Masters You Take Tiger Ill Take the Field

By Kraig KannApril 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
As I bang away on this keyboard, Tiger Woods is most likely on the back of the range just down the road from me at Isleworth Country Club. Hes tweaking, tuning and giving himself a talking to. Hes also probably punished his body with a five-mile run this morning while I was reading the paper over a bowl of cereal.
 
As long as he doesnt go out and shoot one of those pre-Masters Tournament 59s Ill feel safe in taking the field next week against the worlds No 1.
 
Now, before I continue, lets get one thing straight. Woods IS the worlds No. 1. Hes the most talented player, the best player, the smartest player and the most determined player.
 
Having said that, I just dont see how you can pick him to win when all signs point toward something not being right with his game and his frame (of mind). If he were to win come next Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, the legend would add another amazing chapter and the storyline would carry straight to Shinecock Hills. It could very well happen (Im not dumb enough to suggest that the possibility doesnt exist.)
 
But as Ive thought about this, Ive conjured up thoughts about some dream scenarios that would make Sunday special without Woods throwing on another green jacket.
 
Heres my list of potential great stories:
 
Daly Makes Most of Late Entry
Gee, where have we seen this before? How about Crooked Stick as the last-minute alternate. Daly said his goal was Augusta. He made it by the thinnest of margins. And now, leading by one shot on Sunday, the biggest man in the field launches a monster drive on 18 that leaves him a flip sand wedge and a putt for the largest green jacket handed out since Billy Casper.
 
Bjorn Bunker Blast Seals Masters
Cmon, this guy deserves a break after what went down at Royal St. George. The goofiest of courses in the rotation provided us with a goofy finish. And poor Thomas hasnt done much since. This guy has a world of talent. I say, let him hole one from the bunker on Sunday that makes the difference in a victory for the Great Dane.
 
Not Going For It Gets it for Mickelson
Heres a crazy finish for you. Mickelson begins the second 9 on Sunday with a one-shot lead. He actually chooses to lay up at 13, trusting all the work he did in the off-season with Rick Smith and Dave Pelz. The result is a stiff wedge and birdie. Same story at 15. Then at 18, with a two-shot cushion, he hits 4-iron off the tee and plays for bogey at the worst. He makes par and tells the media hes not talking and were not invited to his party. (I wouldnt blame him.)
 
Another Auss(ie)-ome Finish
Two weeks after Adam Scott kept us on the edge of our nerves, this time its a Sunday battle between Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Craig Parry. Parrys made five of six cuts at Augusta and in the most ironic of finishes, hits driver at 18 to 176 yards. Upon arriving at his ball, he and his caddy look at each other, smile and both grab for the 6-iron. Parry stiffs it, makes birdie, wins the Masters and upon Hootie Johnson fitting him with Ian Woosnams old coat, Parry cries out, Too bad NBCs not televising this thing! I want a shot at Johnny Miller.
 
Mattiace Snowplows Way to a Green Jacket
Last year Mattiace broke down into tears after a dramatic playoff loss to Mike Weir. You can understand. Mattiace had a three-stroke lead on Weir as Mike reached the 13th fairway. Now, Mattiace returns after an off-season ski trip that resulted in even more injury. Barely two legs to stand on, Mattiace stands at 18 with a two-shot lead and keeps in it check. Talk about an emotional Sunday!
 
There are endless potentially great endings you could write:
 
  • Scott Hoch wins with a two-foot putt at the last.
     
  • Kenny Perry slips the green jacket over one of those dreadful Tabasco shirts he wears and talks about the major that got away at Valhalla.
     
  • Jay Haas ' whos always played well at Augusta - wins at 50 and cements a spot on the Ryder Cup team.
     
  • Charles Howell III wins in the town where he grew up and tells Jim Nantz that hes spent the last two weeks hitting nothing but half shots.
     
  • Colin Montgomerie somehow arrives at the 18th with a lead and holds on, then he retires and announces that hell become a television analyst.
     
  • Or how about perhaps the best of them all, Tom Watson finds magic ala Ben Crenshaw and wins one for his stricken caddy Bruce Edwards.
     
    All this conjecture is meant in the spirit of fun. The Masters is the best, if for no other reason than weve had some eight months to dream up the scenarios. Who are my favorites? Its one of these six: Davis Love III, David Toms, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington or Vijay Singh.
     
    Ill let you know the choice come Wednesday night on the two-hour Sprint Pre-Game. Dont miss it!
     
    Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern of architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.