A Win is a Win is a Win

By Brian HewittMarch 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
It was a telling moment. Tiger Woods, generally affable in post-round interviews when sitting on the 54-hole lead, got that steely look late Saturday.
 
A questioner wanted to know if Woods would be thinking about his recent stumbles.
 
What stumbles? Woods demanded flintily.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has now won the CA Championship six times. (WireImage)
Bay Hill, the questioner said.
 
Thats just one tournament, Woods said. There was a long pause, followed by no elaboration from Woods, followed by the next question.
 
So much for stumbles.
 
Woods made five bogeys Sunday at Doral in the WGC-CA Championship and he didnt pile up many style points along the way en route to his 56th career PGA TOUR win, a two-shot victory over Brett Wetterich. But he did accomplish his mission.
 
A win is a win, Woods said afterward.
 
It included a lay-up off the tee on the par 4 18th hole followed by an 8-iron, a wedge and a difficult two-putt. He had arrived at the final hole with a three-shot lead.
 
If I make five there, Woods explained, he (Wetterich) cant win the tournament.
 
The whole idea (Sunday), Woods added, was to shoot under par and I figured if I shot under par it would be over. Didnt quite get it done, but ended up winning the tournament anyways. Such is the luxury of a four-shot lead after 54 holes. A Sunday 73 was good enough.
 
Sunday was always going to have to be uncharted territory for anybody with designs on upsetting Woods. Never before in his decade as a professional had Tiger lost a lead of more than two shots entering the final round of any event.
 
Going into the last 18 holes at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Woods, led Wetterich by four and everybody else by at least five. Woods had been a cumulative 75 under par in his 19 rounds as a professional at Doral.
 
And, after ballooning to a 43 on the final nine holes of Arnold Palmers Invitational at Bay Hill last Sunday, he was looking to take his final competitive inventory before he headed to Augusta where the Masters Tournament will begin a week from Thursday.
 
The obvious task at hand for Woods was winning his 13th WGC event and second TOUR competition of the year. It was also an opportunity to get a healthy dose of golf's best, and legal, drug: Winning.
 
In each of his first three rounds Woods had been 2 under after two holes. He birdied his first two holes on Thursday and Friday and he eagled No. 1 on Saturday. In fact, in his last 19 professional starts he had birdied or eagled the first hole 17 times, including the last 15 in a row.
 
Sunday he birdied it again. But despite plenty of flashes of brilliance all week, Woods never fully synched to the task at hand. I slept kind of funky one night and my necks been stiff for about three days now, he offered. Thats what happens when you turn 30.
 
It wasnt an excuse because, by definition, excuses are for losers.
 
In the end, the grinding Tiger had to do to protect his victory late Sunday may turn out to be a good thing. He would have preferred a cakewalk. But mental conditioning is important, too. And a little struggle, in the end, will probably prepare him better for next weeks Masters where winning almost never comes easy.
 
Doral, a course he says he loves, was mostly an enjoyable week for Woods who rallied from an indifferent opening 71 marred by bad putting with a sizzling Friday 66 and a splendid Saturday 68. After the latter, he spent much of the evening across town watching one of his new best friends. That would be Roger Federer, the best tennis player in the world, who was dispatching American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-3 in the Sony Ericsson Open.
 
Federer did not lose serve in the match. Indeed, Querrey never even had a break point on Federer. Similarly, one of Woods golf challenges Sunday was to work on getting his first serve in. That is to say, put it in play off the tee.
 
Woods struggled early Sunday in that department. But when he had to, he split the narrow 18th fairway with his 3-iron.
 
The PGA TOUR stops at the Shell Houston Open this week. We wont see Woods again until the Masters.
 
Then, we will see a lot of him. And we will be surprised to see any stumbles.
 
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)