Tiger at His Best

By Brian HewittAugust 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Now that Tiger Woods has flirted with golf history and, for today at least, been rejected..
Now that Tiger Woods has turned out to be hotter than Tulsa..
Now that Tiger Woods has stormed to a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank at the halfway mark of the 89th PGA Championship..
Now that Saturday and Sunday are suddenly shaping up to be a pair of victory laps for the No. 1 ranked player in the universe who is odds-on to win his first major of 2007 and first major as a parent
Now that all of this and more has come to pass, its time to look back at an event that had other players and story lines before Woods stole everybodys thunder Friday while commandeering center stage...
First this, though: The golf gods should know better than to tug on Supermans cape. If they hadnt served up a cruel 270-degree lip-out on the 18th hole, Woods would have carded the first 62 in major championship history.
Woods called his score a 62 . The scoreboard said 63. He also properly pointed out that there is a lot of golf left to be played here. But if the eventual outcome of this championship isnt a foregone conclusion, its doing a first rate impression of one. The words mere formality come to mind.
Anyway, Tulsa has been a boiling cauldron of heat and sinkhole of sweat all week. And the forecast is even more dire for the weekend.
Once upon a nicely turned phrase, somebody wrote that Willie Mays glove was where triples go to die.
Southern Hills Friday was where ice cubes went to die.
John Dalys bold Thursday 67 melted quickly into insignificance when he bogeyed the first two holes of his second round en route to a 3-over 75.
First-round leader Graeme Storm, who played so flawlessly Thursday became the Imperfect Storm Friday thanks to three bogeys and a double on his outward half that resulted in a 76 that was 11 strokes more than the day before.
Have I mentioned the heat and humidity? Brandt Snedeker carded a nifty 71 Friday playing in the first group off first tee to make the cut on the number. Afterward he talked about the draining effect of the conditions.
Got back to my room last night, turned the TV on, and was asleep by 8 oclock, Snedeker said. Woke up at 4 oclock for my round. The lights were still on; the TV was still blaring and my clothes were still on.
Woody Austin, 2 under and four back of Woods, should be so lucky. Even when I lay down at night my brain doesnt shut off, Austin said. Ive been a nervous person all my life.
Which explains why he got the heebie-jeebies when he arrived at his ball, which he found in a creek, at the 13th after an errant drive. The ball, Austin said, was sitting right next to a huge, dead frog. It was upside down in the creek..I didnt want to touch him.
Austin has come a long way to be in contention to win his first major. Exactly how far?
I was the grade school nerd, he said. I was so small; I looked like the team mascot.
Small no more. Austin now stands six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds.
For his part, Verplank has been dealing with diabetes since he was nine years old. Im in my own little world and kind of have to be, he said.
The world Verplank found himself in Friday at Southern Hills is called the zone. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and missed the other by less than an inch. His 66 was tied for the second low round of the day. I hit the ball yesterday and today as good as Ive ever hit it, he said.
Daly, Austin, Snedeker, Verplank, Geoff Ogilvy. They are among the challengers. But they have been relegated to the role of bit players.
Southern Hills has hosted six previous major championships. And each time a player who has led or shared the lead after 36 holes has won the golf tournament.
The weekend at Southern Hills now figures to be the latest in a long line of coronations for Woods. In the unlikely event that he doesnt win Sunday, the biggest story will not be about the player who beat him, it will be the fact that Woods beat himself.
Woods won in Ohio last week by a pile of strokes. He arrived in Oklahoma full of confidence and hitting on all cylinders. He is the fittest player in golf along with being the most talented.
If you enjoy sport at its highest level; if you enjoy state-of-the-art; if you enjoy watching a player that even the golf gods have to respect, pay attention to Southern Hills the next two days. You almost certainly wont be disappointed.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
  • Getty Images

    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

    Getty Images

    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

    Getty Images

    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x