Woods at Full Stride Early in Season
That hardly seems to be a problem.
Three weeks into his return from knee surgery, Woods already has hit full stride.
He won the Buick Invitational by four strokes after three straight rounds in the 60s on the tough South Course at Torrey Pines, a future U.S. Open site. He lost only 18 of the 112 holes he played at La Costa to win the Match Play Championship.
``When he plays good, he wins,'' David Toms said. ``We all know that.''
Woods expected no less.
After building a big lead and holding off a late charge by Toms on Sunday to complete his collection of the World Golf Championships titles, Woods was asked if he could have imagined two victories this early in his season.
``Uh-huh,'' he said without blinking.
Woods was still thinking about the tee shot he hooked into the parking lot in the third round of the Nissan Open. He made double bogey on the easiest hole at Riviera, and wound up three strokes out of a playoff.
Asked whether he was satisfied with his three weeks in California, Woods said: ``As a whole, you have to say, 'Yes.' But if you want to be a little bit greedy ...
``I've accomplished my goal two out of three weeks.''
The tournament that matters the most is a month away at Augusta National, where Woods will try to become the first player to win three straight Masters.
The last two years, Woods played six tournaments before his first victory of the season. He hasn't won twice on the West Coast since 2000, when Woods went on to one of the greatest seasons in golf with nine victories and three straight majors.
Is another record-breaking year in the works?
``You can expect me to keep trying to get better ' if my year turns out like 2000,'' Woods said. ``I'm starting to feel good. There's no doubt about it.''
His 2000 season didn't happen overnight. Woods won four straight PGA Tour events at the end of the 1999 season and carried that into the next year.
This time, he traces his groove to the PGA Grand Slam in Hawaii in November, when he won by 14 strokes in a 36-hole event against Ernie Els, Rich Beem and Davis Love III.
He says Dec. 12 surgery on his left knee not only got rid of the pain, but enabled him to start swinging the club the way he did.
``I have more shots than I did last year,'' he said. ``And on top of that, I'm feeling a lot better, which allows me to hit more shots. So, the combination of the two makes me a better player than I was last year.''
Some of those shots were evident at La Costa, particularly the 3-wood he kept low and hard into the wind and a variety of three-quarter shots that kept the ball from spinning away from the hole on the soft, spongy greens.
``He's swinging at the ball as good as I've seen him swing in a while,'' Toms said. ``He was hitting one or two more clubs than he normally would and just chipping it in there. And to be able to hit those shots shows a lot about how his game has progressed.''
In the five years of the Accenture Match Play Championship, no winner has ever played so few holes. Woods only played the 18th hole twice all week, one of those times during the 36-hole final against Toms.
Even so, he had to grind for this one.
Woods didn't miss a fairway until the 11th hole and raced to a 4-up advantage over Toms, which seemed to be insurmountable.
But Toms seized momentum with a 35-foot birdie putt on the second hole in the afternoon round, and Woods started missing putts that had been so routine.
``He was missing some short putts, and I think that was probably getting to him more than my game was getting to him,'' Toms said. ``He probably was disappointed that he was beating himself for a little while.''
Woods never trailed during the match, and Toms finally ran out of holes.
``I had to play the best golfer in the world to try to win the tournament, and I didn't have much this morning,'' Toms said. ``I got down too far to come back.''
The gap between Woods and his competition appeared to shrink during his two-month absence after knee surgery.
Ernie Els won the first two PGA Tour events in Hawaii, and piled up four victories in his first five events around the world. Vijay Singh won in Phoenix, Davis Love III won at Pebble Beach, and Mike Weir of Canada won twice (Bob Hope Classic, Nissan Open).
Now, it looks like a gulf again.
Woods now has 36 career victories on the PGA Tour, and he became the first player to win all four of the World Golf Championships events, which started in 1999. Including the World Cup title he won with David Duval in 2000, Woods has won seven of 13 world titles.
The next stop for Woods is the Bay Hill Invitational in two weeks, a tournament he has won the last three years.
``I'm just glad he doesn't play 25 tournaments,'' Toms said.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting 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, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18