Questions still remain for Woods 5 years after crash

By Doug FergusonNovember 25, 2014, 10:44 pm

Any mention of golf during the week of Thanksgiving used to be about the Skins Game.

Now it's hard not to think about Tiger Woods.

It was five years ago this week when his private life began to unravel. It still seems surreal to recall the breaking news scrolling along the bottom of the television that Woods had been ''seriously injured'' in a car accident outside his home. The injury wasn't that serious. He was treated and released.

And while the tree his SUV struck did far more damage, it was the fire hydrant he first ran over that became a symbol of the before-and-after nature of his career.

There is a fascination with anniversaries. Is five years any more meaningful than four or six? Still, it seems appropriate to raise one question as Woods prepares to return to competition next week after another long layoff.

Is this where you thought he would be five years later?

He has gone through two swing coaches. He has changed caddies. He has gone from married with children to being a single dad. He still has 14 majors. And next week at the Hero World Challenge will be his fifth comeback from injury.

So much has changed, except for the expectations.

They're just as high.

And that's why the last five years - particularly the last one - would seem to be a lost cause.

About this time a year ago, Woods was on the cusp of winning his World Challenge until Zach Johnson holed out from the drop zone for par on the 18th hole and went on to beat him in a playoff. That stuff used to only happen to Greg Norman.

No problem. Woods was coming off another five-win season on the PGA Tour that only he can make look routine. He was PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time, won the money title for the 10th time and captured the Vardon Trophy for the ninth time.

But when he began this year as the defending champion at Torrey Pines, no one could have imagined what would follow.

Woods has started only eight tournaments this year and finished only three of them. For the first time in his career, he did not register a top 10. There were two WDs (withdraws), two MCs (missed cuts) and one MDF (54-hole cut).

He effectively was MIA.

Recurring back pain led to surgery in March, which forced him to sit out three months and miss two majors. When he returned (earlier than he should have), he looked more like an old Woods than the Woods of old. And then he shut it down after the PGA Championship to get stronger.

Is he as good as 25-year-old Rory McIlroy? No. For starters, Woods turns 39 next month.

Can he challenge him?

Considering the last five years as a whole, it might be too early to rule him out.

-McIlroy with 13 wins worldwide is the only player to have won more than Woods (nine) over the last five years. Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood also have nine wins around the world.

-Woods still has the highest winning percentage (12 percent) of anyone in the last five years.

-In the last five years, Woods has been at No. 1 in the world longer (60 weeks) than the other five players who have taken turns at the top of the ranking, and he is the only player to be No. 1 for a continuous year.

It's not all that dire.

Far more difficult to measure is how much Woods has been affected physically and emotionally since the crisis in his personal life unfolded Thanksgiving weekend in 2009.

He doesn't seem to make as many big putts. But that started before he hit the fire hydrant. Otherwise, he would have won the PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

He has lost precious time because of his Achilles tendon and his left knee, and more recently his back. Those injuries were a matter of time.

The biggest change involves his corporate deals. Woods lost or did not renew sponsorship deals with Accenture, AT&T, Gillette, Gatorade, Tag Heuer and EA Sports. He has replaced them with Rolex, a Japanese heat rub, FUSE and now Muscle Pharm. Nike remains his biggest sponsor, and Woods has made appearances in commercials and TV shows with McIlroy. There was a time when Woods didn't share his Nike stage with anyone.

His performance in the majors is the most glaring difference, mainly because that always has been his ultimate measure.

In the 16 majors he has played since 2010, Woods has only five top-five finishes, and he has not been a serious factor in the final hour of any of them. He has not broken 70 in the final round of a major since the Masters in 2011.

He remains stuck on 14 majors dating to the 2008 U.S. Open. He is still four short of catching Jack Nicklaus.

The week after Thanksgiving, Woods gets back to work. And that leads to another relevant question.

Where will he be five years from now?

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.