Signature shots in Tiger Woods decade of dominance

By Doug FergusonAugust 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' Tiger Woods knew this day was coming. He just didnt want to believe it.
 
He was at Oakmont for a corporate function two months before the 2007 U.S. Open, sitting in an indoor practice facility as he talked about missing the cut a year earlier at Winged Foot. Woods agreed with the notion that perhaps more surprising than him missing the cut in a major was that it took 10 years for it to happen.
 
You figure youre going to have one bad week, he said.
 
It also was suggested that at some point, he would have the lead going into the final round of a major and not win.
 
He was 12-for-12 at that point.
 
I dont know, Woods said. His smile indicated that he never wanted to consider such a possibility, although reality returned moments later when he added, finishing his thought, If I keep putting myself in that position.
 
The moment arrived Sunday at Hazeltine in the PGA Championship when Y.E. Yang erased a two-shot deficit with pars, took the lead by chipping in for eagle and put Woods away with a birdie on the final hole for a three-shot victory.
 
So much for that perfect record on the last day at the majors, now 14-1.
 
That 14 out of 14, or whatever the numbers are, they are just staggering, Fred Couples said Tuesday. And when something happens, we make it like the world is going to come to an end.
 
The only thing that ended was an amazing decade in the major championships, which Woods dominated like no one before him.
 
  • His 12 majors in one decade were more than any player except Jack Nicklaus won in his entire career.
     
  • Woods won 32 percent of his majors ' 12-of-38 ' and finished no worse than third in half the majors he played.
     
  • He won the career Grand Slam three times over.
     
    Along the way, there was a defining moment at each of the four majors that illustrate his success.
     
    THE MASTERS: SPECTACULAR SHOTS: Crank up the highlights on Woods and it will start with his chip on the 16th green in the final round at Augusta National, the one that made a U-turn at the top of the hill, posed for the cameras at the edge of the cup, then dropped for birdie.
     
    That didnt give him a green jacket ' he bogeyed the next two holes and won in a playoff. Rather, it was a shot that captured the theater Woods so often provides. It was a great chip from the moment it left his club. Anyone else, and it might not take one last turn.
     
    Sure, there were other clutch moments, such as putts on the 18th green at Torrey Pines (U.S. Open) and Valhalla (PGA Championship).
     
    After watching on TV as his son hit a 6-iron out of a bunker, over the water and onto the green at the 2000 Canadian Open, Earl Woods said that night, In every tournament, hell hit shots that people will be talking about for 30 years.
     
    Not every tournament. But an awful lot of them.
     
    U.S. OPEN: DRIVE AND DOMINANCE: A putt that probably wont make any highlight was his 15-footer for par on the 16th hole at Pebble Beach in 2000.
     
    It was meaningless to everyone except Woods. He punched his fist when it fell, a strange reaction only because there were two holes to play and he was leading by 13 shots. He later said he was determined not to make bogey in the final round. Having blown away the field, that was the only challenge he had left.
     
    The putt was merely symbolic of the week, which remains his greatest feat.
     
    Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus talked about winning four majors in one year. Woods has even broached the idea of winning every tournament in a year. Who ever thought someone could win a U.S. Open by 15 shots?
     
    Tom Watson called it far and away the most sensational thing he had ever seen.
     
    BRITISH OPEN: FOCUS: Woods was in total control of his game at Royal Liverpool in 2006, plotting his way around the baked-out links with a superb display of irons. He only lost control when he tapped in for his two-shot victory, sobbing on the shoulder of his caddie, and then his wife.
     
    It was a poignant moment, his first victory since the death of his father.
     
    Even after establishing his dominance in golf, there were questions how he would respond to life changes ' marriage, children, losing parents, especially his father. Woods got married in October 2004 and won two majors the next year. His father died, and he followed with two majors. And after becoming a father for the first time, he closed out the year with a major.
     
    PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: LOSING: Woods stared solemnly at his golf ball as Yang celebrated his remarkable victory at Hazeltine. It was not the first time Woods played in the final group without winning, but the first time playing with the winner.
     
    Throughout the decade, losing only made Woods victories look even more impressive. There is a fine line between winning, and Woods always seems to wind up on the right side of it.
     
    Consider the putts he made at Valhalla, Augusta National, Torrey Pines, Southern Hills ' and the ones inside 10 feet he missed Sunday at Nos. 10, 13, 15 and 17. He got the wrong gust at the right time on the 17th. Instead of his approach on the 18th hopping right toward the hole, this time it went left into the rough.
     
    A bad day at the wrong time, Woods said.
     
    Which makes all those good days '12 majors this decade ' all the more astounding.
     
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    Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

    Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

    The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

    They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

    It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

    “I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

    The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.