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.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.