Major Winners Balance Schedules

By Mercer BaggsDecember 5, 2003, 5:00 pm
Theres something to be said about taking off a couple of months from your job. Hang around the house with your family. Enjoy the holiday season. Return to work refreshed and ready for productivity.
 
Then again
 
Theres also something to be said for being wanted outside of the household. Having been so successful in your profession that others want you to showcase your talents in person ' for compensation, of course.
 
This is Mike Weir. And, for that matter, each of the four 2003 major champions.
 
Its a big difference in the so-called off-season compared to what I had last year, said Weir as he was wrapping up his official season on the PGA Tour at the Tour Championship.
 
Weir didnt qualify for the season finale last year. He didnt win an event in 2002 ' didnt even make a top-10.
 
I was done from Vegas (Oct. 2002) until the Phoenix Open (Jan. 2003) ' so almost three months I had off to enjoy some time at home and get ready for this season, he said.
 
And, my, how that time away has proved rewarding.
 
Weir won two of his first four events this year to let it be known that he was back among the upper-echelon of tour players.
 
He then won the Masters to join the game's truly elite, and become a wanted man by tournament organizers around the world.
 
A major champion gets many an invitation ' during and after the official PGA Tour season ' to compete in events across the globe. Weir accepted a few, like the HSBC World Match Play in Surrey, England.
 
But that was during the competitive season.
 
Hes not willing to sacrifice the majority of his down time with his family to go traipsing from continent to continent in search of Dollar Bill.
 
Hes already traveled to South Africa for the Presidents Cup, and hes set to join his major colleagues in this weeks PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii. Next week, hell compete in Tiger Woods Target World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
 
That only leaves us a couple of weeks until the Mercedes (Championships) starts up (the first week in January), he said. Thats only a small amount of time to get yourself ready for next year.
 
Its a totally different winter season than what I had last year.
 
Ben Curtis concurs ' in a separate yet similar way.
 
Unlike Weir, Curtis was quite active over the final two months of 2002.
 
I played all the way up to the 14th of December (last year), Curtis said. Thats the way it will be this year.
 
Its really no different. Theres lots of golf to play. Im just playing in different events this year.
 
Curtis kept busy last year in making a successful run through the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.
 
Athletes love to say, I shocked the world! But Curtis literally did when he shockingly won this years British Open in his first-ever major championship.
 
Consequently, his world ' not to mention his schedule ' was scrambled like an egg.
 
Curtis had competed in only two PGA Tour events prior to this season. But with the Claret Jug on his resume, he found himself in elite fields like the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational and American Express Championship. He also received invitations to compete in the European Tours Trophee Lancome and HSBC World Match Play, and the Taheiyo Masters in Japan.
 
After the PGA Grand Slam, he will join Weir in the Target World Challenge.
 
Shaun Micheel was also extended an invitation to compete in Tigers limited-field event.
 
Micheel, like Curtis, quickly discovered how being a major champion can alter ones schedule both during and after the official season.
 
Micheel has already played the NEC, American Express, dunhill links championship on the European Tour, HSBC, and the Franklin Templeton Shootout ' all events he would have had to watch on television had he not won the PGA Championship.
 
After the Grand Slam and the Target, that leaves him only a few weeks to enjoy some quality time with his wife and newborn, and get in a little practice before the Mercedes.
 
I get about a couple of weeks off, which is fine, Micheel said. I do like my time off, but last year I took a lot more time off and it took me a lot longer to get back to playing well again. I enjoy playing. I am not much of a practicer.
 
Likewise, Jim Furyk will spend the last few weeks of December on diaper duty.
 
Furyks wife, Tabitha, is expecting their second child in mid-December; therefore, he decided to play as much as he could in the off-season up until that point.
 
Furyk said he usually likes to play a couple of tournaments following the Tour Championship. The WGC-World Cup, the Presidents Cup, and the Grand Slam fit this years bill.
 
Even if he wasnt about to add to his family unit, its unlikely that Furyk would wear himself out playing golf in December.
 
Thats because this years U.S. Open champion has played plenty already.
 
I have played a lot of events this year ' couple of events over my normal, which is 25, said Furyk, who played in a career-high 27 PGA Tour events, primarily in order to increase his chance of winning Player of the Year honors.
 
You have to take the time off somewhere, Furyk added. That time is going to be in January or February, if I start playing too much through December.
 
So, this years crop of major champions ' particularly the unheralded winners ' has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them due to their success.
 
But, in contrast to some of their predecessors ' Mark OMeara and Rich Beem come to mind ' they are not wearing themselves out over the final few months in pursuit of monetary compensation, not overindulging in the spoils of their respective victories.
 
Instead, they seem content to play here and there, pick up a few extra paychecks, spend some time at home, and get in a little rest and practice before they have to turn their calendars.
 
And that may well prove a positive thing.
 
Because 2004 is ready to rear its head. And he has absolutely no interest in what anyone has accomplished the year before.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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