Time Ticking Down for Tiger

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- By all accounts but one, Tiger Woods has every reason to call this year a success.
 
Despite surgery on his left knee that caused him to miss five weeks and limited his PGA Tour events to a career-low 12 going into the PGA Championship, Woods has won four times, has four other top-5s, leads the money list and has the lowest scoring average.
 
'A heck of a year, all things considered,' Woods said.
 
Still, he won't consider it a great year without a major championship.
 
Not since he left the forest-lined fairways of Sahalee five years ago has Woods gone into an offseason without a major to his name. That's what he is up against at Oak Hill Country Club in the 85th PGA Championship, the fourth and final major known as 'Glory's Last Shot.'
 
It's his last shot at joining Walter Hagen as the only men to win a major in five straight seasons.
 
It's his last shot to stop all this talk about a majors slump.
 
It's his last shot to avoid spending the next seven months mulling over chances that got away from him at Augusta National and Royal St. George's.
 
'If you win a major championship, it's a great year, simple as that,' Woods said. 'Majors are so much better than anything else. It's like tennis -- you don't hear about any other events (but the Grand Slam). There are so many other events around the world that are big, but there are only four majors.'
 
Three of them already are taken.
 
Mike Weir of Canada won the Masters. Jim Furyk won the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. Ben Curtis, a 500-1 long shot who was No. 396 in the world ranking, pulled off a shocker at Royal St. George's to win the British Open.
 
Not since 1969 have all four majors gone to players who had never won a Grand Slam event -- George Archer (Masters), Orville Moody (U.S. Open), Tony Jacklin (British Open) and Raymond Floyd (PGA).
 
There's a good chance of that happening at the PGA. Twelve of its last 15 winners had never won a major.
 
Last year it was Rich Beem, the former car stereo salesman who played like he had nothing to lose, withstood four straight birdies by Woods down the stretch, and won the Wanamaker Trophy at Hazeltine.
 
Maybe that wasn't such an accident.
 
'You're looking at your Tiger Woods, your Phil Mickelsons, Davis Love, Ernie Els. There's still going to be 10 guys that really are at the top of the talent pool,' Furyk said. 'But there are more guys that have an opportunity to win now, and that's going to continue to happen.'
 
This year could shape up like 1969 for another reason -- that was the last time eight players had won at least twice on the PGA Tour going into the final major of the year.
 
That list includes Woods (4), Weir, Davis Love III and Kenny Perry (3), and Furyk, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and David Toms at two victories each.
 
The hottest player of the bunch is Perry, who has won three times and finished in the top 10 in his last seven tournaments, dating to Colonial in May. Perry has the unique distinction of winning in back-to-back weeks with the No. 1 player in the field -- Annika Sorenstam at Colonial, Woods at the Memorial.
 
Perry isn't sure why he's on the biggest roll of his career, but he gives some credit to Woods.
 
'He's definitely head and shoulders above most guys out here, so he's raised the bar and he's actually made me play better,' Perry said. 'I've watched what he's done. It's inspired me, and I've raised the level of my game.'
 
Furyk has a chance to join some exclusive company. The only other players to have won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year are Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
 
There is reason to believe Furyk can succeed again, and not just because he is coming off a two-stroke victory at the tree-lined Buick Open.
 
The East course at Oak Hill is a classic design that resembles a U.S. Open venue. The winding fairways are on average 23 yards wide, the rough is thick and mushy and the greens are among the quickest. The last time Oak Hill held a major was in 1980, when Nicklaus won his record-tying fifth PGA.
 
He finished at 6-under 274. No one else broke par.
 
Weather conditions tend to dictate whether any course plays easy or difficult, and just as difficult to forecast is a winner -- especially this year, especially at this major championship.
 
Oak Hill is not entirely unknown. Eleven players from the '95 Ryder Cup return, although not all of them have pleasant memories. Brad Faxon, Peter Jacobsen and Jay Haas all came to the 18th hole that day with a chance to earn valuable points, and all came up empty in a European victory.
 
Phil Mickelson went 3-0 at Oak Hill in the '95 matches, and he usually plays his best in the PGA Championship. No one is sure what to expect this year. The best player to have never won a major has not been in contention at any tournament since his forgotten third-place finish at the Masters.
 
Mickelson, out of the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time in six years, has not won in more than a year.
 
'I don't feel like there's pressure to get a win right away,' he said last month. 'I want to just start playing better, as opposed to worrying about the result.'
 
The PGA Championship also is the last chance for the Americans to earn a spot on the Presidents Cup team that will play in South Africa in November.
 
Jerry Kelly, Bob Estes, Charles Howell III, Fred Funk and Jeff Sluman are all on the bubble. None has ever played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. All would swim to South Africa for a chance to play.
 
The PGA also could go a long way toward determining who wins the PGA Tour player of the year, an award that Woods has won the last four seasons. He is locked in a good race with Weir, Furyk and Perry, and any number of players could join the fray by holding the Wanamaker Trophy at week's end.
 
That's not what is driving Woods. He simply doesn't want the year to end without a major on his mantel.
 
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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.'"


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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.