A Major Streak Comes into Play for Woods

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGAJack Nicklaus holds the record in major championships, one that might never be broken because it was established through decades of superior golf and a few good breaks. About the only player who has even a remote chance is Tiger Woods.
This record is about playing, not winning.
And while Woods is still more than 25 years away from matching Nicklaus' record of 146 consecutive starts in the majors, it's worth noting now because Woods has not played since the final round of the Masters six weeks ago. And it might be even longer before he returns to the PGA Tour as he grieves the death of his father and adjusts to life without him.
Conventional wisdom has been that Woods will play next week at the Memorial, where he has won three times.
'I think Tiger will probably play,' Nicklaus said over the weekend. 'If he doesn't play, that's certainly his choice.'
Nicklaus, the tournament host, was only guessing, which is all anyone can do.
Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG, is known in some quarters as 'Dr. No' for his propensity to turn down up to 100 requests a day, sometimes without even listening to them. These days, he might as well be called 'Dr. I Don't Know,' because he doesn't.
'At this point, it's undecided,' Steinberg said Tuesday morning.
The deadline to enter the Memorial is 5 p.m. Friday, and whether Woods decides to play probably will draw more attention than anything that happens at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
The assumption is that Woods will want to play at least once before the U.S. Open.
If he doesn't play in the Memorial, that will be nine weeks away from tournament golf before the U.S. Open, which would constitute the longest layoff of his career. There have been three times that Woods did not play a regular PGA Tour event before a major -- three weeks off between the British Open and PGA Championship in 1999, and four weeks off between the U.S. Open and British Open in 2002, when he missed the Western Open with the flu.
But that assumes he will play in the U.S. Open. And no one can say with certainty that he will.
It would be surprising if Woods skipped a major, but not shocking.
Not in this case.
Earl Woods died May 3 at home in Cypress, Calif., the same house where Tiger climbed out of a high chair, grabbed a golf club and imitated his father by hitting a ball into a net -- left-handed until Pops turned him around to the right side. Subsequent lessons on the golf course were more about father-son than father-prodigy.
Earl did not live vicariously through his son. His goal was for Tiger to take full control of his life, which he did.
But no one knows how a son mourns the loss of his father, how long it takes until he is ready to move on. Earl also left behind a wife of 32 years, and Tiger no doubt is still tending to his mother.
'We haven't had any indication that he's not going to play,' USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said Tuesday.
The U.S. Open ends on Father's Day, as usual, and what a tribute that would be. The last time a major was played at Winged Foot, Davis Love III won the PGA Championship, making a birdie on the final hole as a glorious rainbow stretched across the horizon and tears were shed in remembrance of his father, a PGA professional who died in a plane crash in 1988.
'Tiger is going to be in the same boat as me,' Love said Tuesday. 'Every time he goes to play golf, he'll think of his father. That's not going to change. It's going to be hard for a while, but it'll also be a positive for him down the road.'
Then again, Woods is fiercely private with his family and his emotions. Does he go to the U.S. Open where the Father's Day angle is played to the hilt? Does he go to Winged Foot, one of the toughest tests anywhere, having not prepared the way he was taught?
Nicklaus also was 30 when his father, Charlie, died of cancer on Feb. 19, 1970. He didn't play the two weeks before or after his father died, skipping Doral for the only time in his competitive career, returning at what is now the Bay Hill Invitational.
'I took it in a different way,' Nicklaus said. 'I felt like my dad wanted me to play golf. That's what he lived for, what I did. For me to crawl into a shell, I didn't think was the right thing to do.'
Nicklaus was at a different stage in his career. He was in the longest drought of his career in the majors, winless since the 1967 U.S. Open, a streak that stretched to 12 majors before winning at St. Andrews for the first time that summer. He broke Bobby Jones' record for most majors three years later at the PGA Championship, and ended his career with 18 professional majors.
That's the standard of greatness Woods now pursues.
To miss the U.S. Open would end any chance of Woods going after the other major record -- consecutive starts.
The record doesn't get much attention, but it might be the most underrated streak in sports. Nicklaus played every major from the 1962 Masters through the 1998 U.S. Open. He had to be great to win all four majors -- three of them come with exemptions through at least age 65, while the U.S. Open has a 10-year exemption. He needed some help -- the USGA gave him a record eight special exemptions. And he needed good health.
Love has the longest active streak at 63 consecutive starts, which likely will end in the next five years or so. Woods has a realistic chance only because he already has captured the career Grand Slam and because he started at age 21, one year earlier than Nicklaus.
That chance will be gone if Woods doesn't play the U.S. Open, although that's not what motivates him.
Woods will play when he's ready. And only he knows when that will be.
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

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


    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.

    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.

    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.

    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.