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.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”