Tiger saga dwarfs plenty of 09 memories

By Doug FergusonDecember 23, 2009, 5:31 am

For some golf fans, Feb. 19 effectively marked the start of the season.

It wasn’t because Phil Mickelson finally got his game on track with a 63 at Riviera, rather it was the day Tiger Woods posted a statement on his Web site that filled golf with optimism it had been missing for eight months.

“I’m now ready to play again,” Woods said, announcing his return from knee surgery.

What followed were plenty of memories in 2009. The fairy tale that turned into a heartbreaker at Turnberry when 59-year-old Tom Watson failed to make par from the middle of the 18th fairway and lost the British Open in a playoff. Henrik Stenson making more news for stripping down to his skivvies than for winning The Players Championship. Michelle Wie winning more tournaments than Vijay Singh.

Too bad so few people will remember.

Because the year effectively ended Dec. 11 with another statement Woods posted on his Web site.

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf,” he said.

Mark those two dates as the alpha and omega of the 2009 season, and allow yourself to soak up some of the moments in between.

It wasn’t the best year in golf – it can’t be, not with as much focus on the runner-up as the winner.

Angel Cabrera won the Masters at the expense of Kenny Perry, at 48 trying to become the oldest major champion. Lucas Glover’s magnificent 8-iron to the 16th at Bethpage Black was overshadowed by Mickelson missing two short par putts. Stewart Cink denied the golf world one of its greatest stories by beating Watson in the playoff. And Y.E. Yang made more news for whom he beat (Woods) than what he won (the PGA Championship).

With a putt here and a chip there, the major champions could have just as easily been Chad Campbell, Ricky Barnes and Chris Wood.

Watson might have been the most celebrated runner-up in history, trumping Greg Norman’s collapse in the 1996 Masters. Even five months later, it all seems so impossible that a player past his prime even by Champions Tour standards could crouch over an 8-foot putt with a chance to put his name on the claret jug again, 34 years after it first was engraved.

A devastating loss? It apparently was for reporters, but not for the man.

“This ain’t a funeral, you know,” Watson said with that gap-tooth grin as he walked into the media center.

Mickelson also found perspective in defeat after another amazing tale that lacked only the happy ending. His world rocked by his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer, Mickelson again found himself on the cusp of an elusive U.S. Open title. The long birdie at the 12th. The eagle on the 13th. Bethpage already was flooded by a week of rain, and the tear ducts were starting to leak.

Then, he missed par putts from 3 feet and 8 feet over the final four holes, and made history as a runner-up for the fifth time.

“Now that’s over, I’ve got more important things going on. And … oh, well,” Mickelson said.

Perry showed golf is a game for the ages by winning twice and finishing No. 5 on the money list. The teenage infusion came from Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who cracked the top 10 in the world ranking by the end of the year, and from 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, the youngest player to win the money title on a recognized tour (Japan).

Woods showed again why he is measured by a different standard. Despite seven victories worldwide, the FedEx Cup, another PGA Tour money title, Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average and every award for player of the year, he had to explain why it was a great year without a major championship.

Instead, he won a different kind of Grand Slam – a victory in his final start before every major.

For all the grousing about the FedEx cup, it delivered the ultimate Cinderella in Heath Slocum, who qualified for the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, then won the opening event over Woods, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. The last three playoff events were won by the top three players in the world ranking – Woods, Mickelson and Stricker. So something is working.

Wie, meanwhile, might have the best of two worlds. She appears to be loving everything about college life at Stanford – something hardly any of her peers ever experienced – and she had a blast on the course, too, winning for the first time and playing a key role in the Americans’ victory in Solheim Cup.

Arnold Palmer turned 80, and while this doesn’t count as a present, it was announced a few weeks before his birthday that Jack Nicklaus would be joining him for the ceremonial tee shot at the Masters next year.

Golf was not without a scandal. The tour announced Doug Barron became the first player to test positive for a performance-enhancing substance. This didn’t make a lot of news because so many fans didn’t know who Doug Barron was.

And by the end of the year, there was only one scandal.

The way the last month has gone, there was really only one story.

It was Tiger Woods.

And it had nothing to do with his golf.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.