When Super Shots Are Not Enough
But he also displayed a considerable list of intangibles ' his sense of what was working and what was not, his refusal to let the rest of the field get too far away from him, his superior golf intellect. And, lets face it, that mental capacity won this one, played on a tough golf course against a superior opposition. That, and the x factor which goes into just about every victory ' luck.
Wins like this, he said, show what you have inside. Because you don't really have it physically, and you just somehow get yourself to execute a shot properly, somehow find something.
And that's not always easy. But I've done it before, and I've been successful, so I've kept drawing upon my experiences in the past and just trying to hang in there somehow.
Thats the reason why Tiger has 52 wins now in an age when 20 victories are considered a pretty good career. Lee Trevino only had 29, the same as Phil Mickelson does. Vijay Singh has 28. Johnny Miller had 25, Raymond Floyd 22, Lanny Wadkins 21, Hale Irwin 20. Tiger had 20 by the time he was 25 years old, 29 by the time he was 26.
Now, the temptation is always to just look at a players number of victories and judge him on those numbers alone. Im not about to do that ' is it fair to say Cary Middlecoff was twice the player Greg Norman was because Middlecoff had 40 wins to Normans 20? No, of course not. But Woods number of 52 is enough to say something. And 52 says to me that Tiger can beat you when hes playing well (of course), but also when hes got a putter, a brain, and not a whole lot else.
Tiger has now gone to the starting gate 212 times in his PGA TOUR career. And his 52 victories mean he has won at almost a one-in-four clip. Thats an astounding rate when you consider that he almost always plays events in which his competition is the best in the world. He has played almost every year in the Walt Disney tournament because that is only 10 miles from his house. But other than that one, Woods doesnt have any lesser events to fatten up on.
The WGC-Bridgestone rolled out the biggest guns in golf, just as the PGA Championship had the week before and the British Open had in July. Woods has beaten them all, everyone who showed up. He won the British by having an excellent game plan and sticking to it ' regardless. He won the Buick Open and the PGA because he was simply the most talented player in the field ' and he played like it.
But he won the Bridgestone simply because he refused to let anyone else elbow in on his territory. Stewart Cink? Jim Furyk? Paul Casey? Davis Love? Anybody? Nope, not this week, not at this tournament.
I was just trying to get it around somehow and keep myself in the ballgame, he said. Does that sound familiar? There are perhaps 10 of his wins that he has succeeded using similar methods. Ten times minimum when he wasnt swinging the best of anyone in the field ' but he scored the best.
Ive quit comparing the run this year to his out-of-this-world numbers of 1999 and 2000, simply because, while he may not be at the same level of ball-striking ability, hes achieved a new level of mental ability. Forget how well he has hit the ball ' in his best year of 2000, he averaged a phenomenal 67.79 per round. In 2006, hes averaging 68.55, less than one stroke per round difference.
All in all, very lucky, he said of No. 52. Maybe thats true. Maybe he should have been penalized for the shot in the second round which went over the clubhouse, maybe-this and maybe-that but the fact is, you are looking at the champion today who has taken advantage of everything that has been given to him ' and that is the way you string together victories.
Stewart Cink reiterated as much when he paid tribute to Woods after the playoff. Tiger wins when he hits awesome shots, he wins when someone else is hitting the awesome shots, he wins when he has the drive to win and little else.
He's always extremely professional, said Cink, a good guy to play with.
I love playing with Tiger, I love watching him play, I love being in his group on Sunday because it usually means you're right there in the hunt. I can't say enough good things about Tiger Woods. I've been playing with him since I was about 17, and I just relish another opportunity to go against him in another playoff sometime. I think it's the real pinnacle of where our sport is right now.
Email your thoughts to George White
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.