Nelson Says It - Woods the Greatest
Surprising, because Woods is only 26 years old, been a pro just five-plus seasons. Surprising, because Nelson has seen most of the great players of the 20th century ' Hagen, Sarazen, Jones, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino and Watson. Surprising, because some people would consider Nelson and his 11 straight wins in 1945 and his all-time string of 113 times in the money the greatest of all time.
I have seen Tiger play every year since he was 14, said Nelson. And Ive never seen a player at the age of Tiger ' when he was 14 or 16 or 20 or 22 or 26 ' who was as good as Tiger the age he was. Whether or not he is going to beat Nicklaus major record, I dont know and Im sure he doesnt know. But Ill tell you this ' hes working on it. He has a great desire to accomplish things, and I think hes doing a remarkable job of that.
Every era of players has been better than the last one. That doesnt mean that Nelson doesnt believe he couldnt play today ' I dont think Id go broke, he says. But a greater knowledge of golf, of basic anatomy, of the basics of kinetics, and of the increased size of todays players all play a part. And dont tell Byron its all in todays equipment, which Nelson concedes is a big improvement over the equipment he used. The players are simply better today, he says.
There isnt an era in history where the players who came later werent better than the players who came before, he says flatly. He cant see how anyone will be better than Tiger, but he concedes that the generation which follow might produce someone who might be.
Oldtimers will undoubtedly get their dander up when they read this, but Nelson says there isnt any question that Tiger is better than anyone in history. In fact, a man by the name of Davis Love III might be better than him.
I dont think theres been enough said about todays players having learned to hit the ball hard, he said. They hit the ball so much harder than we did. When I played, it was pretty widely acknowledged that a long hitter couldnt play golf. They couldnt chip and putt and hit the finesse shots. You try to tell that to the big hitters today.
I saw a story comparing my swing to Davis Loves. They discovered Davis backswing covered 17 more inches than mine did. That gives him more time to gather clubhead speed and hit the ball hard. Look at (Jeff) Sluman ' hes worked on his swing and hes picked up 18 yards. I realize the equipment has improved some, but it hasnt improved THAT much.
Actually, Nelson wasnt that far behind todays players. Woods finally broke his scoring record by just 0.13. But over the course of a year, Woods would come out on the plus side of anyone in history, Byron believes.
He does the best job (in history) of course management, of knowing what to do and in which circumstance, as anybody I ever saw, Nelson said. And there has never been enough said about his putting skills. He has days when he doesnt putt as well as others, of course. But he has gone 157 holes without three-putting a green at Augusta.
So that tells you theres a lot more involved than just the stroke. That means hes thinking. Hes reading the green right. If you arent reading the green right, you can have the greatest stroke in the world, but you are going to miss.
And another thing about Tiger ' he gets upset sometimes about a shot, but that is over with by the time he hits his next shot. You never see him thinking about the last shot when it comes time for him to play his next one.
The words were spoken from the mouth of one who has seen every great one, who is himself a great one - and yet there wasnt the slightest hesitation. Tiger Woods is the all time greatest.
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.