Tigers Road to the Slam Isnt Easy

By George WhiteJune 18, 2002, 4:00 pm
By this time, or so the prevailing opinion goes, he should be able to flip a wedge out there and snare any old major. Any ol wedge, any ol driver or putter ' just as long as it belongs to Tiger Woods, it will guarantee you a major.
 
That is the popular mindset. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Major championships are built on tons of work. Woods is the best player to pull on spikes. But he is the best at least partially because he is the best worker. He is the best because he has a wonderful grind-it-out mentality, not because he overwhelms the opposition with natural talent. If he didnt have this mindset, he wouldnt be winning these soirees with such regularity.
 
He wins the Masters this year on a Sunday when everyone falls to pieces but him. Do you think there was a reason? He wins the U.S. Open with a gritty four-day gut-check, staying upright until the end to stave off Phil Mickelson. Others say the blokes were inferior that he beat back. The truth is that the course was brutally tough, the competition was hardened as well , but Tiger was just tougher.
 
He won one major by 15 shots, another by 12, yet another by eight. But the other four majors were won by a playoff (against Bob May), by a single stroke over Sergio Garcia, and the two afore-mentioned tooth-pullers this year. Tiger is winning, but it has been richly earned. Much more often than not, major championships have to be earned.
 
I dont think people actually understand how difficult this sport is, he says. And he is partly to blame because of those three laughers. But if he catches Nicklaus and wins 18, he will have to do it the old-fashioned way. Mickelson has gotten too good. Garcia has gotten too good. The young guys who are just now coming up are too good.
 
This sport is very difficult, Tiger said Sunday. And its very fickle. You can play well and you can lose. Thats the nature of this sport. You get some breaks that are bad, things just dont happen your way Ive played well and not won, the other guy hasnt played well and beaten me for some reason.
 
Just because Im playing well doesnt guarantee Im going to win a tournament.
 
Which is the long way of saying, it all aint that easy, folks. Tiger is winning majors at an incredible clip because he is the best golfer in the world. But he isnt light-years ahead. He will be the best golfer in the world, quite possibly the best the world has ever seen, for years to come. But the competition is far too good to let him just walk away with his majors.
 
The post-match questions showed how far from reality the perceptions are:
 
Are you amazed by the lack of serious opposition today, and how do you explain that?
 
TIGER: What were you watching? Phil played great.
 
Still, no one got to you.
 
TIGER: Theres only going to be one winner. But Phil played just an absolutely fantastic round of golf. He just made a couple of mistakes at the end You make one mistake here and there, youre paying a price. And Phil made a mistake at the end ' and so did I.
 
Cynics are probably jabbing each other in the ribs and snickering, but Woods is dead-on correct. This U.S. Open did not, contrary to popular opinion, come easily. He got the lead the first day and hung on like an angry pit bull, but you arent going to shake these guys until the final nine holes. Tiger appeared to be in control the entire way, but it never looked easy. He hung in there, and when it was over, he had a huge amount of intestinal fortitude and just enough swings. He had enough of both to pull off major No. 8.
 
Mickelson realizes the enormity of his task. He and his brethren must do whatever it is to make Tiger beatable. Reteif Goosen did it last year. So did David Duval. And David Toms. The task is still awesome, but maybe not quite as awesome for everyone else as it once seemed.
 
Its difficult to compete with a player of Tigers caliber, but Ive been able to do it the last year or two, said Mickelson. I have to raise that (his level of play), to win tournaments with Tiger in the field. Im starting to realize that, and Im continuing to work harder in all areas of my game.
 
Garcia realizes the awesome task each time a major comes around. But he realizes what he is seeing ' possibly the best player ever to swing a golf club.
 
I tell you one thing, it doesnt get much better this, said Garcia. Hes unbelievable, and hes just ' hes able to do whatever it takes. If hes leading by four or five, he doesnt pull too hard because he doesnt need to. If he needs to play a little harder, he does.
 
Still, Garcia realizes Woods is made up of flesh and bone, not metal and electrical circuits. Hes still human, Garcia said. As it has developed, hes just a very good human.
 
Nick Faldo chucked when he was asked about Tigers chances at Muirfield, the site in Scotland where the next major will be played. Hell struggle all the way, said Faldo, obviously enjoying the joke he had made.
 
Thats the toughest thing the guys have ' when Tiger has had enough, when hes decided he has made the records he wants to make but I have a sneaking feeling hes going to keep that inner strength for 10 more years, at least.
 
Who knows what the next 10 years will bring? Tiger may actually be No. 2 ' a far-fetched dream, but certainly possible. More likely, he will catch Nicklaus record of 18 majors in the next 10 years.
 
But it wont be nearly as easy as a lot of people think. His head is as strong as his hands, though, and together, those two will be too much for most of golfdom. It will be done. But it wont be done easily.
Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry