Tiger Jack and the Fifth Major

By Brian HewittMarch 26, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- Trying to measure the breadth and depth of Tiger Woods' influence on the game of golf is a little like trying to get your hands around the sun: It is impossible and even a little dangerous. Attempting to seriously quantify his impact on our sport is an almost blinding proposition. Be careful, or you will burn your hands.
Actually, it's all a matter of degrees. Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the debate about whether or not The Players Championship should be considered a 'fifth major.'
The opinion here is that The Players Championship won't be considered a fifth major until Woods says so. That's how pervasive his sway is on the game.
Tuesday somebody asked Woods how he thought the 'process' should proceed to officially make this tournament a fifth major. His lack of interest in the question spoke volumes. 'I don't know,' Tiger said. 'You'd have to ask the R&A and the USGA probably for that. . . . probably the PGA of America as well.'
You'd also do well to include the Lords of the Masters, too, although the men in the green jackets have their minds on other concerns right now. Point is, as powerful as the PGA Tour is, it does not control a major championship. More to the point, the tour should not look to Woods any time soon to help promote its quest to elevate The Players Championship to 'major' status.
The reason for this is that Woods has had Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional majors tacked to the bulletin board of his mind ever since he was a young boy. Adding a fifth major would mean exactly what? That Nicklaus' major count would retroactively jump to 21 because of the three Players Championships he won back in the '70s before this tournament even arrived at the TPC at Sawgrass?
This kind of recounting would be highly untidy. And exactly who, by the way, would officially bestow 'major' status on a fifth tournament? The media? The tour? IMG? There have been noises coming out of tour headquarters about getting the players to declare their tournament a major. If they did, it would be a little too unilateral for most people's tastes.
I believe The Players Championship stands alone and doesn't need 'major' status. I believe Pete Dye's Stadium course is one of the top 10 tracks in the world. I believe golf fans get a little more familiar with the geography and the rhythm of this event every year because, like Augusta, much of its history stems from an endearing and enchanting sameness. Remember, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the British Open all rotate their venues That's fine for variety's sake.
But give me the kind of history that goes with the 12th or 15th holes at the Masters or the island green 17th at the Players any time. For that matter, I'd rather watch, cover or play the TPC at Sawgrass than any of the British Open venues. Heresy, you say?
Listen, the British Open Championship is a wonderful tournament with perhaps the most distinct flavor of any event in golf. But if asked to choose between the two, I'll take The Players Championship in a heartbeat. Just don't try to force down my throat the idea that it is one of golf's four majors. That notion will never fly. Unless, of course, Tiger Woods wakes up one morning and decides otherwise.
Remember, it was Nicklaus in the '60s and '70s who defined and reinforced the concept and importance of the four majors. His was the dominant influence of that era. Woods is that influence now. Don't expect him to try and reconfigure anybody's thinking on any of this any time soon.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."