Woods rule over Pebble Beach overstated

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2010, 12:39 am
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Two years ago on a course along the Pacific, the U.S. Open winner was never really in doubt.

And that was four months before the U.S. Open was played.

Tiger Woods opened the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines with a 67 on the South Course, prompting a caddie watching from behind the 18th green to declare, “He just won two tournaments with one round.”

Sure enough, Woods went on to an eight-shot victory that week, his fourth straight at Torrey Pines and sixth overall, not including a Junior World Championship title. And when the U.S. Open rolled around that summer, Woods won again, even on a shattered left knee.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods won twice at Pebble Beach in 2000. (Getty Images)
No one will make such a prediction this week at Pebble Beach, mainly because Woods isn’t here.

Nor should they even if he were.

His 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open remains the most dominant performance in major championship history. Woods became the first player to finish the toughest test in golf at double digits under par (12 under), and no one else managed to break par. That’s why this year’s rotation of the majors – Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews – looks so appealing.

But the mistake is putting more emphasis on the golf course than the golfer.

Jack Nicklaus is among those who are overstating how much of a personal playground Pebble Beach is for Woods. He was asked last month about Woods’ return from a sex scandal, and how it would affect his pursuit of Nicklaus’ 18 majors.

“This year with where the majors are … he basically owns all three places,” Nicklaus said. “If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard.”

Most everyone agreed.

He has won half of his 14 majors at Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, just as Nicklaus won half of his 18 majors on those three courses.

Woods has been the favorite at the Masters since his record 12-shot victory in 1997 and the three green jackets he added over the next eight years – although it’s worth noting that Phil Mickelson has nearly the same record at Augusta National since the last of the significant course changes for the ’02 Masters.

St. Andrews? Woods might as well have his mail delivered to the home of golf. He has won twice on the Old Course by a combined 13 shots, and another victory would make him the only player to win the British Open three times at St. Andrews.

Pebble Beach deserves closer inspection.

It only appears that Woods owns America’s most famous seaside course because of one magical season 10 years ago.

When he won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, despite trailing by seven shots with seven holes to play, it was his sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory. Then came a performance close to perfection. He played bogey-free over the final 26 holes and set U.S. Open records for largest margin after 36, 54 and 72 holes.

But what if that U.S. Open had been played at Winged Foot instead of Pebble Beach?

The way Woods was hitting the ball and making every putt in sight, he probably would have won by at least 10 shots, maybe more. Ditto if it had been held at Shinnecock Hills or Southern Hills, Olympia Fields or Olympic Club.

True, he also won at Pebble during the regular PGA Tour stop in February, just as Nicklaus won Pebble twice in one year in 1972. But that victory was made possible by a hole that got in the way of a good shot (Woods holed out for eagle on the 15th), and Matt Gogel shooting a 40 on the back nine as he tried for his first PGA Tour victory.

Woods had only one other top-10 at Pebble Beach, finishing in a tie for second behind Mark O’Meara in 1997. When he was still working on his first big swing change, Woods shot 40 on the back nine and barely made the cut in 1999.

Nicklaus’ relationship with Pebble was far stronger. He was a three-time winner of the PGA Tour event, won the 1972 U.S. Open with that majestic 1-iron off the pin at the 17th, finished runner-up in the 1982 U.S. Open to Tom Watson and his famous chip-in on the 17th, and won his second U.S. Amateur title in 1961 with an 8-and-6 victory.

To be considered a favorite for this U.S. Open, Woods first has to play.

His indefinite break after confessing to infidelity began Dec. 11, and there is no indication when he might return. Even if he does get back to golf, no one is certain how much the public ridicule will affect him.

Pebble Beach is among his favorite courses, but it does not belong – at least not yet – in the same “horses for courses” conversation as Torrey Pines and Firestone, where he has won seven times each and has never finished out of the top 10. It’s not even as good as Medinah, where Woods has twice won the PGA Championship.

Remember, Bethpage Black was supposed to right up his alley at the U.S. Open last year because of his three-shot victory in 2002. One tournament is hardly much history, however, and Woods tied for sixth last year when he couldn’t make a putt, his theme for ’09 majors.

Chalk up Pebble Beach as a coincidence.

For now.


Getty Images

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?

Getty Images

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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

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.