Tiger Starting to Stir Memories of 2000
'I think I can play that good again,' Woods said.
'You better,' Steve Williams barked as he stood behind him and studied his swing. 'I'm building two race cars.'
The small group erupted in laughter, mostly at the thought of Woods' caddie needing him to play his best golf to support a racing career in New Zealand. But there was skepticism in those smiles, for no one really thought there would ever be another year like that.
Tiger in 2000 was the Yankees in '27, the Lakers in '72.
Woods captured three straight majors among his nine PGA Tour victories, including the U.S. Open by 15 shots and the British Open by eight shots, the latter giving him the career Grand Slam at age 24. He finished under par in all 20 tournaments he played, and Woods went his final 47 rounds that year at par or better.
It remains the benchmark.
But it no longer seems out of reach.
Woods' victory on Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship was not only his fifth straight -- his longest winning streak in a single season -- it was his seventh PGA Tour title in only 14 starts this year, a success rate that simply is not supposed to happen in this game.
He is 86-under par during this streak, and only two tournaments were remotely in doubt. Stewart Cink missed an 8-foot par putt that would have won at Firestone, and Vijay Singh lost a three-shot lead going into the last day at the TPC of Boston.
Singh was particularly helpless. Only four players had a better score than his 68 in the final round, but he couldn't stop Woods from playing the first seven holes in 6-under par -- including two eagle putts of 10 feet. Woods, who played his final 47 holes at the Deutsche Bank without a bogey, missed only three greens in the final round on his way to a 63.
'Normally it's good,' Singh said of his final round. 'Today it wasn't.'
Woods left Boston for a week of rest before going back to work to figure out how he can get better, which might explain more than anything else why he is so hard to beat.
Darkness finally chased him off the practice range two weeks ago at Firestone after the first round, and swing coach Hank Haney reported the next day that they had made some significant strides.
Significant strides? This was five days after Woods won the PGA Championship for his 12th career major and third straight victory.
'Three straight wins and he's the last guy on the range,' Haney said. 'I like that.'
Woods said it's not about hitting perfect shots and making every putt. He mentioned good bounces and a little luck, although both of those were hard to find at the TPC of Boston. It looked more like flawless execution, and Woods eventually acknowledged that.
'That's pretty exciting for me to go out there and play with this type of confidence, with my mechanics becoming more and more sound,' he said.
Comparisons to 2000 are inevitable, especially if Woods wins two more PGA Tour events to bring his victory total this year to nine. Still remaining are the American Express Championship outside London at the end of the month and the Tour Championship at East Lake at the end of the season. There's a good chance Woods will skip Disney, where he missed the cut a year ago.
Even now, Woods is hesitant to embrace comparisons with 2000.
It was clear from his answer that his memories are the margins of victory -- 15 shots at Pebble Beach, eight shots at St. Andrews, 11 shots when he won at Firestone in the dark and five shots at the Memorial.
Woods won nine times by 46 shots in 2000. His seven victories in 2006 are by a combined 13 shots.
'If you're looking for blowout wins to compare the two, there's only a couple of tournaments that you can possibly blow out anybody,' he said. 'One would be the U.S. Open, because if you play great rounds of golf, it's hard for the other guys to do the same. I think that's what people are always looking to compare 2000 with now -- 'Yeah, he's winning, but he's not winning by as big of margins.'
'But,' Woods added with a smile, 'I'm still getting Ws.'
And that's why the comparisons now are no longer laughable.
One could argue that Woods caught everyone napping in 2000.
His peers had not seen anyone dominate like that -- they were all born after Ben Hogan's big year in 1953 -- and it was intimidating.
And don't forget, Woods had switched to Nike's three-piece golf ball in May 2000 and was the biggest hitter in golf. Titleist came out with its Pro V1 that fall, and equipment since then has helped level the field. Woods is still long, but he no longer has such a big advantage.
The competition is deeper and better than it was. Phil Mickelson has won three majors in the last three years, Singh won nine times in 2004, Retief Goosen has added a pair of U.S. Open titles.
And yet Woods is still winning at an alarming rate.
'Everybody has been hitting the ball longer, everyone is stronger,' Woods said. 'It's become that much more difficult to win a golf tournament. So I've kept up the pace. I've pushed myself to do the same.'
That's one thing that hasn't changed from 2000. He's still pushing.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.