Woods aura still strong outside the ropes
A large photo of Woods, dressed in black shorts and a red Stanford cap, was splashed across the front of The Melbourne Age on Tuesday morning. Imagine what it was like when he actually put a golf club in his hand. Even Woods was alarmed to see an estimated 7,000 fans covering every inch of space available at Kingston Heath to see his first appearance Down Under in 11 years.
Not long after he played nine holes with Craig Parry, the course was virtually empty.
“Nothing more to see for the day,” one fan said as he headed for the exit.
Combine that with a week in camera-happy China, where caddie Steve Williams set the golf bag down to use the restroom, and it was surrounded within seconds by some 50 fans. Just more evidence that Woods’ aura is larger than ever.
At least outside the ropes.
His mystique on the golf course has been a different story over the last three months.
It’s always best to look at the big picture with Woods, and that continues to illustrate his dominance in the game. Eight months after reconstructive knee surgery, unsure how his left leg would respond to practice and play, Woods won six times on the PGA Tour and finished out of the top 10 only three times in 18 tournaments. Even without winning a major, he considers 2009 a success.
The latest snapshot, however, is worthy of attention.
Woods, the best closer in golf, had gone five years without losing a PGA Tour event when he was atop the leaderboard through 36 holes. He has lost his last two tournaments from that spot, both times watching Phil Mickelson pose with the trophy.
The last four times Woods has played in the final group, he has won only one time – the BMW Championship outside Chicago, where he went into the final round with a seven-shot lead.
The latest mishap was the HSBC Champions, and while it’s no shame to spot Mickelson a two-shot lead and fail to win, it was the manner in which Woods so quickly became an also-ran.
With a chance to cut the lead to one shot on the second hole, he missed a 4-foot birdie. With Mickelson safely on the green about 18 feet from the cup on the par-3 fourth, Woods pulled his tee shot into the water and made double bogey. Two holes later, Woods was just about 30 feet from the flag and just inside Nick Watney, giving him a good read on the putt. Instead, he ran it 10 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey.
If not for a 10-foot birdie on the ninth, he would have gone out in 40. Such a score is not unusual with Woods in the final group. It’s just that it usually belongs to another player.
“Just one of those days,” Woods said.
They happen to everyone. They used to happen less frequently to him.
Woods was in the final group of the Tour Championship, two shots behind Kenny Perry, but didn’t have a one-putt birdie until the 16th hole, and by then it effectively was too late to catch up to Mickelson.
It dates to the final round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, where Woods built a four-shot lead going into the weekend, still had a two-shot lead against unheralded Y.E. Yang, and lost for the first time in a major when leading going into the final round.
Woods has won four of the last 12 majors – that’s more than any of his peers have won in their careers. He also has finished runner-up in four of the last 12 majors, this after finishing second only twice in the previous 40 majors.
“You’re not going to win them all,” Woods said Tuesday, noting that Jack Nicklaus was runner-up a record 19 times. “The whole idea is to give yourself a chance in each and every one. I did that three of the four – I gave myself a chance. And unfortunately, just didn’t get it done. You learn from it.”
Even so, his missed chances in regular tournaments – The Barclays, Tour Championship, HSBC Champions – raises the question of whether Yang’s victory at Hazeltine chipped away at Woods’ mystique.
Remember, Woods had lost only one tournament in his career when leading by more than one shot going into the final round, and that was nine years ago in Germany against Lee Westwood. It had never happened in a major, the tournaments that mean the most to Woods.
“He’s normal. He was always going to do that,” Geoff Ogilvy said earlier this year. “I don’t think everybody is going to stand on the tee and say, ‘He’s going to give me a chance.”’
Ogilvy, however, said something could be taken away from Yang’s victory.
“The best thing about it is that the media will stop giving Tiger the tournament after 36 holes,” he said.
Maybe not. But the show still starts with Woods, whose appearance in Melbourne has made his $3 million appearance fee – half of that paid by the government – a non-issue among the Australian media.
The tournament has been a sellout for months, with tickets capped at 100,000 for the week. John Brumby, the Victoria premier, sat with Woods in a press conference Tuesday and said more than 35 percent of the tickets were sold to people either out of state or overseas. He said the economic return would be at least $19 million.
That part of Woods’ appeal hasn’t changed.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
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?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
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
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.
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.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.