No 7 Rise and Fall of the Big Five

By Mercer BaggsDecember 20, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Stories of the Year - #7Editor's note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 stories from the 2005 golf season. This is Story No. 7.
 
As each year comes to a close, we tend to forget the things that took place in the beginning of the season. We place those into the back of our minds, well behind the things that happened a month ago, a week ago and yesterday.
 
But think back to January and February and March really up until July. There was one story, one manufactured and mass circulated story on the PGA Tour that trumped all others: the Big 5.
 
Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods
Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods were two of golf's Big 5 in 2005.
You guys made that up, Retief Goosen said to the media earlier this year.
 
And he was absolutely correct.
 
This was a complete media concoction. Players arent nearly as concerned with rivalries as are media and fans. They just want to win; we want that extra excitement.
 
And to be truthful, the hysteria was all Tigers fault. He took away much of that extra excitement by being so dominant over the years. There was no Big 5; there was simply One.
 
But then Tiger decided to rework his swing. And Phil Mickelson won a major. And Vijay Singh won just about everything he entered. And Ernie Els dominated overseas.
 
All of a sudden, there seemed to be parity at the top in mens golf.
 
Entering the 2005 season, Singh was the No. 1 player in the world, not Woods. And Mickelson was the reigning Masters champion, not Woods. And Els was the chic pick to win multiple major titles on the year, not Woods.
 
This was the Big 4. But we were forgetting someone.
 
Goosen is often overlooked and often left out of the discussion of great modern day champions. He sits off to the side of consciousness, either stewing inside or not giving a damn (hes a tough man to read).
 
So out of respect to the man who often gets little, the Big 4 became the Big 5
 
It all seemed a bit too contrived at first. What were the odds in this day of depth that four or five men would dominate a tour consisting of the best players in the world?
 
Turned out they were pretty good ' at least early on in the 2005 season.
 
Singh won the second event of the year, the Sony Open. Woods won the third event, the Buick Invitational. Phil won Nos. 5 and 6, the FBR Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
By the time the tour hit Florida, eight tournaments had been contested in which at least one of the Big 5 had competed. And one of the Big 5 had won four of those events.
 
Thats when it really got interesting.
 
At the Ford Championship, the first event on the Florida Swing, Woods and Mickelson went head-to-head in a final-round duel that ultimately proved to be the most exciting 18 holes of the season.
 
Both men made only one bogey that day. Woods, who started the final round two back of Mickelson, shot 6-under 66. Mickelson had a 69. Tiger won at the buzzer, when Mickelson narrowly missed holing a chip shot at the last.
 
Leaving Doral and heading to Augusta, the buzz over the Big 5 was pinning the needle. It only helped matters that Els won multiple events overseas during this time and Mickelson captured his third title of the season the week before the Masters.
 
The Masters, however, would prove to be the beginning of the end for the Big 5.
 
Woods, of course, won his fourth green jacket that week ' and his first major championship in nearly three years. With it, he regained control of the top spot on the world ranking.
 
Tiger Woods
Woods separated himself from the pack with his British Open victory.
Singh won two weeks later, defending his title in Houston, and then two weeks thereafter in Charlotte to keep alive the theme of top-ranked domination.
 
But Singhs Wachovia triumph proved to be the last victory by any of the Big 5 members until the British Open. And when Tiger throttled the field at St. Andrews, there was little doubt that Woods had once again separated himself from everyone else.
 
Woods was the key cog to this Big 5 machine. When he broke away, the machine fell apart.
 
In sport as in every part of society, we love to build things up and then tear them down. We like to pull for the underdogs until they win ' and keep winning. We like to make people into celebrities and then pull out the pedestal on which we placed them.
 
In this case, the notion of a Big 5 was created. And for a while it thrived. But instead of getting tired of it and tearing it down, Tiger went ahead and did that for us.
 
Woods was able to slide out of this pack rather easily. In addition to his own fine play, his exit was greased by the fact that the rest of the members werent performing up to standards.
 
Singh was unable to duplicate his remarkable finish of 2004, winning only once in the final six months of the year.
 
Mickelson cooled down considerably after his torrid start. He collected just one more title ' albeit a big one ' once the major season started.
 
Goosens air of unflappability took a severe hit as he blew a three-stroke lead through 54 holes of the U.S. Open, shooting 11-over 81 on Sunday. He also blew chances to win the British Open, PGA Championship and Tour Championship. In each of those three events, he was three back entering the final round and all three times shot over par.
 
And then there was Els, who injured his knee after the British, forcing him to skip the PGA Championship and the Presidents Cup. Els was unable to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2001. He also failed to record a top-10 finish in a major for the first time since 1999.
 
On the other hand, Woods managed to win the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational and the WGC-American Express Championship, as well as the Dunlop Phoenix Open in Japan.
 
He finished the year with six PGA Tour wins, including two majors. He won player of the year honors, the money title, and had the lowest stroke average on tour. He finished in the top 5 in 13 of his 20 official starts.
 
It would seem that the Big 5 is dead and buried with a tombstone that reads: Born January 1, 2005 ' Died July 17, 2005.
 
But maybe, just maybe, a hand will emerge from the grave. After all, Tiger did miss the two cuts this year. And Vijay did dust him head-to-head at the Buick Open. And Phil did win the PGA Championship. And Ernie did return from a four-month layoff to win in just his second start. And Retief did win in the U.S. and in Europe, as well as just last week in South Africa -- over Els.
 
Stay tuned. This story may again be written in 2006 ' with a different theme.
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Bios: Tiger | Vijay | Ernie | Phil | Retief
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

    Getty Images

    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.