Chasing Tiger Phil at Augusta

By Mercer BaggsApril 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
Gosh, all anyone you media types ever talk about in regards to winning the Masters Tournament are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Tiger and Phil, Phil and Tiger ' blah, blah, blah. Can you at least try and be original? Try to have your own thoughts. Oh, thats right: you dont have any. Youre just a sheep following the masses, picking the obvious.
You know, there are other people in this field. Players who CAN actually beat your treasured Tiger and precious Phil.

Thats not an actual e-mail that I received, but one quite similar in content to what I read and hear about this time of year.
Yes, there are indeed other players aside from Tiger and Phil in the Masters field. One-hundred and seven men have been invited to compete, and Im sure a few of them will give these two a run for their money this week ' these two who just happen to have won five of the last six Masters titles and seven of the last 12 overall major championships.
Here are some of the ones who might make a push but will most likely be unable to topple both Tiger and Phil at Augusta National.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh's Bay Hill win came with Tiger and Phil in the field. (WireImage)
Vijay Singh:
Why he can win: Hes already won twice this year (as many as Woods and one more than Mickelson), is a past Masters champion, and has cracked the top 10 at Augusta National in each of the last five years.
Why he probably wont: Sometimes, results can be deceiving. While Singh might be finishing inside the top 10, hes also finishing, on average, about 6 strokes behind the eventual winner. Hes also having a very difficult time breaking par over the weekend, with his Saturday/Sunday scoring average being in the black. His best weekend performance came in 2004, when he closed 69-69 ' and finished seven back of Mickelson. In 2002, he was only two back entering the final round and shot 76.
Adam Scott
Why he can win: He just won last week in Houston, and Mickelson captured the BellSouth and Masters back-to-back a year ago. He also tied for third at last years PGA Championship and was T8 at the Open Championship, his two most recent major championship starts.
Why he probably wont: Again, looks are a bit deceiving. Scott was never really in contention in either the 06 British or PGA. He was four back of Woods at Royal Liverpool and shot 72 to Tigers 67 on Sunday. At Medinah, he closed with a 67, but began the day seven in arrears and ultimately made up only one shot on Tiger. Scott tied for ninth in his 2002 Masters debut; he hasnt since broken the top 20. Hes never shot in the 60s in 18 career rounds at Augusta, and no Australian has ever won this event.
Ernie Els
Why he can win: He is a two-time runner-up in this event, finished inside the top 10 on five straight occasions, and has three career major championship titles. He also has the desire, wanting nothing more than to win this tournament.
Why he probably wont: He may want it too much and that could prove detrimental. He also knows that his window of opportunity is closing and he may press too hard. His two best Sunday performances came when he shot 68 in 2000 and 67 in 2004. Neither time was it good enough for the gold (or green). Hes also played rather poorly over the last two years in majors, accruing only one top-10. That came at last years British, when he was one off the 54-hole lead, but shot 71 on Sunday to finish five back of Woods.
Retief Goosen
Why he can win: He has three top-3s here in the last five years. Hes a proven major champion who putts well on fast greens and plays well under difficult conditions. He also won in Qatar on the European Tour earlier this year.
Why he probably wont: Goosen's last win on the PGA TOUR came in the 2005 International. In three stroke-play TOUR events this year, he has one finish inside the top 50. His best chance to win the Masters was in 2002, when he was tied with Woods for the lead entering the final round. Woods shot 71 and won by three as Goosen wilted with a 74.
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk has three top-10s this year, but none since the Nissan Open. (WireImage)
Jim Furyk
Why he can win: He had a pair of top-5 finishes in the majors last year and has a trio of top-10s at Augusta throughout his career. He has one major in his pocket and it seems just a matter of time before he collects No. 2. Hes also the second-ranked player in the world.
Why he probably wont: As Augusta National continues to grow in length, Furyk has increasingly finished outside the top 10. Having missed the event in 2004 due to his injured wrist, he tied for 28th in 05 and tied for 22nd in 06. Most amazingly, his tie for second in last years U.S. Open and fourth-place showing at the British are his only top-10s in majors since he won the 03 U.S. Open. He has missed twice as many cuts during that stretch.
Chris DiMarco
Why he can win: He nearly shocked Tiger in 2005, losing in a playoff, and played in the final twosome on Sunday in 04, falling to Mickelson. He also finished runner-up to Woods in last years Open Championship.
Why he probably wont: DiMarco is totally hit or miss in majors. Over the last two years, he has a pair of runner-ups; a T12; a T67; and four missed cuts. But the biggest reason why he wont win: he almost never wins ' hasnt done so on TOUR in over five years.
Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald
Why they can win: They're all very talented; all very successful; all have had chances before to win a major; all have at least one top-10 at the Masters.
Why they probably wont: Well, for one, theyre European; and a European hasnt won a major since the 99 British. Casey hasnt shown that he can close out a U.S. tournament; Garcia cant find the bottom of the cup (spit aside) fast enough; Harrington has missed the cut in six of his last nine majors, including each of the two after his narrow miss at last years U.S. Open; Donald will need a Mike-Weir-2003-near-perfect-short-game performance just to have a chance.
Mike Weir
Why he can win: Hes the only player not named Tiger or Phil over the last six years to win the Masters.
Why he probably wont: He hasnt won a tournament in over three years. Hes still in search of his first top-20 of the season.
Charles Howell III
Why he can win: He is an Augusta native who has played this course since he was a kid. He won the Nissan Open in February and had a pair of runner-up finishes to earn his way into the event.
Why he probably wont: Like Els, he just wants to win too much. His best finish is a tie for 13th, his only top-25 in five starts. He missed the cut last year shooting 80-84 to finish dead last in the field.
Henrik Stenson
Why he can win: He's playing very well going into the event. The Swede won the Dubai Desert Classic with Tiger, Ernie and other notables in attendance. He also took home the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He hits the ball a ton and has a good short game.
Why he probably won't: Stenson has only played in seven career major tournaments. He missed the cut in his Masters debut a year ago. He's also a chic pick to win, which means he can't come in under the radar; he has to deal with pressure from the beginning. And he's European.
Everyone Else
Why they can win: Plenty of past Masters and other major champions comprise the limited field, as well as a host of world class players.
Why they probably wont: Three words: Tiger and Phil.
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  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes