Finally A Player of the Year Race
What he doesn't have is a lock on player of the year.
For the first time in four years, golf heads into the stretch run with the Jack Nicklaus Award -- best on tour as voted by the players -- up for grabs.
Woods has everything in his corner except a major, and the PGA Championship next month at Oak Hill is his last chance to win a Grand Slam event for the fifth straight year.
If he doesn't, it will be interesting to see how the players vote.
Greg Norman in 1995 is the last guy to be voted PGA Tour player of the year without having won a major that season.
David Duval won the most tournaments (four), the money title and had the lowest scoring average in 1998, but players gave the award that year to Mark O'Meara, whose only two victories were the Masters and British Open.
If Mike Weir (Masters), Jim Furyk (U.S. Open) or Ben Curtis (British Open) win at Oak Hill, that would make them the leading candidate. If Woods wins, he likely will be the favorite because of his four other PGA Tour victories and otherwise dominance.
And if it's someone else, the race could go down to the wire.
Curtis Strange returned to England for the first time since the Ryder Cup, working the British Open as a television analyst for ABC Sports.
Strange, captain of the U.S. team that was beaten by Europe, drove his cart along the back nine Saturday at Royal St. George's and was stopped for autographs and radio interviews at every turn.
'A few of them called me captain,' Strange said. 'I think they know me now. They're very nice people. They're the same today as they were back then.'
While Annika Sorenstam decides whether to accept an invitation to play in the Skins Game, the rest of the four-man field is starting to take shape.
Mark O'Meara gets one spot as the defending champion. The invitations don't go out until next month at the earliest, but organizers plan to offer the other two spots to Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Sorenstam, who became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour, has said she will not play in another tour event.
However, Sorenstam said two weeks ago she is considering a special event like the Skins Game, the original silly-season tournament. Her appearance would boost ticket sales and TV ratings with Tiger Woods taking this year off.
The only hang-up for Love is that the Skins Game is held over Thanksgiving weekend. He will be in South Africa the previous week for the Presidents Cup.
RIGHT CLUBS, WRONG PLACE
Bob Estes made his first bogey at the British Open before he even set foot on Royal St. George's.
He has been using cavity-back clubs with U-shape grooves. That's perfect for getting the ball in the air with a lot of spin -- and just what he didn't need for a windy course.
'I should have been smart enough to know to bring my blades over here,' Estes said after closing with a 69 to finish at 9-over 293. 'I was in trouble from the start.'
Gary Wolstenholme, best known for beating Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup, has won amateur championships in seven countries and is a lock to make his fifth straight Walker Cup team for Britain and Ireland.
But playing in the British Open for only the second time makes him wonder how life would have been different if he turned pro.
'When I saw Ernie Els going out of the course in his brand new Mercedes, I thought I'd love to be able to afford that car,' the 42-year-old Englishman said. 'I have a Saab.'
Wolstenholme works as a marketing manager at a golf club, and said he might consider turning pro when he is eligible for the senior tour.
Now, his biggest goal is to set the record for most points in a Walker Cup. He is three points behind Sir Michael Bonnallack. Britain & Ireland defend the cup Sept. 6-7 at Ganton Golf Club in England.
Wolstenholme doesn't reflect on his victory over Woods, saying only that 'it was on television, and that was good for me.'
In fact, he says he hasn't even seen Woods since that match.
'I would love to have a drink with him and see what his life is like,' Wolstenholme said. 'But I doubt if that will ever happen.'
In case Wolstenholme has been out of the loop, Woods is doing just fine as a pro.
The Royal & Ancient plans to review its procedures to avoid another freak incident in which Mark Roe and Jesper Parnevik were disqualified from the British Open for failing to swap scorecards.
Roe had a 67 and was at 1-over 214. He would have been two shots off the lead and paired with Tiger Woods in the final round. Instead, he put Parnevik's score of 81 on his card, while Parnevik put Roe's score on his card.
'We'd be crazy not to review our procedures thoroughly because incidents of this kind are very undesirable,' Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson said Monday, wrapping up a weird week at Royal St. George's.
'The rules of golf, however, are unlikely to be adjusted because of this incident,' he said. 'People are responsible for their own score, and if you try to write a rule about that, then you cannot actually write one which says it just applies to people who are on television.'
In Kenny Perry's first 240 starts on the PGA Tour, he won $2,771,771. In his last five starts, he has won $2,926,750. ... Of the five players who finished in the top 10 at the Masters and U.S. Open, only two made the cut in the British Open. Ernie Els tied for 18th, while Mike Weir tied for 28th. ... The Royal Bank of Scotland is a longtime sponsor of the British Open. Perhaps it was more than just coincidence that Luke Donald, who recently signed an endorsement deal with RBS, wound up in the same group with Tiger Woods the first two days at Royal St. George's.
STAT OF THE WEEK
For the first time since 1999, Tiger Woods has played each of the first three majors over par. He won the PGA that year at 11-under 277.
'I didn't know if he was an American or not.' -- Fred Couples, on Ben Curtis winning the British Open.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x