Will Woods ever come from behind to win a major?

By Joe PosnanskiJuly 21, 2013, 11:32 pm

The biggest question in golf has been the same for a long time: Will Tiger Woods win 19 major championships, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record? That’s the question that has been asked ever since Woods came on the scene, especially after we learned that he used to keep a poster in his childhood bedroom with Nicklaus’ accomplishment in the same way that many kids keep growth charts in theirs.

The consensus answer to the question has changed many times through they years.

In 2005, when Woods won his ninth and 10th major championships (he was not even 30!) the answer was: Obviously, yes, he might win 25 or 30 majors.

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In 2008, when Woods won his 14th major on one leg (and at the still exultant age of 32), the answer was: Are you kidding? Of course he will break it.

In 2009, when Woods showed a few vulnerabilities (injuries, and losing a third-round lead at a major championship for the first time – and to Y.E. Yang, no less), the answer was: Sure, probably he will break it.

In 2010, when Woods was disgraced after his private life was splashed on tabloid covers for all to see, the answer was: Um, well, maybe.

And now? What’s the answer now? Woods hasn’t won any of the last 21 major championships. It’s a longer dry spell than Nicklaus ever had – even longer than the gap between Nicklaus’ PGA Championship victory in 1980 and his extraordinary Masters victory at the age of 46. I know there are still many people who think Woods will beat Nicklaus’ mark, but I don’t, I haven’t for a long time. And the odds are getting longer all the time.

In any case, there might be an even more interesting question to ask about Woods.

Will Tiger Woods ever come from behind to win a major championship on Sunday?

For a long time now, this shortfall has seemed to me a pretty big hole in Tiger Woods’ remarkable record. Yes, true, it might seem like nitpicking a masterpiece of a career, like saying that the lighting around the Mona Lisa is off. But Woods has always been playing for something bigger than money or victories. He has been trying for best ever.

Every single great player for the last 50 years – every last one of them – had a Sunday where they came off the pace and won. Nicklaus came from behind eight times on Sunday through the years. Yeah. Eight. He was 22 years old when he trailed Arnold Palmer by two shots at Oakmont, the U.S. Open, and he came back and won in a playoff. He was 46 when he went into Sunday at Augusta down four shots and in a seven-way tie for ninth place.

Arnold Palmer came from seven back at the 1960 U.S. Open in Cherry Hills and it is the summit of his extraordinary career.* Gary Player came back four times, his most thrilling being the 64 he shot on Sunday at the 1978 Masters to overcome a seven-shot deficit. Tom Watson twice came back from three back at the British Open. Nick Faldo won the 1989 Masters from five back and the 1996 Masters from six back (when Greg Norman collapsed). And so on.

*It is amazing to me that for Palmer – who is known for the Sunday charge – it is the only time in his career that he came back to win a major in the final round.

All of the great ones have come from behind to win. All of them have had a miraculous Sunday when they took  chances and pushed the limits and knocked down some flagsticks and made some crazy putts. In most cases, these are the rounds that are best remembered.

But Tiger Woods – the extraordinary Tiger Woods – has not yet done it.  Oh, sure, he’s had some astounding Sunday battles (like his playoff with Bob May at the PGA) and he has hit some legendary Sunday shots (like the chip-in at 16 at Augusta). But all of them have come when he had some measure of control. all 14 of his major championships have come from the 54-hole lead. This makes him the best closer in the history of sports (Mariano Rivera included).

But no Sunday comebacks? Not one? It seems impossible. But it’s true. I’ve heard people say he’s not the Sunday player he used to be. But even the young Tiger Woods never came back to win. He came close one time, in 2002, at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, when he entered Sunday down five and shot a brilliant 67 at the PGA Championship. He fell one shot short of Rich Beem, who had the day and tournament of his life. But Woods was pretty magical that day.

Since then? No. He has not come from behind and, for the most part, he has not even scared the leaders when he was not ONE of the leaders. A few examples:

• In 2003, he was four shots back at Augusta heading into the final round of the Masters. He blew up, shot 75, and fell off the leaderboard while Mike Weir shot 68 and won in a playoff (and Len Mattiace shot SIXTY-FIVE to get in that playoff).

• Same year, at the British Open at Royal St. George’s, he was two shots off the lead going into Sunday. He shot 71, even par, and Ben Curtis – who also went into the final day down two strokes – shot better and won.

• At the 2005 U.S. Open, Woods did charge a bit, but only after a bogey-bogey start doomed him, and he fell two shots short of Michael Campbell.

• At the 2006 Masters, he trailed Phil Mickelson by two entering Sunday, but could not keep a round going and he shot 70 and finished tied for third, three back.

• At the 2007 Masters, he went into Sunday down just one shot, and could only manage par as Zach Johnson (who went into Sunday down two shots) passed him and got the green jacket.

• At the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Woods trailed by two, shot 2 over par, and was passed by Angel Cabrera.

• At the 2010 Masters, he was four behind Lee Westwood going into the final round, and he shot a solid 69, but Phil Mickelson shot a breathtaking 67 and won.

There are more. You cannot really expect any golfer – even one as great as Tiger Woods – to be extraordinary on a specific Sunday. Golf isn’t like that. But over time, sure, you would think Woods would have won ONE of these tournaments, right? At some point, you would have to think he would go crazy on a Sunday, shoot 64 or something like that, come from way behind, steal a major championship from someone else. He seems too gifted, too determined, too daring, too amazing to never take a major championship Sunday and make it his own.

But it has not happened. Sunday at Muirfield seemed the time and place. Woods came into the final round trailing leader Lee Westwood by two shots. According to announcer Andy North, he made sure to warm up right next to Westwood – maybe just a little “I’m coming” message. And hey, Westwood has had his Sunday demons. Woods striped his opening drive right down the center. Yes, this seemed like his day.

And then … it just wasn’t. He three-putted the first green for a bogey. He bogeyed the fourth hole (as did just about everyone else). He bogeyed the sixth. It isn’t exactly that he was playing badly. He just wasn’t playing well. Nothing good was happening. He was cursing and muttering and hitting from the deep rough and leaving putts short (or, in the jargon of golf, “woefully short”).

For a while, he could not drop out of the tournament no matter how poorly he played. Nobody could grab hold. Leader Lee Westwood faltered. His playing partner Adam Scott rose and fell. Others like Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan would make guest appearances near the top of the leaderboard.

And Ian Poulter, who had Tweeted his intention to make things interesting though he went into the final round eight shots back, went on a crazy run, making eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie, and then just missing two more birdie putts before he cooled off.

And Woods? Nothing interesting. Nothing seemed to fire.

Of course, the Sunday hero turned out to be Mickelson, this time with an absurdly wonderful 66 that legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins called  “one of the greatest final rounds of a major on one of the most baffling courses I’ve ever seen.” Mickelson made a series of extreme putts under fiery pressure and he hit a long putt at 16, a bomb of second shot at 17, and an approach on 18 that were all right out of Penn and Teller’s magic act. It was Mickelson at his best. And it was at just the right time.

Tiger Woods’ greatness is beyond dispute. No one ever played golf as well as he did in the early 2000s and again in the mid-2000s. Heck, he has won four times this year and he has been in contention at all the majors – he’s still playing golf about as well as anyone, ever.

But, yes, I think the career is just slightly incomplete without at least one magical Sunday when he hits a bunch of spectacular shots and charges from behind and wins. Woods still thinks he has five more major championships in him, though he turns 38 in December. Maybe he does. Maybe he’s kidding himself. In either case, Sunday hurt. The day was there for him. He just needed some Sunday magic. And, again, the Sunday magic wasn’t there

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

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Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.