Garcia Howell Gun for No 1
Tiger is unquestionably the King of the Jungle on the PGA Tour. Every year the topic is debated, 'Who will challenge Woods for supremacy?' And each season it becomes more apparent that there isnt a single player, but a group who will have to surround and help attack the Tiger King in order to take him down.
Theres Phil Mickelson. Theres Ernie Els. There are Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen. All are worthy opponents, and each has tripped up Tiger a time or two in his career. However, all are a few steps behind the worlds No. 1, and their time to make up ground is ticking away.
Of the top 35 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, only three are in their 20s: Woods, Sergio Garcia and Charles Howell III.
Howell is 23, three and a half years younger than Woods. Garcia will turn 23 on Thursday. And because of the age factor, both figure to be Woods chief rivals in the long run.
I look at myself because of my youth, responded Garcia when asked who is Tigers most natural opponent. I have more years to come.
Howell isnt as outwardly confident as Garcia, but he too inwardly believes that he can one day topple Tiger in the world rankings.
Oh, definitely, he said. Im working as hard as I can work. Im doing everything I can do. If it doesnt happen from that, at least I can live with myself.
Howell and Garcia both played all over the world following the official close to the 2002 season, and both have been practicing over the past month in preparation for the new year.
Overall, both would consider last season to be a moderate success. Howell garnered his first tour title at the now-defunct Michelob Championship, and played in his first Tour Championship. Garcia won the Mercedes and also captured another crown in Europe.
But there was one thing lacking for both.
Be a little more consistent, Garcia said.
Garcia boasted at the beginning of 2002 that he wanted to win both the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles. He started out nicely with a first-place payday at Kapalua, and won a couple of months later in Spain.
But in terms of official titles, that was it. He finished 12th in earnings Stateside and sixth overseas.
I feel like last year was a pity, I really do, he said. I really felt like I started the year, probably the first six months, playing really well. Unfortunately, I was putting badly.
I didnt win as many times as I should have, or at least as I feel I that I should have.
Howell didnt get his first win of the season ' and of his career ' until October. He started out well with three top-10s in his first five starts, but didnt make another top 10 until late August.
I was really pressing to stay in the top 50 in the world ranking to get into the U.S. Open and British Open, explained Howell, who fell outside of that number and missed both majors. It seems to me the harder I tried, the worse I did.
After taking his first ever vacation, in the Bahamas the week before Bethpage, Howell returned a little more relaxed. It showed in his victory in Virginia, his tie for third in Reno and his runner-up in the season finale.
Now, hes safely inside the top 50 in the world ranking (23rd), and finally feels comfortable with his status on tour.
This is the first year where Ive kind of been on a level playing field with a lot of the top players in the world, being in all four majors and World (Golf Championship) events, he said. That makes a huge difference. So maybe its more peace of mind, but it helps.
As for his goals this season, Howell hopes to improve upon last years performance.
The No. 1 goal is to be top 5 on the money list. I think thats a fair goal, he said. Id love to win two tournaments this year.
Garcias goals, however, are a bit loftier. He wants to win a major -- he was the only player to finish inside the top 10 in all four majors last year -- and once again wants to double dip on both tours money lists, despite playing in a couple of fewer tournaments in the U.S.
You got to play well all year long; thats always hard to do, said Garcia, who is ranked fourth in the world. But its a good goal to aim at.
You just got to be more consistent. You have to make a lot of top 10s, win as many as you can. I mean, Tiger is playing 18 tournaments a year. Hes winning (the PGA Tour money title). Why not (me)?
Garcia and Howell will each get a nice jump on Woods, as the 27-year-old is rehabilitating following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in December. He is likely out of commission until the middle of February.
I hope he takes his time in getting better, said Howell with a smile. Ill go out and see him when I get home, tell him to just take his time.
Full Coverage of the Mercedes Championships
Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'
ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.
He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.
Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.
“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”
In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.
“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”
Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.
“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”
McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory
Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:
Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)
What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.
Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.
Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.
Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.
Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.
Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.
Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy
TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge
ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.
• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.
• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.
• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”
• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”
After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.
Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses
Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.
"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."
Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with 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 he walked in.
Walking in the par putt at No. 2. pic.twitter.com/zuSGZmVL3z— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
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.
Tiger gets it to 9-under.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
He's 4 shots back. pic.twitter.com/cAZtM14SlJ
Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the 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.
His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.
Drive on 9 is approximately 824 yards off-line right. Approximately.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Slides by. Bogey. That’s deflating. Turns at -9 and needs to go lights-out coming home to have any chance.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.
He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.
This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.
Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.
Uh oh. This is left...— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Tiger picked the absolute worst time to stop going right on 16. Mercy.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) March 18, 2018
He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.
There were highs, and there were lows. But in the end it’s a 3-under 69 today to finish the week at -10.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Next stop: Augusta.