Tiger's famous Phoenix ace a very rare feat

By Jason SobelJanuary 28, 2015, 6:30 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When Tiger Woods recently tweeted his announcement that he’d be returning to the Waste Management Phoenix Open following a 14-year absence, he included a YouTube video. Those with a keen sense of history didn’t even need to click the link.

The enduring clip shows a scrawny 21-year-old with an oversized shirt and overwhelming swing. He launches the ball high into the desert sky, and then watches as it takes two hops and bounces into the cup. And then … anarchy. Woods high-fives his caddie and raises the roof. The surrounding fans raise their beverages and launch them nearly as high as the tee shot. All around the tee box, it rains barley and hops.

“Just smelling and hearing the beer hit behind me,” Woods recalled this week. “Turn around and see all this beer flying was crazy. … You see all these beer cups everywhere on the tee box.”

It’s a memorable piece of video because of the outlandish, unconventional, spontaneous reaction. But it’s also so indelible because it represents one of the very few times that two of the game’s most popular phenomena have been intertwined.

Video: Tiger's hole-in-one at the 1997 Phoenix Open

Try this little experiment: Ask your favorite non-golfer – your great-grandmother, your toddler, your friendly neighborhood space alien – to name someone who plays the game for a living. Chances are, the answer will be: ‘Tiger Woods.’ Now ask that same non-golfer to name one type of golf shot. Chances are, the answer will be: ‘hole-in-one.’ Those who can’t tell an albatross from a triple bogey still understand the concept of an ace. It transcends golf.

And yet, when it comes to Woods making holes-in-one, the list is strikingly barren.

Though he confirms that he’s made 19 total aces in his life – the last coming four years ago at Isleworth – Woods only has three in his PGA Tour career.

There was one at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open in his professional debut. And the one here at TPC Scottsdale the next year that elicited the beer shower. And one more the year after that, a slam dunk at the Sprint International that never found its way onto television.

(“TV crews here have to take a mandatory union break, and it was on No. 7 at Castle Pines,” Woods remembered. “I hooped it. They showed me on the sixth green, take the union break. I hoop it on 7. They catch me up on the eighth fairway, par-5 up the hill. So that was probably one of the more funny ones, because it went in the hole on the fly and tore up the cup.”)

Since then? Nothing. Nada. A big, fat hole-in-none.

If you think Woods’ major championship slump is lengthy, consider his hole-in-one drought. It’s been 17 years since his last one in competition.

That’s 3,733 par-3 holes in PGA Tour events without a 1 on his scorecard.

Not that he’s keeping track.

Video: Tiger's ace in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open (scroll to :55 mark)

When Woods was questioned about his lack of aces in tournament rounds, he paused for a second before realizing, “I haven't had a hole-in-one, you're right, in competition in a long time.”

Overall, he’s posted his three aces in 4,583 par-3 holes on Tour, a percentage of.065 which sounds uncommonly low until we examine a few of his contemporaries.

Phil Mickelson owns five aces in 7,281 par-3s (.069 percent); Jim Furyk has five in 7,518 opportunities (.067); and Ernie Els, like Woods, has just three in 5,430 chances (.055). Want more? Rory McIlroy recently carded his first hole-in-one on the European Tour, but is still 0-for-1,192 in PGA Tour-sanctioned events.

And then there’s this: According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, the odds of a professional golfer making an ace are 2,500-to-1. Which means that Woods can play nearly 3,000 more par-3 holes in competition before falling off this pace.

That shouldn’t come as welcomed information for anyone anticipating a repeat of history this week, as Woods will revisit the famed 16th hole for the first time since 2001.

Neither should this: The tournament moved to this course more than a quarter-century ago, but there have been just eight holes-in-one at No. 16. Of course, the most famous remains that indelible moment produced by a 21-year-old Woods that has endured in a video clip ever since.

Even he knows, though, that an unlikely ace from the very same spot would produce a much different reaction this time around.

“Back in '97, they didn't have the bleachers like they did around the tee box,” he explained. “It was a hill and people were partying. I don't know if they still serve the alcohol like they used to. The guys who were playing behind me, they had some pretty wet lies. It was a different ballgame back then.”

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.