Woods finally got magic number 18 ... sort of

By Jason SobelAugust 5, 2013, 1:02 am

AKRON, Ohio – He finally did it. What once seemed like an inevitable journey had stalled in recent years, but came to fruition here at Firestone Country Club on an historic Sunday afternoon.

Tiger Woods won No. 18.

That’s right – Woods now has 18 career World Golf Championships titles.

OK, fine. So it’s not “the” 18. It’s not the magic number he’s spent a lifetime chasing and the rest of us have seemingly spent a lifetime debating.

Despite his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn’s post-round tweet saying, “So proud!!!! #79 #GOAT” there are plenty of observers who believe that as long as Woods still hasn’t passed Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship titles, he won’t hold the title of Greatest Of All Time.

And for good reason.

The opinion is inarguable considering even Woods places himself on that side of the debate. It’s exactly why he wants so desperately to break the record. So that he can be considered the greatest. It’s impossible to argue in favor of a guy who doesn’t argue in favor of himself.

Winning the most majors should come affixed with the title of Greatest Of All Time. It makes sense. The player who wins the most at the ones that mean the most deserves to hold that honor.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other superlatives which should belong to Tiger.

He is the Most Commanding Of All Time. Tiger’s record when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead at a major is the stuff of legend. He is 14 for 15, the only misstep coming at the 2009 PGA Championship.

The rest of his closing numbers easily resemble those. Woods is now 53 for 57 in that position on the PGA Tour; he is 42 for 44 when holding the outright 54-hole lead.

Such numbers aren’t available for legends of previous generations, but know this: They weren’t close to what Woods has compiled.

This week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational proved it yet again. Woods posted a second-round 61 to claim a seven-shot lead entering the weekend. He still led by seven after the third round and won by seven when it was all over.

That’s prevent defense at its best.

“I thought that if I just handled my business and just made a bunch of pars and sprinkled in a few birdies here and there, I had an opportunity [to] not drop any shots,” he said of the final-round 70 that served as a veritable snoozer. “The only shot I dropped was when I three-putted; I blew a putt past and missed it. But overall it was a solid day. I played well and played conservative but also played very aggressive to my spots.”

No other player in history has alternately been able to step on the gas pedal and then slam on the brakes.

He is the Most Consistent Of All Time. No, not in the sense of a guy who casually hits every fairway and green. And not in the way that he claims top-10 finishes every week.

We’re talking big picture here. Woods’ consistency comes in his victories – both how many and how frequently.

His win on Sunday was his fifth this season. It marks the 10th time in his career that he’s won as many in a single year, two more than anyone else in the history of the game.

“I don't know what that total is, eight or nine,” he guessed. “Ten? That's even better. That's something I'm very proud of is how many tournaments I've been able to win consistently, year in and year out.”

He is the Most Dominant Of All Time. In case you think your eyes may have deceived you these past two decades, there are some eye-popping statistics to point this out.

My personal favorite? Woods now owns 79 career PGA Tour titles at the age of 37 years, seven months. He remains three behind Sam Snead for the all-time mark, but Slammin’ Sam didn’t capture his 79th until he was 47 years, 10 months.

That means Tiger could go winless from now until October 2023 – and he’d still be on a record-setting pace.

Here’s another one: Granted, the WGC events don’t hold the weightiness of majors. But they do feature a collection of the world’s best players a few times each year.

Woods’ 18 victories are more than every other player in the current top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Combined. Put ‘em all together and Nos. 2 through 50 have a total of 17.

The 18 that Woods claimed on Sunday shouldn’t compare with the 18 he’s spent an entire career trying to reach. Not even close.

His latest win, though, should remind us that even though Woods hasn’t claimed the title of Greatest Of All Time, he still owns some pretty lofty superlatives when it comes to the history of the game.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.