Long Tough Road to the Top

By Associated PressJanuary 2, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Adam Scott was in his final year of high school in Australia when he awoke at 5 a.m. one Monday in April to watch the final round of the Masters. What he saw that morning brought equal doses of awe and reality.
 
Scott had spent countless hours working on his game, driven by the dream of being No. 1 in the world. On the screen that morning was 21-year-old Tiger Woods becoming the youngest Masters champion with a record score of 18-under 270 for a 12-shot victory, the largest margin in a major championship since 1862.
 
Adam Scott
Adam Scott has a long way to go to catch Tiger Woods at the top.
'I thought it was unreal,' Scott said.
 
And it didn't take long for him to recognize that his dream might be just that.
 
Scott showed up at Kapalua for the start of the 2007 season with his game as good as it has ever been. He found consistency to go with that polished swing, rose to a career-high No. 4 in the world ranking and captured the TOUR Championship to finish a career-best No. 3 on the PGA TOUR money list.
 
The final few steps, though, seem like a marathon.
 
'All my life as a kid, I dreamt of being No. 1 in the world,' Scott said 'How am I going to live up that dream? I've got to somehow figure out a way to play better than this guy over a pretty long period of time. I don't think I'm making up ground on him, but at least I'm creeping up to a level that's competitive.'
 
Then he paused, and finished the sentence with a smile.
 
'On a good day.'
 
That's not giving up. That's reality.
 
Woods first rose to No. 1 in the summer of 1997, and only two players have taken that away from him -- David Duval in 1999 and Vijay Singh in 2004.
 
So it can be done.
 
Then again, neither stayed at No. 1 for more than six months. And both times Woods lost the No. 1 ranking, he was at the tail end of overhauling his swing.
 
A new year brings renewed optimism, yet the one question that remains is whether any young player is capable of challenging Woods. The list of candidates has become more refined, spearheaded by Scott, U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Paul Casey. All of them are in their 20s.
 
And all of them understand what they are facing.
 
'It's unfortunate for us that we've probably got the best golfer of all time that we have to be better than to be No. 1 in the world,' Ogilvy said. 'But we're also fortunate to be playing in his generation. We're all better because of him. The tournaments are better, there's more people to play in front of.'
 
Ogilvy broke through in a major way last year, winning the Accenture Match Play Championship and the U.S. Open. He finished fifth on the money list despite missing two months when his wife gave birth to their first child. Long considered one of the most talented Aussies, his goal was always to be the best, figuring the No. 1 ranking would come along with that.
 
And now?
 
'I still have aspirations to be No. 1,' said Ogilvy, now at No. 10. 'I think it's feasible. Is it feasible when he's having a run like he's having now? I don't know.'
 
Inspiration comes from Singh, who set a lofty goal in 2002 to take down Tiger. Remember, this was the year that Woods won the Masters and the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, and finished second at the PGA Championship. Singh closed that year by winning the Tour Championship to move to No. 7 in the world.
 
But the Fijian matched Woods' five victories in '03, then won nine times in '04 to dethrone Woods.
 
'If someone told you that Vijay would be No. 1 in the world after Bethpage, you would have laughed,' Ogilvy said. 'Well, you wouldn't have laughed because Vijay is a great player. But you would have laughed if someone said anyone would be better than Tiger. He was winning tournaments for fun back then. No question, it's possible. But it's going to be tough. And a lot depends on him.'
 
Woods twice went 10 majors without winning, and he lost his No. 1 ranking during both those droughts. But his rebound was remarkable. After the first dry spell, he won seven of the next 11 majors; after the second, he won four of the next eight.
 
'If Tiger plays his best golf, it's hard to beat that,' Casey said. 'It can be done, and I don't think Tiger would disagree. But he would find a way to work twice as hard to make sure it didn't happen. And that's the difficult part.'
 
Garcia already has played in the final group twice in a major (both times losing to Woods). Scott's four victories include The Players Championship and the TOUR Championship. Casey won three times in Europe last year and was voted the tour's best golfer. Ogilvy will try to convert his first major into many more.
 
All of them have solid credentials, weakened only by comparisons to Woods.
 
'The hardest thing now is for young kids to realize this Tiger benchmark is out of most everyone's league,' Scott said. 'I think it's a hard thing for young kids to find out when they get here. I certainly found out it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.'
 
But he hasn't given up a dream nurtured as a teenager in Australia, even before he turned on his TV that Monday morning in 1997.
 
'You can't give up on your hope of being No. 1 in the world,' Scott said. 'I want to be No. 1, and I believe I can be. But I've got to be realistic. If I play my best golf in the next five years, then I might be No. 1. If. Maybe. And it depends on what he does. But it's five years away for me.'
 
Another pause, another smile.
 
'Maybe I'll catch him between swing changes,' Scott said. 'He'll be due for another one then.'
 
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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

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    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

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    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

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    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.