New Year New Questions

By Associated PressJanuary 4, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsThe grandstand surrounding the ninth green was packed, and it was only a quiet Monday afternoon at Kapalua, with no more than a dozen players on the Plantation Course.
 
Everyone anticipates a blockbuster season on the PGA Tour.
 
Vijay Singh starts the year at No. 1 for the first time in his career. Tiger Woods showed signs of recovering his game late last year, while Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen could make it crowded at the top.
 
Singh knows his nine-victory season that took him to No. 1 was old news when the calendar changed.
 
'Everybody is going to be starting level,' Singh said. 'You've just got to get in front as quick as possible and see if you can stay there. That's the way I've always thought, and hopefully I'm going to start that way again.'
 
And that leads to seven questions about the 2005 season:
 
What does Singh do for an encore?
 
Singh is curious how he will handle the expectations, although they won't be as great as when Woods tried to follow up on his nine-win season of 2000. Woods went 10 weeks at the start of the '01 season without winning and had to face questions about a slump. Then he won three straight, including the Masters for his fourth straight major.
 
Keep in mind that Singh won only one time through the Masters last year, and no one questioned his game. That won't be the case in 2005, and he can take a load of pressure off by winning at least once on the West Coast Swing.
 
Odds are against him winning nine times again, although if he plays the same schedule - his 29 starts last year matched his career-high - there is no reason he can't win a half-dozen times.
 
Was the end of the year a mirage for Tiger?
 
Woods gained renewed optimism by winning his final two tournaments of the year with a game that looked vaguely familiar. Still, no one will take the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan) or the Target World Challenge (silly season) too seriously. Still, it was enough to raise expectations.
 
Woods is playing two of the first three tournaments, and he might face more scrutiny than Singh.
 
The real test will be the majors. If Woods fails to win the Masters, it will be the longest stretch without a major in his career. Another question is whether Woods' cut streak (133 tournaments) can survive another year.
 
Will the majors haunt the Big Easy?
 
Els will remember 2004 as the year the majors got away - all four of them. He had three putts on the 72nd hole to either win or get into a playoff, and missed them all. He shot 80 in the final group at the U.S. Open.
 
He might have found the secret to getting sharp for the four biggest weeks of the year, but four close calls in one year creates a lot of scar tissue. The Masters is what he wants the most, only Els might be the next in a long line of players who felt Augusta National owed them one (Ken Venturi, Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman, David Duval).
 
His best bet might be the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, which should feel like a U.S. Open.
 
What will Phil do next?
 
That 8-inch vertical leap at Augusta National is the most vivid reminder that Mickelson no longer is hounded as the best player to never win a major. Coming within five shots of winning all four was a statement that Lefty has these majors all figured out.
 
Still, his magical year ended after the PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup was a disaster, and his 59 at the Grand Slam of Golf doesn't count. Memories being short, he'll probably have to prove himself again the first three months of the year to be considered a major force going into the Masters.
 
Will anyone in their 20s emerge as a legitimate star?
 
Assuming Woods is an old man at 29, golf still is searching for a player in his 20s to emerge as a rival for the next decade. Adam Scott became the youngest winner (23) of The Players Championship, but the best bet is Sergio Garcia. He already has won five times on tour and, unlike Scott, is becoming a regular contender in the majors.
 
Other possibilities are the English trio of Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Paul Casey. Charles Howell III is too young (25) to be forgotten. Even though he has won only one tournament, he has never finished lower than 33rd on the PGA Tour money list.
 
What about the old guys?
 
Tom Kite once advised Jay Haas to keep playing on the PGA Tour as long as he could, because once someone goes to the Champions Tour, it's hard to go back to regular golf. Haas has made the Tour Championship the last two years, and at 51 will be trying to make the Presidents Cup team.
 
Kite, meanwhile, is using a career-money exemption to return to the PGA Tour. But if he fails to compete, he might be a victim of his own advice.
 
Can Tim Finchem work magic on another TV deal?
 
No one will be pulling harder for Woods than the PGA Tour commissioner, who will start negotiating the next television contract this year. The last two times Finchem sat across from the networks were in 1997, when Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots, and in 2001, when Woods won the 'Tiger Slam' - four majors in a span of 294 days.
 
It's all about timing.
 
And the tour is positioned to provide some drama that will have everyone watching.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championships
     
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  • Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee: