Woods break officially begins this week
This was Nicholas Thompson, not Tiger Woods.
And that’s why the “indefinite break” from golf that Woods announced two months ago didn’t really start until Tuesday.
It has been 53 days since golf’s biggest star announced he was stepping away to sort out a private life that has run amok through tabloids and gossip magazines because of his extramarital affairs.
Truth is, little has changed during his absence.
At least so far.
The PGA Tour is only three weeks into its new season, three events that Woods usually doesn’t play. Besides, not as many Americans watch golf during those weeks, from behind the ropes or on the sofa. Not when the tournaments are played on two islands in the Pacific or four courses in the California desert. Not when they are held the same weekend as the NFL playoffs.
Torrey Pines, however, is different.
It’s the first tournament on U.S. network television. It’s where Woods and his chief rival, Phil Mickelson, typically start their seasons.
How much will the Tour miss Woods? Now is the time to start keeping score.
This is a big week for Tom Wilson, the tournament director of what now is called the Farmers Insurance Open. This might be the only PGA Tour event in history that had four names in the span of one year – the Buick Invitational, the Century Club of San Diego Invitational, the San Diego Open and the Farmers Insurance Open.
General Motors filed for bankruptcy, knocking out Buick as the title sponsor. The tournament found a replacement only last week, and Wilson is optimistic that Farmers will be interested in signing on for more than just this year.
It would have helped to have Woods around this week, bringing the energy and crowds that once accompanied him.
Woods has missed this tournament only once when healthy, in 1997 when he was playing for appearance money overseas and won the Asian Honda Classic by 10 shots. He had to skip last year while recovering from knee surgery, although he still managed to steal some headlines by announcing hours after the final round that his wife had given birth to their son, Charlie.
Torrey Pines has become the tour’s signature stop on the West Coast Swing, awarded the prime spot on the calendar between the NFL’s conference championship games and the Super Bowl. It’s no surprise that its TV ratings have dwarfed every other tournament on the West Coast, helped in part by Woods winning five of the last six times he played.
The difference now, of course, is not only what’s keeping him away but the uncertainty of when he will return.
By now, players have accepted that Woods is on leave and that his personal life is a wreck. There really is nothing else to say beyond the daily dose of gossip. What really happened that night he drove his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree? Is he really at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi? Did his wife participate in the program? Does their marriage have a chance?
The bigger question, which no one can answer, is when he will return.
Rocco Mediate is back at Torrey Pines for the first time since that 19-hole playoff loss to Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open. Mediate missed last year with a knee injury, which largely went unnoticed. He went to the putting green on Monday and told his caddie, “A little different here.” Missing were thousands of fans surrounding the practice range on the North Course.
Missing was his adversary that day, Woods.
“Yeah, that’s really different,” Mediate said. “Any time he’s not in the field, it’s obviously not the best field we have. You always want your best guy. It always makes it what it’s supposed to be, especially (since) he’s won here 712 times. So it’s hard to beat that guy here.”
His absence will continue to capture attention if he’s not at the Match Play Championship (where he returned a year ago) or another World Golf Championship at Doral the second week of March, or at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Nick Watney was reminded of his victory last year, when hours after he left Torrey Pines with the trophy, word leaked that Woods had become a father again. So if Watney were to win again, could history repeat itself with another announcement from Woods? And what would the announcement be?
Watney laughed at the possibility.
“I hope it would be that he’s coming back,” Watney said. “Because we need him.”
Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome
Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)
The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...
And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.
Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.
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.