The Tiger Schedule

By Associated PressMarch 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Among regular PGA TOUR events, Bay Hill is the only stop Tiger Woods has never missed.
 
His PGA TOUR schedule has become as predictable as azaleas blooming at Augusta National in April. It doesnt require a Ph.D. in statistics or even a crystal ball to figure out where he will play. And considering how his last eight months have gone, there is not much guesswork involved in how he will play.
 
Woods has seven official victories since July, and the one time someone else hoisted the trophy, Woods was runner-up.
 
A couple of years ago, Ernie Els tried to motivate himself by stating publicly a three-year plan to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world. Asked about that after the Big Easy won the Honda Classic a few weeks ago, he smiled and said, I didnt realize that Tiger was going to win 10 times since I said that.
 
He could have picked where Woods might win.
 
Woods will be going for his fifth title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He opened his 2008 season by winning the Buick Invitational for the sixth time. He also has six victories in the Bridgestone Invitational, six more at the World Golf Championship that now goes by the name CA Championship.
 
He has four green jackets from the Masters, four Wanamaker Trophies from the PGA Championship.
 
Woods, perhaps more than any other golfer, is a creature of habit.
 
He has won 63 times in his PGA TOUR career, yet he has trophies from only 24 tournaments. Vijay Singh has a far more diverse record, winning 31 times at 23 different tour events.
 
What inspires Woods is the competition and the course.
 
For a while now, Ive said my game has improved since 2000, and its not just about the Ws, Woods said on his Web site. Its something Ive been saying internally, and until recently, no one picked up on it. Im playing in fewer events on the toughest courses against the best fields. Thats why I feel my game has progressed, and why I feel so good about all the hard work I have put in.
 
Woods won nine times in 2000 while playing 20 events. He won seven times last year in only 16 tour starts.
 
Then again, familiarity certainly helps.
 
Consider another statistic that illustrates how his schedule works in his favor. Woods has won 52 times at the 17 tournaments tentatively on his 2008 schedule (that doesnt include two victories at Doral, which has been merged into a WGC).
 
One thing about Woods as he gets older'he doesnt add events, only subtracts.
 
The first to go was the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won in 2000 and stopped playing after 2002. It will be interesting to see if Woods returns before the 2010 U.S. Open. Then came the Mercedes-Benz Championship, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and Disney, none of which he has played since 2005, all of which have combined to add five victories to his account.
 
The most recent subtraction was his hometown event, the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, which Woods played nine times without winning. There is no indication he will return.
 
It would be easy to suggest he only plays the courses on which he has had success, but thats true for everybody. Jack Nicklaus won 73 times in his PGA TOUR career at 37 different tournaments, although the schedule looked much different in the 1960s, before Nicklaus and Palmer led a revolt that created the PGA TOUR.
 
Everything Woods does, everywhere he plays is geared toward getting ready for the majors.
 
Where does that leave everyone else?
 
In a clear case of the haves and have-nots, two tournament directors were standing next to each other near the putting green Tuesday morning at Bay Hill.
 
One was Steve Timms, who is making all the right moves for the Shell Houston Open.
 
Timms helped Houston snag the week before the Masters, and Redstone will be set up this year with fast greens and collection areas, appealing to players who want to compete before going to Augusta. Among those planning to play are Els, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and defending champion Adam Scott.
 
That would be a strong field, the envy of many tournaments.
 
But it wont have Tiger.
 
Thats the first question I get asked, Timms said. The reality is, Tiger has set his schedule and hes had tremendous success. Everyone would love to have him. We hope someday hell change his mind. But were going to do everything we can in areas we can control.
 
The other tournament director was Kym Hougham of the Wachovia Championship, where Woods is the defending champion.
 
Hougham is blessed with a good date (the week before The Players Championship) and a great course at Quail Hollow. Woods heard so much about it that he began playing in 2004 and only skipped the year his father died.
 
Were fortunate our golf course attracted him, Hougham said.
 
Hougham has lived on the other side of the tracks. He was the tournament director of the John Deere Classic, where Woods hasnt been since he lost to Ed Fiori in his third tournament as a pro. Hougham sympathizes with tournaments that dont get Woods.
 
Its a dwindling opportunity because of the majors, the WGCs, and now the playoffs, Hougham said. Its like in college, when you have requirements and electives. Were the electives. And there are lot more requirements now.
 
The four majors, three WGCs, three playoff events and The Players Championship take up 11 spots on Woods schedule. There has been only two additions to his schedule since 2002'Wachovia and the AT&T National, his own tournament.
 
Otherwise, he plays against strong fields on strong courses. Mostly, he plays where he wins.
 
So far, it appears to be working.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”