Forgettable Year for Woods
Just about everything Woods had built up over five years was gone when the season ended Sunday at East Lake.
Vijay Singh took the No. 1 ranking away from him.
Phil Mickelson replaced him as the man to beat in the majors.
And in the final PGA Tour event of the year, Retief Goosen muddied Woods' reputation as golf's best closer by turning a four-shot deficit into a four-shot victory at the Tour Championship.
'It was a very successful week as far as progressing in the right direction,' Woods said. 'But ultimately, it was disappointing because I lost the tournament, especially when I had a golden opportunity to win.'
Woods once measured success by green jackets and claret jugs.
Now, he celebrates progress.
There was a feeling when Woods narrowly beat out Singh as PGA Tour player of the year in 2003 that he had survived his stiffest challenge and would respond by restoring dominance to his game.
Instead, he decided to revamp his swing, which remains a work in progress.
'I figured I had something better within me, so I decided to make a change,' Woods said. 'And here I am.'
Exactly where that is depends on perspective, although Woods is nowhere near where anyone imagined at the start of the season.
- He is No. 2 in the world, moving up one spot by finishing second at East Lake.
- He is No. 4 on the money list, his lowest position in six years.
- He has gone 20 stroke-play tournaments without a victory, his longest drought ever.
- He has gone 10 majors without winning, matching his longest winless streak in the Grand Slam events.
And the 28-year-old Woods seems to be the only guy not too worried about it.
'You have to understand that there are risks to getting better,' Woods said. 'I've always taken risks to try and become a better golfer, and that's one of the things that's gotten me as far as I have.'
Woods first overhauled his swing after winning the '97 Masters by a record 12 shots. It took him about 18 months to piece everything together with coach Butch Harmon, and the finished product was frightening. He won seven of 11 majors, and 32 times on the PGA Tour during an incredible five-year run.
He was No. 1 in the world by such a monstrous margin that it looked as if he would stay there for life.
Having split up with Harmon, Woods is making his latest changes with Dallas-based swing coach Hank Haney, whom he met through good friend Mark O'Meara.
Exactly what he is changing is not clear. Woods is so protective of his game that he won't say, and he often has his caddie block photographers from getting swing-sequence pictures.
Scrutiny is what made this a tougher year than 1998.
'I was still new back in '97 and '98,' he said. 'What I did at Augusta was just one week. And then I had that run there for about five years ... and now I've been questioned about it each and every round I've played this year. It's been a lot more frustrating that way because I've had to answer all those questions.'
There were early indications that Woods was headed for an ordinary season.
He was charging on the back nine at Torrey Pines in February, two shots behind with the leaders fading fast. Then he missed four straight fairways, took two bogeys and wound up two shots out of a playoff. Going for his fourth straight win at Bay Hill, he wound up tied for 46th, his worst finish of the year.
Then came the real shockers.
Woods had gone five years without losing a 36-hole lead. He did it twice on back-to-back weekends in May. The final blow came Sunday at East Lake - only the third time he has lost a 54-hole lead - and it was symbolic of his season.
Woods was tied with Goosen with six holes to play when the South African holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 13th, got up-and-down for birdie on the 15th, then hit a 5-iron from 195 yards out of the rough into 3 feet for the only birdie of the day on the 16th.
There was a time when Woods was the guy making the timely birdies, leaving everyone else to believe they had to play perfect golf to catch him. They usually wound up with bogeys, making Woods' victories look easy.
It was role reversal at East Lake.
Desperate to stay close to the lead, Woods rammed a 25-footer some 6 feet past the cup and missed that one for a three-putt bogey on No. 16 that effectively ended his chances. For good measure, he bogeyed the 17th, too.
Perhaps that alone sums up his year.
In a league of his own for five years, Woods finally looks like everyone else.
'If he wants that title back, he's got a lot of work to do,' six-time major winner Nick Faldo said.
Woods does not see this as the end.
He leaves for South Korea later in the week for a one-day Skins competition that includes Se Ri Pak. He is playing the Dunlop Phoenix next week in Japan. Then he plays the Skins Game (featuring Annika Sorenstam) and his own Target World Challenge.
Winning them all won't change anyone's perception.
All he can hope for now is progress.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.