Woods can unofficially pass Snead with Masters win

By Jason SobelApril 7, 2013, 1:00 pm

If he wins the Masters this week, Tiger Woods will become the PGA Tour’s all-time victory leader.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it – even if the PGA Tour doesn’t agree.

According to the official record books, Woods’ total of 77 career wins places him five behind Sam Snead’s 82, but numbers alone don’t tell the entire story.

Buried among the cumbersome agate is this reality: Five of those titles for Slammin’ Sam occurred with a partner. That’s right – more than 6 percent of his “individual” wins weren’t individual wins at all. Count ’em up. There was the 1938 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball with Vic Ghezzi; the 1939 Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball with Ralph Guldahl; the 1940 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball with Guldahl; the 1950 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball with Jim Ferrier; and the 1952 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball with Ferrier.

Photos: Woods' career PGA Tour wins

If that sounds inconsistent, it should – especially when you consider that neither of Woods’ team victories in the World Cup, nor his Presidents Cup wins nor that lone Ryder Cup triumph nor even any of his eye-rolling success in the Tavistock Cup (hey, it’s a “recognized” event by the PGA Tour, just not an “official” one) are part of the overall tally. Hell, he doesn’t even get to count the four trophies from his eponymous World Challenge – and he didn’t have any partners helping with those.

So why does Snead get credit for his team victories while Woods doesn’t? Glad you asked.

Since the PGA of America – which was the governing body over all professional events prior to the PGA Tour – was formed in 1916, a total of 62 team events were contested and considered official through the 1981 season.

About 25 years ago, the PGA Tour commissioned a blue-ribbon panel – though debate looms as to whether it was more blue than ribboned – to examine which events would remain official and which would be stricken from the record.

“On some of these,” explains PGA Tour executive vice president of communications Ty Votaw, “there was no guiding, absolute standard that applied to these things, other than to say if it was an official event recognized by the PGA of America in their media guide or on their official schedule.”

Because the panel deemed these 62 team events to be official, Snead maintains a 5-up lead over Woods in the race to history.

Of course, it’s not only Snead whose partnered wins boosted his total. Jack Nicklaus counts two team titles among his 73. Arnold Palmer also has two among his 62. And Ben Hogan owns eight team victories among his 64 on the official ledger.

There are also, as to be expected, plenty of other gray areas surrounding Snead’s overall number. While the panel allowed his five team wins, it likewise removed eight other victories that it considered unofficial based on the specifications. His 1946 Open Championship wasn’t considered sanctioned until just over a decade ago. And one of his wins – the 1950 Bing Crosby Pro-Am – was concluded as a four-way tie for the title with three others.

“We’ve looked at it subsequent to that,” Votaw says of the panel’s examination, “and we feel pretty good about the 82 number.”

Even so, it’s a number which has come under more scrutiny in recent years, with Woods edging ever closer to Snead’s official record.

“We examine it all the time,” Votaw continues. “Every time Tiger has gone toward this, we’ve looked at them. There are some examples where reasonable minds could differ. There could be some debate.”

In fact, just last year a footnote in history was rewritten. Somehow the winners of the 1972 National Team Championship – the venerable Kermit Zarley and Babe Hiskey, as if you didn’t know – weren’t credited with an official victory, even though their predecessors in the same event were. And so the wrong was righted, with Kermit and Babe taking slow play to the next level, needing 40 years to win a PGA Tour event.

Maybe 40 years from now, archeological researchers will unearth a time capsule that includes DVDs – remember those old things? – showing Woods’ team victories. They’ll count up the World Cup and Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup and – commence eye-rolling – even the Tavistock Cup wins and adjust his total to a number that is even further out of reach for future generations.

Or maybe we won’t have to wait that long. Instead, maybe Snead’s five team titles will be deemed unofficial for the simple fact that golf at the professional level is an individual pursuit.

One of the beauties of the game is that the head-to-head, every-man-for-himself quality has withstood for centuries. There are no teammates in golf. There are no others – save for caddies -- on whom a player can rely for assistance. Obviously there is a place for team competitions, but that place doesn’t belong among the overall total of a player’s professional victories.

Keep that in mind as you watch Tiger Woods this week. A win would be the 78th of his career, giving him sole possession of the all-time PGA Tour individual victory total – even if the PGA Tour doesn’t recognize the accomplishment.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes