A Legend Still Doing His Work

By George WhiteOctober 7, 2003, 4:00 pm
Hes played 93 tournaments in the last five years. And hes won 32 times in that stretch. For you math wizards, that figures out to just about a 1-in-3 win ratio over that clip. In other words, he tees it up three times, he wins once.
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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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm