Tiger Puts His Imprint on Greatness

By George WhiteMarch 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
The words Shock and Awe were mentioned, and for a moment you assumed the subject was Tiger Woods. He shocked the golfing world by just showing up to play Sunday. And the awe well, what else can you possibly say about the way that gentleman played at Bay Hill Sunday?
 
It was mind-boggling watching the way he played, said Stewart Cink. But its been mind-boggling for several years now.
 
Woods is unbelievable. Slowly but surely he's making inroads, convincing even the oldtimers that no one was better - not Bobby Jones, not Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus. The Bay Hill win was noteworthy for several reasons, all of them suggesting that this guy is the best who ever took a swipe at a golf ball with a niblick.
 
He won Bay Hill for the fourth consecutive time, and thats only the third time in history that a tournament has been won four times in succession. The other two times were back in the 20s when competition was nowhere near what it is now. He won this one by 11 shots, and thats the best ever for this tournament ' breaking the record of nine set by Fred Couples back in 1992. And it was a difficult course - the second-place score of 280 was the third highest runner-up finish in the 25 years the tournament has been played at Bay Hill.
 
But to put it all in perspective, you need only take a look at those images on Sundays telecast. There was a grimacing Woods, surviving 18 holes of malady, and shooting a 68 to do it. Two 67s were the only better scores posted on the soggy course.
 
It used to be that many would stroke their chins thoughtfully and say, Sure, hes been good up to this point. But lets see how he stands the test of time. I, admittedly, was one of those.
 
Well, 37 wins in only eight seasons ' two of those seasons only a part of the whole ' say the time has come to junk that old reasoning. He played in only eight events in 96 and four in 2003, so those two combined are only half a season. So hes won 37 times in only 6 seasons. That doesnt even account for his six wins on other tours. Hey - hes stood the test of time.
 
The excuse also is that, unlike Nicklaus, he doesnt have an Arnold Palmer, a Lee Trevino, a Johnny Miller, a Tom Watson to horn in on his victories. Well, maybe if it werent for Woods, then Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh or David Duval would have equaled what Trevino, Miller or Watson did.
 
Hes missed one cut ' back in 97 when he missed at the Canadian Open by a stroke. The last six years, hes been perfect and the string has now reached 100 tournaments. The all-time record is 113, which Tiger would surpass this year. Nicklaus is second with 105.
 
Makes you want to go back and check the 97 Canadian. That was a couple of years before he revamped his swing. He shot 70 in the opening round but skied to 76 in the second. At the time no one thought much of it. But people who were there that Friday might be able to say one day that they were there when Tiger missed the only cut of his career.
 
We know already that he is long and straight. We know already that he has a marvelous short game. And in case we didnt know, one of the world's great putters is there to remind us that, yeah, the guy can roll it.
 
Thats maybe the most overlooked (thing), and I dont think its overrated, said Brad Faxon. Hes a great putter. He makes great putts all the time.
 
Hes entering that rarified air reserved for the greatest ever to play the game. Hes only 27 years old, but his 37 wins on the PGA Tour puts him within two of Gene Sarazen and Tom Watson. Ahead of him are only 10 fellows - Sam Snead has 82, Nicklaus 73, Hogan 64, Palmer 62, Byron Nelson 52, Billy Casper 51, Walter Hagen 44, Cary Middlecoff 40, in addition to Sarazen and Watson
 
Of course, no one has ever won this often before he was 30. Woods 37 leads Nicklaus by seven ' Jack had 30 by the time he turned 30. Snead had 10 fewer ' 27 ' by the time he reached 30. Woods just turned 27 at the end of 2002, so he has the better part of two years to put lots more wins on the board. He might well have 50 by the time he reaches 30 years of age.
 
After the age of 29, Snead won 57 times. Nicklaus won 43 times. Palmer won 42 times while in his 30s alone. Snead won 17 times after he was 40 years of age. Most players reach their peak in the 10 years between 30 and 40 ' Tiger has two more years to go before he reaches his best years.
 
Who wouldnt love to watch that swing? said Faxon. As hard as he hits it, he never looks like hes out of control. He swings beautifully. I dont know ' its inspiring to me.
 
Some people, of course, still maintain that Woods isnt the best to play the game. In a way, they are correct - the game has changed so dramatically. The game that Old Tom Morris played, that Hagen and Jones played, that Hogan and even Palmer and Nicklaus played, is strikingly different from the game that Woods plays.
 
But if you accept that a game played with the same implements is the same sport, then you cannot possibly disagree that this young man is the greatest in history. Hey, he was in so much pain that he almost cried throughout last season, yet he still won five times. This year he feels fine, and all he has done is win three times in four tries. The fourth time, at LA, he finished in a tie for fifth.
 
We are living in a very special time. After Woods hangs em up, the world may wait another 200 years before another one comes along. Enjoy it while its happening ' we will all be in the ground long before it happens again.
 
I look at the way he just gathers himself ' I think hes got his game pretty simple right now, Faxon says. He look like hes not trying very hard. He sees his shot, he gets over it. Hes very purposeful over the ball. His swing is great. Obviously, he can hit it far and he putts well.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.