A Legend Still Doing His Work
Tiger Woods ' thats all you need to say. Hes been a professional for seven years, a portion of an eighth. Sundays victory was his 39th overall. Sundays victory also marked the fifth consecutive year that he has won at least five times. In case youre wondering, no one has ever done that in the history of the game ' not Nicklaus, not Hogan, not Snead, not Watson, not Palmer.
This year hes already passed Lloyd Mangrum on the all-time win list. At 39, he has now tied two greats in Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen. His next win, No. 40, will match Cary Middlecoff. There will be only seven more names to strike off the all-time win list. Seven more ' and he is only 27!
Sam Sneads all-time record of 82 once loomed as safe, safe as DiMaggios 56-game hitting streak in baseball. Now, it doesnt look nearly as impregnable. Woods took just seven years to record 39. Thats almost half. That puts him 43 short of tying, 44 shy of breaking Sneads record.
Now, you wouldnt expect him to win 39 again in the next seven ' though its not totally far-fetched. But Tiger will be 34, 35 then ' still a relatively young man. He can expect to be a top performer until hes, say, 45. Eighty-two becomes eminently reachable now. Just roughly speaking, thats approximately 18 more years of top-level play. For arguments sake, say he averages four wins a year for just the next five years. He will be 32 then with 59 victories. He has to average just two victories a year from then until hes 45 to reach 82. And this is presupposing he wont win after 45 ' obviously a long stretch.
Think he can do it?
Of course he can. And Nicklaus record of 18 majors? That should be well within reach, too. Woods has eight now, and his failure to win one this year caused major tremors. Do you think he can win eight ' or nine ' in the next 15 years? I think so.
If something should happen to Woods tomorrow ' say he ruins his arm carrying his sack of hundred-dollar bills ' and he can never again play golf, where do you think history will place him? Will he be forgotten in 10 years? Will we overlook the records he has already compiled? Will he be swept away out of our consciousness, replaced by another young hotshot?
I hardly think so. He already has built something only a handful out of the thousands to play this game could muster. At the age of 27, he already is tied for ninth on the all-time win list. He already is tied for fifth on the majors list. He stands tied for second in the most consecutive wins, tied for fifth with the most wins in one year.
He owns the largest margin of victory in a major ' 15 at the 2000 U.S. Open. He is going to tie the record his next tournament for the most consecutive tournaments without missing a cut ' 113 is Byron Nelsons mark, Tiger has 112. He has won 30 of 32 times when had the lead going into the final round.
Oh ' did I mention the guys just 27?
Its now getting to the point where you have to consider him one of the finest to ever play the game ' in just seven years of competing. I was waiting for a period of time to pass before I elevated him to such lofty status, but I think this is the year I stop fidgeting. Tiger Woods has reached the level of great, and thats even if he has to quit playing before he tees up another ball.
Walter Hagen? Bobby Jones? Gene Sarazen? Byron Nelson? Hogan or Nicklaus, Palmer or Trevino or Watson? This young man is now on a par with any of them. Go shout that across the backyard fence to your neighbor. Thats how much he has done already.
Longevity is the only area in which he has not excelled. And that is the one area about which he can nothing. You cant hurry the clock. In, say, 10 years, that little prerequisite will be satisfied.
People of this generation are witnessing something that has never occurred before, not in the age of Old Tom Morris, not in the age of Hagen or Jones, not even in the age of Nicklaus. If Tiger Woods laid down the clubs tomorrow and walked away from golf, he already has carved out an enduring legacy. He is ' in a word ' great.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.