, to complete the career Grand Slam at age 24. He won nine times and was in the top five at 17 of his 20 tournaments. He set or tied 27 records on the PGA Tour.
By the numbers, it still stands as his greatest season.
As player, most of his peers believe Woods has become even better.
'The reason people still talk about 2000 is because he won the U.S. Open by 15 and the British Open by eight,' caddie Steve Williams said. 'Those are the two biggest tournaments, and he won by 23 shots. So the public's perception of his year is based on two weeks. That will stand in our memories forever. That's why we're still talking about it.'
And now?
'No doubt, this is the best he's ever played,' Williams said. 'He's in more control of his shots. I wouldn't even compare the years because they're so vastly different -- different in the way he plays, the way he manages his game, his course strategy. He's more equipped now.'
Woods, ending a 10-week break this week at the Target World Challenge, only talks about 2000 in context.
He collected his ninth PGA Tour player of the year award on Tuesday after winning seven times, including his 13th career major. The numbers were slightly down from the year before, even though Woods looked to be more in control of his game.
He thought he had a better year, but when drawing comparisons, he focused on the ones that got away.
Woods finished two shots behind at the Masters, haunted by bogey-bogey finishes in the first and third rounds. He wound up one shot behind at the U.S. Open, and still talks about a third round in which he hit 17 greens at Oakmont and could only squeeze a 69 out of it.
Then there was the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, where he had five three-putts and took nine more putts than Phil Mickelson in the final round alone, and finished two shots behind.
'I was just a few shots away from doing what I did in 2000,' he said. 'If I get those done, people would probably be comparing it to 2000, if not better.'
It goes beyond 2007.
Two years ago, Woods won the Masters and British Open, was second at the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, finishing a combined four shots out of the lead in the two he didn't win.
'I've been pretty close the last few years of eclipsing what I did in 2000,' he said.
For those around him, they see far more control -- the flight of his ball, the management of his game, and his life.
It has taken Woods close to a year to get over the death of his father in May 2006, and even now he talks about feelings of guilt about not spending as much time with Earl Woods.
'You always feel this sense of you didn't really capture each and every day with him,' Woods said.
His daughter, Sam, was born the day after the U.S. Open. His wife and daughter made a surprise visit to Southern Hills on the final day, when Woods captured his 13th career major at the PGA Championship. For those who wondered how fatherhood would change him as the most cut-throat player in golf, Woods smiled.
'I think the end of the year probably demonstrated that pretty good,' he said, referring to victories in four of his last five events.
Even more daunting is the comfort he feels on the golf course.
For swing coach Hank Haney, the pivotal moment came Saturday morning at Oakmont on the first tee, a hole that looked extremely tight to Woods. He had planned to hit iron, but a shift in wind demanded driver, and Woods piped it.
That was a sign of confidence that has only grown.
'The best thing that Tiger does is he makes an honest assessment where he is,' Haney said Wednesday. 'He can take a step back and make an honest assessment of how to get better. And it's always accurate.'
So how much better can he get?
Woods is winning at nearly a 50 percent clip, an astounding rate in this era. He has won 15 times in 31 starts on the PGA Tour the last two years, and he has won as many times worldwide as the next five players behind him in the world ranking combined.
He stopped going to the practice range after a round at the British Open, mentally rehearsing his swing and learning to trust it.
'This is just the tip of the iceberg of where he can be mentally and confidence-wise with his swing,' Haney said. 'You're just starting to see it. We've seen it in practice, and now you start to see it on the golf course. It's a slow progression.'
About the only thing missing is the spectacular shot. His father once said that Woods always hits at least one shot that fans will talk about for years. Now, it's the subtle appreciation of flawless execution.
His 2000 season was best remembered for the 6-iron he hit out of the bunker, over the water and right at the pin to win the Canadian Open, and the 7-iron he gouged out of the rough to reach the par-5 sixth green at Pebble Beach.
Two years ago, it was his U-turn chip-in at the Masters. Last year, it was the 4-iron he holed from the fairway at Hoylake.
Was there one memorable shot this year?
Not really, except for the 15-foot putt that lipped out and denied him a 62 in a major, or breaking his 4-iron against the tree on the 11th hole at the Masters.
Meanwhile, the gap is no different than it was in 2000, if not greater.
'The chasing pack is getting better,' Colin Montgomerie said. 'But the problem is, so is he. I always feels his best time was in 2000, and I think we're getting back to that level again. I think he's almost a better putter. But as a swing, he's very close. Very close.'
Related Links:
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Target World Challenge
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

    The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

    Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

    The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

    Getty Images

    Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

    The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

    Getty Images

    J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

    The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

    Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    "I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    "It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

    South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    "It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

    Getty Images

    Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

    LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

    Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

    He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

    ''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

    Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

    They were at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

    Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

    ''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

    He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

    McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

    ''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.