You Think Tiger 2000 Was Special Just Wait

By George WhiteNovember 9, 2004, 5:00 pm
We're still waiting. But then again, so is Tiger Woods. And he promises that you won't have to wait much longer.
Tiger says he is going to be a better golfer than he's ever been - including, by the way, 1999 and 2000. Of course, those were the years he combined for 17 victories ' eight in 99, nine the next year, winning all four majors in a row over a two-season period which ended in 2001. He was nothing short of unstoppable, and I dont have to tell you that.
He also had a different swing coach ' Butch Harmon. He learned Butchs swing very well, obviously. But this year he has a new coach, Hank Haney, and he believes he can become a better golfer. Jumpin Jehosephat - does he really think thats possible?
Woods just finished a season in which he won one only tournament, a match play event. He just completed the Tour Championship, in which he was brilliant in the middle two rounds, rather mediocre in the first and last.
Now, I dont want to say its impossible for Woods to get any better than he was in 99 and 2000. To be honest, I dont want to look stupid again - which I and just about everyone else would have done if Tiger had told us before those two unbelievable years when he was about to win the four majors in succession.
But surely he will pardon us if we seem a little skeptical. He was the best golfer the planet has ever seen when he was playing in 2000. And try as I might, I cant conceive of him being better next year. It's just human nature to be a doubter.
Trust me, he says, I've been down this road before, so it's nothing new. I'm starting to see some of the fruits now.'

Yes, hes done this before.. He won the Masters by 12 shots the first year he played it as a pro, in 97. Then he chucked it all, completely re-did the way he swung the club. And he went through a one-win season in 98 when he and Harmon were changing his swing.
If I had 153, he said he of the Tiger pre-98, I couldn't hit it 153 time and time again. I may hit it short or long of that. The whole idea is to hit the number you've got to hit.
Then Harmons instructions finally sunk in, and Woods went on the run where he undoubtedly, undeniably, was the best a lot of people joined me in believing he was the greatest player in history, despite the fact he was just 24 years old.
But that wasnt good enough for Tiger Woods. Who knows what he spotted that didnt please him? But apparently there was that one shot that he hit in August or some such that wasnt flush by Tiger standards. Golf by its very nature is a game of imperfection. But that is contrary to the Woods philosophy. That is the reason we find him today tinkering with a swing that we all thought was perfect.
I thought that I could become more consistent and play at a higher level more often, he says simply. Hes like a man who bowls a 300 game, but he has one toss that doesnt quite suit him. It may have looked perfect, but somehow it just didnt feel right.
Hmmmm OK. He must know that, not just the commoner such as myself, but a whole lot of tour pros are completely befuddled.
Now, Im through doubting Tiger Woods. But from here on in, it will have to be done completely blind to the world of golf. Hes onto something which has everyone else completely in the dark.
You have to be honest with yourself and you have to understand that there are risks to getting better, Woods says in explaining this one-win season. I've always taken risks to try and become a better golfer, and that's one of the things that's got me as far as I have.
Actually, hes been searching for answers for awhile now. It didnt become clear to him what he could do to improve until he started working with Haney in earnest. He said that he has been a Haney student for about a year and a half. But its only been the last half of the year, says Woods, that Haneys methods have really sunk in.
Tiger still cant understand why there are so many non-believers out here. But then, maybe he really doesnt understand how good he was. The year he won nine times, he finished second four other times. And he only played in 20. Three of his wins were majors to go with the Masters he won in 2001. His 68.17 scoring average was the greatest in history. He won six tournaments in a row.
Any one of these would be lifetime accomplishment. But Tiger Woods did it all in one year.
But - Im a believer. Next year may be the year when he is going to win 10. He is going to win all four majors in one year. He is going to average 68-flat. He is going to have a better year than 2000. If it isnt next year, then look out in 2006.
Maybe its realistic ' Woods certainly believes it. They say he doesnt even reach his physical peak until he is in his 30s, and he hasnt even reached 29 yet. But, oh my goodness, he is going to have those two exceptional years to live down. And he has a bunch of good ones after that.
But he says he is going to be better, and though I dont know how that is possible, I ceased the doubting routine long ago. He obviously doesnt want to take a step back when he is on the verge of hitting his peak physical years. All I can say is, I wonder what can possibly be better?
But better he says it will be, and for that, there is nothing we can do but buckle our seat belts. Be ready to be awed.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

Getty Images

Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

Getty Images

13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

Getty Images

McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.