Tiger Standing at a Crossroad

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- He couldn't get hold of the lead and he has yet to prove he can win a major without it.
 
If you don't think Tiger Woods has arrived at a crossroad in his career, you haven't been paying attention.
 
'I think Justin Leonard was 5 or 6 shots back when he won here,' Woods said Saturday at the British Open, sounding more defensive than hopeful.
 
So, this is what it's come to.
 
The moment after he scythed down the field at the 1997 Masters, Woods became the game's gold standard. No matter the subject, he was the reference point. Every discussion about what was possible in golf came down to him sooner or later. Everybody talked about being inspired, intimidated or challenged by him.
 
But two years and counting into Woods' major championship drought, all that has changed. Woods now refers to others when discussing possibilities, and it's no longer just Jack Nicklaus. And all those others now refer to Woods as just another one of the boys.
 
'There's a number of guys that have a great chance at the championship tomorrow,' said Phil Mickelson, who is two strokes off the lead.
 
'This is a hell of a leaderboard,' said Ernie Els, who lurks just one shot behind journeyman Todd Hamilton. 'These are quality players, players who have proven themselves throughout the years.'
 
'It's a pretty good leaderboard, isn't it?' concurred Hamilton. 'And I'm not one to shy away from looking at leaderboards.'
 
Woods shot a front-end loaded 3-under 68 in the third round at Royal Troon to move into contention, and there was a time when his name on the leaderboard made it look like the marquee for a horror movie. All the other golfers would be afraid, very afraid, and do something desperate, dangerous or downright stupid. But no longer.
 
They know that Woods has made only one birdie on the back nine here all week. They know he can't hit fairways at the same clip he used to, can't conjure up magical shots every time he has to, and that he's struggled for two-plus years to put two together two rounds good enough to make any or all or them pull off the road and into a ditch.
 
They know, too, that every one of Woods' eight major titles came after he entered the final round holding at least a share of the lead. And he begins this one trailing Hamilton by four, with five golfers sandwiched between them.
 
'Tiger can always make a charge,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'I wouldn't put anything past him. But obviously, his confidence level is not what it was back in 2000 and 2001, when he held all the majors at the same time.'
 
Since then, Woods got engaged to a Swedish nanny and divorced his longtime swing coach. He denies either has anything to do with the sorry state of his game. He keeps saying how close he is to those bulletproof days, but so far, we have only his word for it.
 
'I knew I needed to shoot a good round to give myself a chance going into Sunday. I was able to do that today. So now,' Woods said, 'I've got a fighting chance.'
 
Whether he's got enough game to accomplish what Leonard did at Troon in 1997 remains to be seen. The Texan spotted Jesper Parnevik five shots on that Sunday, then fired a scintillating 65 that more than made up the difference.
 
Since Woods knows his golf history, he also knows that champions have come from further back than that. Scotsman Paul Lawrie began the final day 10 shots behind at Carnoustie in 1999, and won in a playoff after shooting 67. But his win was possible only because of leader Jean Van de Velde's spectacular meltdown on the 18th hole. There's too many great names above Woods' on the leaderboard for that to be a realistic option this time around.
 
Woods will almost certainly have to go lower than the 68 he shot Saturday to win. The last time he did on the last day at a major was the 2002 PGA Championship, when Woods birdied the final four holes for a 67, but still lost to Rich Beem. Since then, his final-round scores have been 75, 72, 71, 73, 71, 76.
 
That won't get it done here.
 
Related Links:
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.