Glorys Last Shot and What Might Have Been

By Associated PressAugust 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaHis birdie on the final hole was meaningless, and Tiger Woods knew it.

He stood behind the 18th green with a vacant look in his eyes, gently rubbing his knuckles over his upper lip as he contemplated the two holes that cost him a chance to win at Pinehurst No. 2. A poor chip led to bogey on the 16th. A three-putt bogey followed on the 17th.

At the time, all he had lost was the U.S. Open by two shots.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods looks for his third major of 2005 at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
But after a year in which he established anew his supremacy in the majors by winning the Masters and the British Open, Woods' late collapse at Pinehurst looms larger. Take away those two holes, and the final major of the year might have been the grandest of them all.

'I just didn't have a very good putting week,' Woods said. 'It happened at the wrong time.'

Instead of going to the PGA Championship with a shot at the Grand Slam, the best Woods can hope for is to match his 2000 feat of winning three professional majors in one year, something only he and Ben Hogan (1953) have done.

The best he can do at Baltusrol is win his 11th major, moving one step closer to the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.

Not that he's complaining.

Woods had gone 10 majors without winning, matching the longest drought of his career, until he won the Masters for the fourth time in a sudden-death playoff over Chris DiMarco, then went wire-to-wire at St. Andrews to win his second British Open.

'I'm doing better in the majors now, and that's where you want to perform,' Woods said. 'To have the confidence going into each and every major feeling if I just play my game, I'll be in contention ... that's exciting to be in that kind of feeling, that kind of mode.'

The 87th PGA Championship starts Thursday on the Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and for everyone else, this major will live up to its moniker -- 'Glory's Last Shot.'

It will be the last chance for Vijay Singh to capture a major, and this is where it all began for the 42-year-old Fijian a year ago. He took advantage of a late collapse by Justin Leonard at Whistling Straits, then made his only birdie of the day to win a three-hole playoff. Singh then won four more times on the PGA Tour to wrest the No. 1 world ranking away from Woods.
 
'I just hope I can follow what I did last year,' Singh said after winning the Buick Open for his fourth victory of the year. 'It's going to be hard. One of the hardest things to do is go out there and win golf tournaments, and as many as I won toward the end of last year, it's going to be almost impossible. But I'm going to give it a shot.'
 
It's one last chance for Phil Mickelson to show last year's magical run through the majors was no accident.
 
A year after winning his first major and coming within five shots of winning them all, Mickelson has slipped into near obscurity in the Grand Slam events -- 10th at the Masters, 33rd at the U.S. Open, 60th at the British Open. The only noise he has made in a major came from a confrontation with Singh over Mickelson's spikes at the Masters.
 
What has gone wrong?
 
'Nothing I would like to go into right now, but I feel like I should be able to get it turned around,' Lefty said.

At least Mickelson has three PGA Tour victories to his credit.

Retief Goosen is still searching for his first victory this year, still trying to prove that the debacle in the final round of the U.S. Open -- losing a three-shot lead by shooting 81 -- was an aberration.

Ernie Els won three times in the first five months -- twice in the Middle East, once in Shanghai -- but will have to watch this PGA Championship from his home in London. Els ruptured ligaments in his left knee while sailing in the Mediterranean and is out for the year, ending his streak of playing in 50 consecutive majors.

They all were part of the 'Big Five' at the start of the season.
 
Going into the final major championship of the year, it has been whittled to the Big Two.
 
Woods has spent 16 weeks at No. 1 in the world, reclaiming the spot from Singh on the strength of his green jacket from the Masters and his silver claret jug from the British Open. Singh has been No. 1 for 15 weeks.
 
Both have won four times on the PGA Tour.

They are the only players to have finished in the top 10 at all three majors.

They are playing at a different level than everyone else.
 
'They tend to give themselves more opportunities, both players, because of their dominating length, good ball-striking ability,' former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk said. 'And as good as they are, they have more opportunities than most players.'
 
Length figures to be a key component at Baltusrol, which has been stretched to 7,392 yards at par 70, and is unique in that it finishes with consecutive par 5s. The 17th hole is 650 yards, and might be out of reach for even the biggest hitters in golf. John Daly is the only player to reach the green in two at the 1993 U.S. Open.

'Remember, I wasn't using a 3-wood back then, so I got there with a driver and a 1-iron,' Daly said. 'This year, I'll have the wood, but the second shot is uphill, so if they have done a lot to it, I might not be able to get there.'

The 17th hole has been lengthened by 20 yards, and Mickelson already considers it a three-shot hole.
 
The closing hole is a mere 554 yards, made famous by the 1-iron Nicklaus hit into the green when he clinched his second of four U.S. Open titles at Baltusrol in 1967.

Baltusrol has been host to seven U.S. Opens, tied for the most with Oakmont, but this is its first PGA Championship. The final major of the year often has a hard time distinguishing itself from the other majors, although Woods and Singh found one trait they like -- they consider the PGA to be the fairest of them all.

'All the PGA golf courses are right in front of you,' Singh said. 'They don't trick it up or anything. They are going to play tough. It's not going to be a week where you mis-hit and you get away with it. You've got to hit good shots there. You've got to bring your game along. I think whoever wins is going to play really, really well.'
 
Woods joined Nicklaus as the only players to have won the career Grand Slam twice, and Woods created a different kind of slam by winning all four majors that Nicklaus played for the last time.

Just his luck, Nicklaus will be at Baltusrol -- but only as the honorary chairman at a course where he won the U.S. Open in 1967 and in 1980. Perhaps his presence will rub off on Woods, although he doesn't appear to need the help.
 
Michael Campbell won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, keeping Woods from a shot at the Grand Slam, and even he is starting to wonder if Woods has made it all the way back.

'I've seen Tiger play fantastic five years ago, and to me, that was awesome,' Campbell said. 'I still feel that we haven't seen the best of Tiger.'
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry