Tiger Selected AP Athlete of the Year in Close Vote
When he missed the cut at the U.S. Open for the first time in a major -- his first tournament after his father died of cancer -- some questioned whether he could rekindle his desire to dominate. He never finished worse than second in stroke play the rest of the season.
Phil Mickelson emerged anew as a serious threat to Woods' domain by winning his second straight major at the Masters and nearly making it three in a row at the U.S. Open. Woods responded by winning the next two majors without breaking a sweat.
And there remained skepticism about his latest swing change, put to rest by a year that ranked among Woods' best ever on the PGA Tour. He won eight times in 15 starts, six in a row to close out his season, two more majors to reach 12 for his career.
About the only thing he couldn't answer was how he was voted AP Male Athlete of the Year.
Woods won the award over San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, with tennis great Roger Federer a distant third. The 31-year-old Woods won for the fourth time in his career, tying the record set by Lance Armstrong, who won the last four years.
While pleased to hear he had won the award, Woods was perplexed it did not go to his good friend Federer, who continues to dominate tennis. Woods was in Federer's box at Flushing Meadows when the Swiss star captured the U.S. Open.
'What he's done in tennis, I think, is far greater than what I've done in golf,' Woods said. 'He's lost what ... five matches in three years? That's pretty good.'
Federer actually has lost a few more than that, but not many. His record in 2006 was an amazing 92-5, including 12 singles titles.
Woods received 260 points from sports editors around the country. Tomlinson, who already has set an NFL record of 31 touchdowns with one regular-season game left, was second with 230 points. Federer, who won three Grand Slam titles and lost in the final at the French Open, had 110 points.
Rounding out the top of the list were Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (40 points) and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols and NL home run champion Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies (20 points each).
Fred Couples, the former Masters champion and all-around sports nut who attended Wimbledon this year, ran through the achievements of the top three and figured it would be a tough vote to cast.
'Roger Federer is pretty sporty,' Couples said. 'Tomlinson is going to pound the record by I don't know how many TDs. It's all great. You would think if you're Roger Federer and you didn't win it this year, you don't know what else you could possibly do. But Tiger ... it's not like he's not deserving. He's winning 55 percent of the tournaments he plays. He's probably ahead of Shaq's free throw percentage.'
Woods again made it look routine, winning at least eight PGA Tour events for the third time in his career and becoming the first player in history to capture multiple majors in consecutive seasons.
'Any time you're over 50 percent winning in our sports, it's probably a good year,' Woods said. 'I know how hard it is. I know what it takes to get to that point. I hate to say it, but people in the media and fans don't understand how hard it is. Players do. The things players have said to me over the years, that means a lot.'
What made this year different from others was the magnitude of his loss.
After winning his first two tournaments of the year, the Buick Invitational and the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, Woods' progress slowed as his father's health deteriorated. Earl Woods, the father, architect and driving force behind his son as a person and a player, died May 3.
During a celebration of his father's life in the lobby of the Tiger Woods Learning Center, Woods refused to sit as he listened to stories about his father, his solemn face yielding to an occasional grin whenever someone told a humorous anecdote. He said later he tends to bottle up his emotions, and they burst forth at the British Open.
Using driver only once on the crispy links of Royal Liverpool, Woods won by two shots to become the first player in 23 years with back-to-back wins at the British Open, and the lasting image of his season was Woods sobbing on the shoulder of his caddie, then his wife, realizing it was the first golf victory he couldn't share with his father.
'At that moment, it just came pouring out,' he said that day. 'And of all the things that my father has meant to me and the game of golf, I just wish he would have seen it one more time.'
To this day, Woods said he quickly turns off the tape of British Open highlights when he taps in his final putt.
The rest of the year was a blur of trophies. He overpowered the field at the Buick Open, putted his best at the PGA Championship, outlasted Stewart Cink in a playoff at the Bridgestone Invitational, made two eagles in the first seven holes on his way to a 63 to overcome a three-shot deficit against Vijay Singh at the Deutsche Bank Championship, then won by eight shots at the American Express Championship.
On paper, the results looked familiar. In his heart, Woods said it was his toughest year, which he ultimately described as a loss because of his father's death.
For his peers, it left them at a loss for words.
'We're used to it,' Davis Love III said. 'People were trying to compare this year to 2000, but 2000 was surprising. Now it's like saying, 'Hey, there's a Ferrari. Oh, there's another Ferrari. There's another Ferrari.' It's an outstanding year, but it's not his only one. If I had a year like his, they would say, 'What an incredible year.' For him, it's just another brilliant year.
'It's hard for him when he wins four tournaments and no majors because people say, 'What in the world happened? That's when you realize how good he is.'
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
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
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
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.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
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."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
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.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
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