Fantastic 4 Face Off Again

By Mercer BaggsMay 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
The Big 3, they called Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson at last weeks Wachovia Championship.
Woods the No. 1 in the world; Singh the man most likely to surpass him; Mickelson the highest ranked player who currently holds a major title.
None won last week, though all briefly challenged on Sunday; and all finished inside the top 10.
This week should prove even more exciting, however, as the Big 3 becomes the Fantastic 4.
Following a three-week vacation at home, Ernie Els leaves the friendly confines of his south London estate to join Woods, Singh and Mickelson in the field for the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
All four men have won this event: Els in 1995; Mickelson in 96; Woods in 97; Singh a year ago. And all have won at least once this season, as well.
It makes for great television, Els said Wednesday. But does it make for great competition?
Its rare that todays golf titans get together in a regular PGA Tour event.
They compete against one another in each of the four majors and in most of the World Golf Championship events. They also all show up ' assuming they are eligible ' for the limited and lucrative tournaments like the Mercedes Championships and Tour Championship.
But take Championship out of the title and you likely take at least one of them out of the field.
Aside from this years Players Championship, the last time this foursome appeared together in a regular PGA Tour event was the 2002 Memorial Tournament.
Theyve played aside one another six times at Bay Hill, three times at the Memorial, twice at the International, once in Phoenix, once at the Nissan Open, and now for the third time at the Byron Nelson.
In all, every tour event included as a professional, this will be the 69th time all four have been in the same field.
It began when the four qualified for the 1996 Tour Championship. None won the event, but of the four Els finished highest: Els, T6; Singh, T9; Mickelson, 12th; Woods, T21.
Since then, however, it has been a complete reversal of order, in terms of who has gotten the best of his biggest rivals.
Using a simple points system, where 4 points is given to the player who finishes highest among the four; 3 points to second; 2 to third; and 1 to whomever finishes fourth ' with ties equaling a share of points (for example, Vijay and Ernie would each get 2.5 points each for tying for second best finish), Tiger easily reigns supreme.
Woods would accrue 212 points; Mickelson would be second with 161 points; Singh third with 154.5; and Els fourth with 152.5.
Woods has beaten his contemporaries in 33 of their 68 previous head-to-head-to-head-to-head match-ups. Mickelson has been the solo top man 14 times; Els 12 times; Singh eight times; and Els and Singh once tied for top honors.
Of course, these guys dont really care if they beat each other yet still finish third, which Woods did the first two times all four got together for the Byron Nelson.
Wins are really the only thing that matter whenever any of these players enter a tournament. But when all four are in the field, it makes it that much more difficult a goal to accomplish ' unless youre talking about Tiger.
Woods has won 40 times in his PGA Tour career ' 20 of those have come with the three others in attendance.
By contrast, only three of Singhs 18 tour titles ' and none since the 2000 Masters ' have come at the expense of the three others; four of 13 for Els in his career, and four of 23 for Mickelson.
Yet, even when the Fantastic 4 is in action its proven unlikely that even two of them will battle one another for victory ' and even less likely that two of them will do so eyeing each other in the same group.
The epic duel between Phil and Ernie at this years Masters had Els finishing two groups ahead of the champion.
Similar was the case in the 2002 Masters and 2002 U.S. Open, both of which Woods beat Mickelson from a distance.
Most of Tigers 20 wins in this scenario ' 12 of 20, to be exact ' have come with at least one of the three others finishing inside the top 3. But, again, hes rarely had to beat them face-to-face.
In fact, when all four are in the field, there have been only five occasions when one has prevailed with another in his final-round pairing.
  • 2003 WGC-American Express Championship: Woods led Singh by two entering the final round. On the first tee, Woods says, Good Luck. Singh responds, Titleist 2. It was far more intense than exciting, as both men shot 2-over 72. Woods won; Singh tied for second.
  • 2001 Masters: Woods was one clear of Mickelson, while Els lurked three back. Mickelson, playing alongside Woods, remained one off the lead until a three-putt bogey at 16. Woods birdied the last to shoot 68, and defeat David Duval by two. Mickelson finished third after a 70. Els could only manage an even-par 72 and tied for sixth.
  • 2000 U.S. Open: Technically, Woods and Els played in the final twosome on Sunday. But they were miles ' and 10 strokes ' apart. The only drama was to see if Woods could become the first player to finish the Open double digits under par. He did, ending at 12 under, 15 strokes clear of second place Els and Miguel Angel Jiminez.
  • 2000 Tour Championship: The most competitive tournament in which these four have battled one another. Woods and Singh entered the final round tied for the lead, with Mickelson one back and Els trailing by three. Mickelson, who played the final round with Els, shot 66 to win by two over Woods, who had a 69 while paired with Singh. It marked just the third time that Woods had blown at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a tournament on the PGA or European tour. Its happened only once since. Els shot 69 to tie Singh (73) for third.
  • 1999 Memorial: Woods led Singh by two strokes heading to Sunday, and then held off the Fijian with a deft short game. Both men shot 69.
    On the flip side, there was last years British Open, where Woods and Singh were paired together in the penultimate group and neither prevailed.
    So, for the 69th time Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson will tee it up together in the same event on the PGA Tour. And judging by history, theres a better than 45-percent chance (31 out of 68 previous tournaments) that one of these four will win ' and a 29-percent chance (20 out of 68) that it will be Woods.
    Theres also a better-than-average chance that if one of the four does win, that he will have beat one of these rivals. Eighteen out of the 31 times that one of these players has won, at least one more has finished inside the top 3.
    Its just likely that he wont have to beat him head-to-head.
    And dont expect all four to be competitive.
    Only three times ' the 2002 Masters, 2000 Masters and 2000 Tour Championship ' have all four players finished inside the top 10.
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    Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

    Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

    Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

    A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

    A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

    Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

    Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

    (More coming...)

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    Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

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    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.