A down year for Tiger leads to parity in golf
In the years when he wasn’t winning a major or three, Woods compensated by winning at least five times on the PGA Tour against some of the strongest fields on some of the toughest courses. He won 31 times and six majors in the previous five years.
The only time during that stretch that Woods did not win PGA Tour player of the year was in 2008, when he made it through only half the year until his knee gave out. Padraig Harrington captured the last two majors to win the award, although Woods still earned some consideration. He won four times in six starts, including a U.S. Open.
The FedEx Cup playoffs get under way this week at The Barclays, and Woods is at No. 112 in the standings, sandwiched between Bob Estes and Cameron Beckman.
Dominance has given way to parity.
Five players have multiple victories this year – Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan – yet none of them has more than two wins, and none of them won a major.
Why has no one filled the void?
“That’s how good Tiger Wood is – that’s what I make of it,” Adam Scott said Tuesday.
Els has been leading the FedEx Cup standings since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He begins the playoffs with only a 149-point lead over Stricker. A year ago, Woods had a 1,276-point lead over Stricker going into The Barclays.
“This is just an observation,” Zach Johnson said Tuesday. “But I watched Greensboro for about six holes on Sunday and they showed the standings. I knew Ernie had been on top forever, but he still is. The other years it seemed like it was so volatile that even I was at No. 1 for like a week. Now it’s all bunched up.”
Golf is bunched up at the moment, at least on the PGA Tour.
“No one has separated themselves,” Mahan said. “Tiger hasn’t won five times. You’ve got a bunch of guys who have won twice.”
In its first three years, the FedEx Cup has provided four great tournaments after the majors were over, and the list of winners backs that up – three wins for Woods; two apiece for Mickelson, Stricker, Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas; and Heath Slocum as the outsider, but only after beating Woods, Stricker, Harrington and Els on the last hole. Even so, it had little bearing on anything except a bank account.
This year – thanks to Woods – it’s a little different.
The four playoff events over the next five weeks most likely will decide who was the best player on the PGA Tour this year. Not only is there no clear-cut favorite for player of the year, it’s hard to determine the front-runner.
“Ernie?” pondered Mahan, but only after taking several seconds of thought. “He’s leading the points race, right? And he won twice. And he was right up there in two majors.”
Actually, only one major.
Els had a share of the lead Sunday in the U.S. Open until he started dropping shots along the Pacific cliffs and never got them back. He wound up third, then missed the cut in the British Open and fizzled at the PGA Championship.
Winning the FedEx Cup might be all it takes for Els to be voted player of the year. Then again, it’s mathematically possible for him to do that without winning another tournament. Can a guy get voted best player with only two wins and no majors?
“If Phil wins, it’s got to be over,” Mahan said, continuing to work this out while speaking to no one in particular.
The defining shot of this goofy season was the 6-iron Mickelson hit through the pines on the 13th at Augusta National when he won the Masters. He is the only major champion in the FedEx Cup because the other three – Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer – were not PGA Tour members.
For the eighth time over the last three months, Mickelson will have yet another chance to replace Woods atop the world ranking. It should have happened by now, as poorly as Woods has performed. Trouble is, Mickelson hasn’t been much better. Lefty has not finished in the top 10 in the four tournaments he has played since the U.S. Open.
Mahan won in Phoenix, got engaged to a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, then won his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone. He would get consideration with a victory or two in the next month, plus the $10 million prize for the FedEx Cup.
The same holds true for Stricker, Furyk and Rose. Someone needs to separate themselves from the pack.
“I guess there’s a lot of people in the mix,” Dustin Johnson said. “But whoever has a good playoffs will probably be the top candidate.”
That might include Johnson, himself. Two playoff wins, a FedEx Cup, a victory earlier this year at Pebble Beach, sympathy for the bunker ruling at Whistling Straits. Why not?
“If I could win a couple of playoff events and the FedEx Cup, I’d be happy,” Scott said. “Even if you didn’t vote for me.”
Given the way this season has gone, the four playoff events could go to players who had not won anything all year.
Even someone like Woods.
Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome
Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)
The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...
And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.
Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted 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. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.