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.
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Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

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

RISING

Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



FALLING

Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.

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USGA, R&A detail World Handicap System

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

The USGA and the R&A released details Tuesday of a proposed new World Handicap System.

The WHS takes the six handicapping systems that exist worldwide and aligns them under a new single system.

The USGA and the R&A will govern the WHS with the six existing handicap authorities administering them locally. A two-year transition will begin to fully implement the new system in 2020.

The unified alignment is designed to make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap and to make the handicap more equitable among golfers of differing abilities and genders around the world.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis said the effort is designed to both simplify and unify the handicap system.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play,” he said.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the new handicap system should make the game more inviting.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” Slumbers said. “Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new WHS system aims to more accurately gauge the score a golfer is “reasonably capable of achieving” on any course around the world under normal conditions.

Key features of the WHS include:

*Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

*A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”

*A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.

*An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”

*A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.  

*Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.

*A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). 

*A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and the R&A devised the WHS after a review of the handicap systems currently administered by six authorities around the world: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA. Those authorities, plus the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada, collaborated in helping develop the new system.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.  

“While the six existing handicap systems have generally worked very well locally, on a global basis, their different characteristics have sometimes resulted in inconsistency, with players of the same ability ending up with slightly different handicaps,” the USGA and the R&A stated in a joint release. “This has sometimes resulted in unnecessary difficulties and challenges for golfers competing in handicap events or for tournament administrators. A single WHS will pave the way to consistency and portability.”

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 11:44 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Randall's Rant: Tiger no longer one with the chaos

By Randall MellFebruary 19, 2018, 9:49 pm

Back in the day, Tiger Woods appeared to relish riding atop the chaos, above the raucous waves of excitement that followed him wherever he went.

Like Kelly Slater surfing epic peaks at Banzai Pipeline ...

Like Chris Sharma dangling atop all the hazards on the cliff face of “The Impossible Climb” at Clark Mountain ...

Hell, like Chuck Yeager ahead of the sonic boom he created breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 over the Mojave Desert in 1947.

It was difficult to tell whether Woods was fueling the bedlam in his duel with Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship, or if it was fueling him.

Fans scampered in a frenzy you rarely see in golf to get the best look they could at his next shot at Valhalla in that playoff.

Same thing when Woods turned his 15-shot rout into a victory parade in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that same year.

And when Woods improbably chipped in at the 16th at Augusta National to shake every pine tree at the Masters before going on to defeat Chris DiMarco in a playoff in 2005.

Tiger brought a boisterous, turbulent new wave of excitement to the game, unrivaled since Arnie’s Army followed the legend in his heyday.

Woods attracted new fans who did not understand golf’s time-honored traditions. He lured them to the game’s most hallowed grounds. There were challenges with that, though they always seemed more daunting to Woods’ playing partners than to him.

At his best, Tiger seemed to be one with the chaos, able to turn its energy into his energy.

Every Tiger pairing in his prime turned wherever he was into a home game, turned every golf course into his stadium and transformed every opponent into the visiting team.

We heard how hard that was for the Bob Mays, Chris DiMarcos and even the Ernie Els of the world.



That’s what added to the intrigue of Tiger’s return to Riviera last week, and what will make this week at PGA National and the Honda Classic similarly interesting.

Tiger’s back.

Well, the overly exuberant frenzy only he can create is back, but his game isn’t. Not yet. And now we’re hearing how the bedlam is a challenge to more than his playing partners. It’s a challenge to his game, too.

“It cost me a lot of shots over the years,” Woods said at the Genesis Open. “It’s cost me a few tournaments here and there.

“I’ve dealt with it for a very long time.”

Huh? Did Tiger forget the advantage he had playing in a storm? Or are today’s storms different, more unruly, more destructive?

Did having total control of all facets of his game when he was at his best make the bedlam work for him?

Does the focus it requires to find his old magic today make the chaos work against him?

Jack Nicklaus used to say that when he heard players complaining about difficult conditions going into a major, he checked them off his list of competitive threats.

You wonder if Tiger did the same back in the day, when players talked about the challenges that surrounded a pairing with him.

Golf is different than other sports. That has to be acknowledged here.

When you hear mainstream sports fans wonder what is so wrong with a fan yelling in a player’s backswing, you know they don’t understand the game. A singular comment breaking the silence over a player’s shot in golf is like a fan sneaking onto the field in football and tripping a receiver racing up the sideline. It is game-changing chaos.

Is Tiger facing game-changing chaos now?

Or was Riviera’s noise something he just can’t harness in his current state of repair? Is there more pressure on him trying to come back in that environment?

If Rory McIlroy needed a “couple Advil” for the headache the mayhem at the Genesis Open caused him playing with Tiger last week, then May and DiMarco must have needed shots of Demerol.

Then all those guys who lost majors to Tiger in final-round pairings with him must have felt like they endured four-hour migraines.

“It got a little out of hand,” Justin Thomas said of his two days with Tiger at Riviera.

Maybe McIlroy and Thomas were dealing with something boisterously new, more Phoenix Open in its nausea than anything Tiger created when he broke golf out of a niche.

Whatever it is, Tiger’s challenge finding his best will be even more complicated if he’s no longer one with the chaos, if he can no longer turn its energy into his energy.

If that’s the case, he really may be just one of the guys this time around.