Things to Look Out for in 2008

By Brian HewittOctober 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
If anybody had asked me, I would have told them:
  • Look out for Tiger in 2008. More than ever.
    I know, I know. The guys he plays against are always looking out for Tiger Woods. But Im talking about the big stages in 2008.
    Woods, for the foreseeable future, will always be the favorite at Augusta National where he has won the Masters Tournament four times. The more they change the golf course there, putatively to protect it against his talents, the more it plays into his hands.
    The 2008 PGA Championship will take place at Oakland Hills, a golf course that got the better of Woods at the 1996 U.S. Open where he played as an amateur. And Woods didnt especially distinguish himself at the 2004 Ryder Cup matches at Oakland Hills. But the subsequent Rees Jones re-design has lengthened the course Ben Hogan famously called a monster to 7,303 yards. Thats long enough to give Woods more of an advantage but not too long to keep him from hitting his more easily-controllable 3-woods off a lot of tees.
    The 2008 Open Championship returns to Royal Birkdale where Woods came within a cats whisker of chasing down winner Mark OMeara on the final day when they played the British there back in 1998. Birkdale, like St. Andrews, fits Woods eye more than rota courses like Carnoustie.
    The 2008 U.S. Open comes, for the first time, to the South course at Torrey Pines near San Diego. Another Rees Jones re-design, Torrey South in June will play differently, and longer, than it perennially does early in the year at the Buick Invitational. But it wont be that different. Woods has captured the Buick Invitational five times, including the last three in a row, and has been playing the course competitively since he was a junior. Can you say Calendar Grand Slam?
    Finally, the 2008 Ryder Cup will be played at Valhalla in Louisville. Valhalla is where Woods engaged Bob May in a memorable duel before winning out in a playoff. This will be the first time in six Ryder Cups the event will be staged at a venue where Woods has previously won an event. Kentucky is a state that knows, better than most, about horses for courses.
    And in case you hadnt noticed, Woods is golfs answer to Secretariat.
  • Look out for Annika in 2008.
    Not too many people have noticed that the engaged-to-be-married Sorenstam doesnt plan on getting to the altar until 2009. That leaves all of this off-season to completely recover from the neck and back injuries that slowed her this year.
    It also could mean, especially if starting a family is a priority in 2009, that 2008 will be the last year she devotes solely to competitive golf.
    That is not good news for the rest of the women; although world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa likes the taste and feel of sitting atop the womens game.
    So before you get ready to anoint Paula Creamer or Morgan Pressel as the next big thing; and before you buy into Ochoa vs. Norways Suzann Pettersen as golfs next big rivalry, pay proper respect to Sorenstam. Theres a lot of game left there.
  • Dont look out for Michelle Wie.
    The volume of e-mails received by this reporter after the recent resignation of Wies agent, Greg Nared, was huge. And there was, to be redundant, complete consensus: People want Wies parents to leave her alone and let her lead the life of a normal student at Stanford.
    So the less we see of Michelle in 2008, the better it could be for her future as a person and a player.
    Meanwhile interest in Wie from PGA TOUR tournament directors looking to spike their gates, is pretty much dead. A recent inquiry from GOLF CHANNEL regarding a 2008 sponsors exemption, to an official with the Sony Open in Wies home state of Hawaii was met with a short reply.
    Sponsors exemptions, came the response, wont be considered until November. Hardly a ringing endorsement for Wies chances of playing there early next year.
  • The Stack and Tilt is alive and well.
    Teaching pros Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett continue to win PGA TOUR converts to their idiosyncratic method of striking a golf ball.
    Meanwhile theres no truth to the rumor that the FedExCup will present a non-deferred $10 million first prize, in cold cash, at the 72nd green of next years TOUR Championship. Now THAT would have been a stack and tilt.
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
  • Getty Images

    Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'

    By Will GrayMarch 18, 2018, 11:05 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.

    He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.

    Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

    “I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”

    In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    “I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”

    Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.

    “Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”

    Getty Images

    McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory

    By Nick MentaMarch 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

    Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:

    Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)

    What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.

    Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.

    Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.

    Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.

    Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.

    Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.

    Remind you of anything?

    Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy

    Getty Images

    TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    • What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.

    • But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.

    • While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    • It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”

    • Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”

    After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

    Getty Images

    Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.

    "I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."

    Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

    Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

    A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

    A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

    Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

    Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

    His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

    But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.

    He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

    This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.

    Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

    He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.