Vignettes From a Long Year on Tour
He was wrong. Woods had two majors among his six worldwide victories.
A week later, David Toms' group was backed up on the 18th hole at the Sony Open when he motioned to the baby-faced rookie on the tee.
``See this kid? Watch him this year. He's going to be good.''
He was right. That kid was Jonathan Byrd, who beat Toms by one stroke nine months later at the Buick Challenge.
Predictions can be a risky business.
Woods continues to dominate golf, but the game still has its share of surprises.
A three-page letter from Hootie Johnson generated more stories about Augusta National than Woods winning his third green jacket. The only victory party David Duval attended was at the Ryder Cup ' and he was on the losing team.
As 2002 ends, here is a look back at some of the moments beyond birdies and bogeys, winners and losers, green jackets and claret jugs:
During one of the commercial breaks at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, a video showed highlights of the year in golf ' Sergio Garcia's winning putt at Kapalua, Rich Beem twirling the flagstick on the 18th green after winning the PGA Championship.
Suddenly, the audience was buzzing.
On the big screen was Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson slipping the green jacket on Woods after he won the Masters.
While online surveys indicate a majority of golf fans support Augusta National in the debate over its all-male membership, there is little question the issue has changed the way people see Johnson.
Even though the ``Battle at Bighorn'' was a team exhibition, it was clear Woods wanted to avenge his loss to Garcia in the match play competition two years ago. Woods came out firing with three straight birdies in desert heat that soared into the 100s.
It was so hot that Melissa Stark of ABC Sports had one person hold an umbrella to shield her from the sun, another person to daub the perspiration from her forehead.
Walking to the fourth tee, a reporter said to Woods, ``I bet you wish you were me.''
``Why's that?'' Woods said, sweat already soaking his shirt.
``Because I can walk off the course after nine holes,'' the reporter replied.
``What do you think I'm trying to do?'' he said.
The NFL season was two months old, and Phil Mickelson had his game face on.
The Baltimore Ravens were favored over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Lefty figured it was a lock. The Steelers won two out of three last year, including a 27-10 rout in the playoffs. Plus, middle linebacker Ray Lewis was still injured.
``The Ravens aren't half the team they were last year, and they're 2 1/2 -point favorites. Are you kidding?'' Mickelson said.
Hmmm. It's a safe bet his money was on Pittsburgh.
``No, you don't understand,'' Mickelson said with a sneaky grin. ``I'm trying to help you.''
Pittsburgh led 28-3 at halftime and cruised to a 31-18 victory.
Duval is among several players who don't sign golf balls, but it was hard to turn down the man and his son at relaxing Callaway Gardens ' especially after the man said he went to Georgia Tech, Duval's alma mater.
Duval relented and asked for the ball.
It was a Titleist. Duval has bitter feelings toward Titleist, having gone to mediation to settle lawsuits and countersuits over him leaving Titleist for Nike.
He paused, then started to give it back.
Instead, Duval used his black marker to scratch out the logo, signed his name and tossed the ball back to the man, laughing as he resumed hitting balls.
Not many players grind on their games during the silly season, but that doesn't stop Vijay Singh. After the second round of the Target World Challenge, he brought a metal contraption out to the putting green.
It looked like a raccoon trap, the chute just wide enough for the blade of his putter. He stroked one putt after another through the gate, then stopped when he saw a visitor.
``Look at this,'' Singh said. ``You're looking at the No. 1-ranked putter on the PGA Tour next year. Come see me at this tournament next year, OK?''
He kept putting into the twilight.
The year was particularly taxing on the PGA Tour, which tried to cut costs and plug sponsorship holes in a weak economy. Both missions were accomplished by December.
Commissioner Tim Finchem called his staff together and told them to start making their holiday plans. For the first time, the PGA Tour closed its offices the week of Christmas.
``It was an incredible morale boost,'' one employee said.
And a fitting end to the year.
TT postscript: Tiger (E) survives difficult day
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Here are some observations after watching Tiger Woods’ even-par 70 in the first round of the Honda Classic:
• Whew, that was tough. Like, by far the most difficult conditions Woods has faced this year. The wind blew about 20 mph all day, from different directions, and that affected every part of the game, especially putting.
• And though the stats aren’t necessarily pretty – half the fairways hit, just 10 greens – this was BY FAR his best ball-striking round of the new year. He even said so himself. When he walked off the course, he was just four off the lead.
• Woods had only one bad hole Thursday. It came on the par-5 third hole, his 12th of the day. He blew his driver into the right bunker. He had to lay way back, to clear the lip of the bunker. And then he tugged his third shot just barely in the greenside trap. And then his bunker shot didn’t get onto the green. Then he chipped on and missed a 4-footer. A truly ugly double bogey.
• The driver is still a concern – he found the fairway only once in five attempts. But only one of those misses was way off-line. That came on the 12th, when he double-crossed one way left.
• Though the driver is uncooperative, he has showed a lot of improvement with his 3-wood. The four times he used it, he controlled the ball flight beautifully and hit it 300-plus. His 2-iron is making a comeback, too, in a big way.
• After this round, he should have a little wiggle room Friday to make the cut, barring a blowup round. It’s playing tough, and the 36-hole cut should be over par. Tiger needs four rounds of competitive reps. If he plays like this Friday, he’ll get them.
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar
DOHA, Qatar – Eddie Pepperell, Gregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.
Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.
One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.
Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.
Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.
Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.
He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.
''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.
''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.
''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.
''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”
Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.
''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.
''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''
Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.
Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET
Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)
Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)
Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.
Notables in the field:
• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.
• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.
• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.
• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.
• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.
• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green.
• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.
• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.
• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13).