Woods voted top athlete of the decade
For 10 incomparable years, no one ruled a sport like Woods. He won 64 tournaments, including 12 major championships. He hoisted a trophy on every continent where golf is played. And those 56 titles in one decade on the PGA Tour? Consider that only four of golf’s greatest players won more in their entire careers.
Even as a shocking sex scandal changed the way people look at Woods, the records he set could not be ignored.
Woods was selected Wednesday as the Athlete of the Decade by members of The Associated Press in a vote that was more about his performance on the course than the self-described transgressions as a person.
“The only reason I wouldn’t vote for Tiger Woods is because of the events of the last three weeks,” said Mike Strain, sports editor of the Tulsa (Okla.) World. “And I didn’t think that was enough to change my vote. I thought he was a transcendent sports figure.”
He received 56 of the 142 votes cast since last month by editors at U.S. newspapers that are members of the AP. More than half the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.
Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who won the Tour de France six times this decade, finished second with 33 votes. He was followed by Roger Federer, who has won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man, with 25 votes.
Record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps came in fourth with 13 votes, followed by New England quarterback Tom Brady (6) and world-record sprinter Usain Bolt (4). Five other athletes received one vote apiece.
Woods, who has not been seen since the accident and has issued only statements on his Web site, was not made available to comment about the award.
Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton discussed the vote with his staff, which he said was torn among Woods, Armstrong and Federer. He voted for Woods in the early stages of the scandal.
“I’m not sure I would change my vote,” Shelton said. “I looked at him as an athlete, I really did. I separated him a little bit. If this had happened three years ago and his performance had dropped off, that’s a different factor.”
Allegations of rampant affairs starting come out just 10 days after Woods won the Australian Masters before record crowds for the 82nd worldwide victory of his career. He received a $3 million appearance fee in Australia, and the government estimated a return of $20 million from the number of fans Woods attracted.
Few other athletes changed their sport, from TV ratings to galleries to prize money.
A new image emerged quickly in the days following his middle-of-the-night accident, when he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree. He became the butt of late-night TV jokes, eventually confessed to infidelity and lost a major sponsorship from Accenture.
“Seems an unlikely time to vote for him, but he had more influence and impact on the complete decade, 2000 to 2009, than any of the other athletes,” said Paul Vigna, sports editor of The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News.
AP members found Woods’ work on the golf course over the last 10 years without much of a blemish. He took an early lead in the balloting, and continued to receive roughly the same percentage of votes throughout the process.
“Despite the tsunami of negative publicity that will likely tarnish his image, there’s no denying that Woods’ on-the-course accomplishments set a new standard of dominance within his sport while making golf more accessible to the masses,” wrote Stu Whitney, sports editor of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader. “The only proof needed are the television ratings when Tiger plays in a golf tournament, compared to those events when others have to carry the load.”
The fall was as spectacular as his rise.
Woods won the career Grand Slam three times over in the decade, the last of his 12 majors at the 2008 U.S. Open despite playing on a mangled left leg. He twice won the British Open at St. Andrews, the home of golf, by a combined 13 shots.
“It seems like everybody has jumped on the ‘slay Tiger’ bandwagon,” said Dan Lebowitz, executive director at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. “I understand the dynamics around that. But I’d also like people to recognize how great he operated under a microscope for a long period of time.”
Woods won more than one-third of all the tournaments he played this decade, an unprecedented rate in golf. Nine of his victories were by at least eight shots. He was No. 1 in the world ranking for all but 32 weeks in the decade.
He did his best work in the biggest events. Along with his 12 majors this decade – he has 14 overall, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus – Woods was runner-up in six other majors. He won 14 times out of 27 appearances in the World Golf Championships.
Woods finished the decade with $81,547,410 in earnings from his PGA Tour events, an average of $482,529 per tournament.
“No athlete dominated a particular sport the way Tiger Woods did this decade,” said Phil Kaplan, deputy sports editor at the Knoxille (Tenn.) News-Sentinel.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.