A new year for Woods with lingering questions
And the last one wasn’t very good.
Some of his peers couldn’t help but chuckle when the pro-am tee times for the Farmers Insurance Open were posted in the locker room. For more than a decade, Woods had the first available tee time, a perk for being the best player on the PGA Tour, or not far from it. Those pro-am times are determined by the previous year’s money list.
Woods was No. 68 on the money list.
He tees off at 11 a.m., which is about the time he used to finish.
“I can’t imagine he’ll be too thrilled with that,” Pat Perez said.
And then there’s the world ranking.
Woods lost his No. 1 spot nearly three months ago to Lee Westwood, so that’s old news. He dropped yet another spot to No. 3 this week when Martin Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Championship by eight shots. And if Woods doesn’t return to his former self quickly, it won’t be long before he slips even farther. The last time he was not in the top three was May 11, 1997.
What’s more noteworthy about the world ranking, however, is it’s the first time Woods has been ranked behind someone younger than him. He turned 35 over the holidays.
Woods has known this day was coming, even when his game appeared untouchable. In time, there would be a player – or players, in this case – younger than him and not as intimidated.
Sure, there was a brief challenge from Sergio Garcia. Adam Scott reached as high as No. 3, and Paul Casey did the same a year later.
Now, the youth brigade is coming in bunches.
Ahead of him in the ranking is Kaymer, the 26-year-old German who won the PGA Championship last year to become the youngest major champion since Woods. Kaymer also won the European Tour money title, and started the year with an eight-shot victory over what will be one of the strongest fields the European Tour will see all year.
“He’s probably the most formidable player in the world when he is leading,” Padraig Harrington said.
That’s what they used to say about Woods. But in his most recent tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. It was the first time Woods had lost a lead that large.
“He used to appear invincible,” McDowell said that day. “Of course, he’s made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return.”
McDowell is 31, and right behind Woods in the world ranking at No. 4.
Woods also has to contend with younger players like Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and perhaps even Luke Donald from Europe, not to mention Dustin Johnson and Anthony Kim from the American side.
So many talented, young players will not make Woods’ task any easier. The bigger question is whether Woods is equipped for the fight.
Some of the answers might arrive this week at Torrey Pines, a public course along the Pacific bluffs that Woods has owned like no other. His epic U.S. Open title in 2008 was the seventh time he had won as pro on Torrey Pines. He has not lost on this golf course since 2004, although he missed the last two years. He has never finished out of the top 10.
But just like last year, no one is quite sure what to expect.
His new swing coach, Sean Foley, said he spent about four hours a week with Woods on the practice range at Isleworth the last few months, and he liked what he saw. He said Woods no longer has to think as much about what he’s doing. The swing repeats more easily. What he feels matches up with the mechanics.
How will that translate with a scorecard in hand?
“If you want to anticipate what happens in the future, look to the past,” Foley suggested. “What people lose touch of, because we’re such a bandwagon society, is that for a decade there, it might have been one of the greatest 10-year runs in the history of athletics. Obviously, he struggled last year. But I look forward to watching him compete.”
When Kaymer won in Abu Dhabi, it was his ninth win in his 100th start on the European Tour. That still doesn’t compare with Woods, who won 28 times – including six majors – in his first 100 starts on the much stronger PGA Tour.
History is easily forgotten, although in this case, it’s understandable.
Woods has overcome swing changes in 1998 and 2004. He has overcome knee surgeries, one at the end of 2002, two during 2008. Even so, he has never been humbled like he was last year, when his private failures became so public, and so embarrassing.
His performance was such that no one fears him.
Ian Poulter had some fun with Woods on Twitter early Tuesday, after seeing that Woods had offered to answer questions from his tweets before leaving Florida for San Diego.
Poulter kept egging on Woods to get involved with Twitter.
“(C)ome on tiger when are you going to join the lads for some banter,” said one Poulter tweet. That was followed by Poulter’s message to Westwood that “im not having it that No3 is writing his own tweets. He doesn’t want to play.”
Westwood submitted this question to Woods: “is it true you’ve dyed your hair Ginger,signed a deal with IJP clothing and bought a White Ferrari cos your in awe of poults?”
Woods didn’t take the bait. There were no replies.
Really, the only thing No. 3 can do now is try to play like he did when he was No. 1.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting 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, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18