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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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.