Hawk's Nest: Top 10 storylines of 2013

By John HawkinsOctober 21, 2013, 2:30 pm

With all due respect to November and December, the golf season is over. Ten months is two months too many – we need a World Golf Championship in China the way I need another chocolate-chip cookie. Not to sound gruff, but enough is enough.

On the main drag about a half-mile from my house, another giant financial institution is building another stadium-sized bank that looks rather snazzy, but nobody will actually come in and do business in it. A lot of people move their money on the Internet or through an ATM, so these Taj Mahals would seem to be an exercise in excess, although I’m sure some guy in a tie with a $2.7 million annual bonus would tell me otherwise.

Same thing goes for pro golf. Nothing can happen between now and the end of the year that will qualify for my Top 10 Storylines of 2013, so here it is. And if I’m wrong? No problem. I’ve got two months to redeem myself and a massive Citibank right up the street.

10. The fried-chicken fracas. It took forever, but the ill will between Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods finally ventured into full public view with a couple of messy incidents in May. Garcia blaming Woods for a bad shot he struck during the third round of The Players Championship was merely a childish reaction, almost comical in its absence of rationale.

His racially tinged comment regarding Woods two weeks later, however, was reckless and narrow-minded, rattling sensibilities in a game that can’t afford to strengthen its negative stereotypes. Neither Garcia’s intent, nor the proverbial apology, meant much here. You leave a loaded gun lying around long enough, somebody gets hurt.

9. Anchors away? More of a non-story than a headline hog, the anchored-putter ban drove countless conversations and fueled debates while not going anywhere at all. To be continued? You betcha, especially if talented young players keep winning major titles while employing a technique that will be illegal in two years.

The PGA Tour has insinuated that it will comply with the ban, but some very big questions remain open-ended. Lawsuits? Champions Tour survival? In a sense, this is a lengthy game of chicken in which everyone will hang their head out the window for a while.

8. Park Place. If Woods or any other male golfer won three consecutive majors, we’d be planning the ticker-tape parade. When Inbee Park did it in ’13, it was a case of the tree falling in the forest. Sadly, the women’s game has never fallen further from the mainstream radar, and if some have been quick to blame the Asian invasion for the LPGA’s lack of reach, perhaps the entire contingent of American players should hold a meeting. In front of a mirror.

7. Duf the Twitter Magnate. Or magnet, as golf’s social-media sensation-turned PGA champion proved to be after his inert pose in a Texas classroom launched a bizarre avalanche of attention. Personally, the whole Twitter thing turns my stomach, but my 10- and 13-year-old daughters know who Jason Dufner is, and it’s not because he hit 54 greens in regulation at Oak Hill.

Blame it on the stoner-like visage or his relative indifference to anything requiring emotion, but Dufner was as radar-friendly in ’13 as Park wasn’t. Nobody else gets famous for nearly falling asleep in front of a bunch of elementary-school kids. And if Duf wasn’t a really good player, it probably wouldn’t have lasted.

6. Antlergate. Vijay Singh’s admission of using a banned substance turned into a tangled pile of legal wires, then a lawsuit, forging an incredulous twist on a hall-of-fame career in which an unsavory past met up with a checkered present. Singh’s legacy has always formed an awkward partnership with public perception, and now, his accomplishments are framed in skepticism.

In the court of popularity, perhaps Singh had nothing to lose, but the PGA Tour did. Sometimes, the skeleton not only leaves the closet, it makes a spectacle of itself.

5. Majorless no more. Dufner was one of three top-tier players to win his first major title, but Adam Scott’s Masters victory was by far the most memorable. A sudden-death triumph over Angel Cabrera, with both guys performing so heroically down the stretch, instantly revised the style-vs.-substance quotient that had dogged Scott for years.

From handsome underachiever to first Masters champ from Australia, we’re talking about a pronounced career transformation in 2013. Scott proved consistently tough in golf’s biggest events and won again at The Barclays in late August. The sky was always the limit. There just aren’t as many dark clouds now.

4. Tiger rules. It’s easy to forget that his year began with a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop in Abu Dhabi. Two strokes were added after the hard-luck carom off the 15th flagstick at the Masters and ensuing illegal drop, two more after his ball was deemed to have moved at the BMW. For everything said about Eldrick Almighty over the span of his brilliant career, no one had ever questioned Woods’ on-course integrity.

Now some are, perhaps as much for Tiger’s unwillingness to man up to the violations as the infractions themselves. Forever allergic to admitting guilt, Woods’ resistance was bound to leave a mark at some point. In 2013, those moments arrived as a trio. Megaphone included.

3. McIlrotten. Oh, the theories. They began arriving in bundles back in February and never let up, many of them borrowing from each other and blurring the basic difference between fact and opinion. One truth was clear: Rory McIlroy wasn’t close to as good a golfer in 2013 as he’d been the year before. Or the year before that. You take it from there. The new clubs. The girlfriend. The fame. The fortune. All of the above? Look out, below.

The Irish Lad’s failures remind us that good golf is hard – and great golf allows very little room for childish nonsense. In the broadest of terms, his inability to win a tournament in ’13 can be traced to a lack of maturity and sound guidance. Good kids still do a lot of dumb things, but it’s nothing two weeks on a deserted island with a fishing pole and a friendly dog can’t fix.

2. Total clarety. It’s not just that Phil Mickelson won the British Open. He won the British Open right after messing up another U.S. Open. He won it after finding a phone booth somewhere on Muirfield’s back nine and changing into his Superman costume. He won it with guts and guile – even if it took forever and a while.

A fifth major title and 42nd career win overall only secured Philly Mick’s standing as one of the 15 greatest golfers ever, but this was a landmark triumph, an exclamation point on a dossier defined by its abundance of punctuation. His closing 66 was the performance of the year, a doubt-killing display of greatness in the clutch. Any questions? Didn’t think so.

1. The five-year itch. Yes, he won that 2008 U.S. Open on a battered leg, but everything since has jarred his once-unflappable competitive psyche, leaving Eldrick T. Youknowwho stuck in neutral 73.7 percent into the climb to the top of Mount Nicklaus. In 2013, each of the majors produced a slightly varied set of flaws. As for the big picture, Woods’ ability to get it done on the weekend isn’t what it once was – he hasn’t broken 70 on a Saturday or Sunday since the 2011 Masters.

Fair or not, greatness comes with its own set of expectations, and as Tiger approaches his 38th birthday, those expectations come with a burden that can’t be measured or held accountable on a shot-by-shot basis. Only Woods knows if the pressure has gotten to him, and he’s not about to tell us if it is. When you win 14 majors in 11 years, you’re the ultimate gamer who can make it look so easy. When you go five-plus years without winning one, you’re just trying too damn hard.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry