Rewind Tiger 10 Years Ago

By Mercer BaggsAugust 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
Eyes must have been rolling. Heads must have been shaking. People must have been fighting to contain their laughter.
 
It was August 27, 1996 at Brown Deer Park Golf Club in Milwaukee, Wis., and Tiger Woods was on the eve of playing in his first PGA TOUR event as a professional.
 
He had just made his famous Hello, world introduction and read nervously from a prepared statement. He was in the middle of taking questions from reporters on site, when he was asked what would make this week a successful one in his eyes.
 
Tiger Woods
Ten years later, Tiger Woods is still smiling.
A victory, he said.
 
Scoffs and harrumphs for everyone. Who does this kid think he is, they must have wondered. This aint the amateur ranks, son. This is the gol darn PGA TOUR. You dont just turn pro and win.
 
They were right. Tiger didnt win that week, tying for 60th at the Greater Milwaukee Open. But he did attract a whole lot of attention, and he did make a hole-in-one, and he did earn $2,544.
 
Thats my money. I earned this, he said at the time.
 
Funny. That little bit of money seemed to mean so much to someone who had just signed for $40 million with Nike and $3 million more with Titleist.
 
Woods has made a lot more money since then. Hes made a lot more money for a lot of people since then.
 
I thank God every day for Tiger Woods, Scott Hoch once said. Hes made us rich.
 
This Monday will mark Tigers official 10-year anniversary as a playing professional. Hes made enough money during that time to almost get this country out of debt. And, indeed, he has made golf such a popular sport that many others have become very wealthy by association.
 
His overall effect, of course, has far exceeded the financial realm. Hes made a social impact. His Tiger Woods Foundation and Tiger Woods Learning Center have literally altered thousands and thousands of lives, maybe even millions, for the better. Hes attracted those unfamiliar to the game ' and not just minorities, but boys and girls, men and women of all races and all ages. Hes transformed golf into more than just a fringe game ' hes popularized it to the masses, more so than any other individual, and made it, in his own words, a cool sport to play.
 
At this past PGA Championship, several players, Tiger included, were asked about how he has changed the game. They all pretty much said the same thing. They talked about the money. They talked about how players are now better conditioned. They talked about the exponential increase in popularity.
 
These things are pretty obvious, because we as fans have seen it ourselves over the last 10 years.
 
We all know how forceful Tigers impact has been on the game. And we all know about his accomplishments. We know the wins and the records.
 
We also know about the controversies ' the joke he made to GQ magazine; skipping out on the Fred Haskins Award dinner; snubbing President Clinton; shaking up his inner-circle; playing the race card in television commercials; changing his swing ' twice; Fuzzy Zoeller.
 
We dont need to rehash it all right here.
 
But it is interesting to look back, back 10 years ago when it all began. What were they saying then, back when Woods was just a very promising ' and very rich ' 20-year-old, one with a certain prideful parent.
 
It was Earl Woods who said in a Sports Illustrated interview in 96 that his son would do more than any other human in history to change the course of humanity. More than (anyone) because hes more charismatic, more educated, more prepared for this than anyone.
 
How about a little humility? But Earl, even if he had a few drinks that night, wasnt just being a boastful father. While his son hasnt quite reached the level of humanity of a Jesus or a Gandhi, he has done more on and off the course than many of us could have ever imagined.
 
Tiger once had a sit-down interview with Curtis Strange, back when Strange was working for ABC Sports. In the interview, Woods reiterated that he expects to win every time he competes. He famously said, 'Second sucks.'
 
Youll learn, Tiger. You'll learn, Strange replied, almost mocking him with a laugh.
 
As it turns out, he gave the lesson.
 
Loren Roberts won the Greater Milwaukee Open in 96. After his victory, he said, I heard where a couple of guys said they were in awe of him, and I think thats taking it too far. He plays just like the rest of us. Hes a great player, but he still has to go out and beat the other 150 of us.
 
Looking back, its easy to laugh at such a statement. But who could have imagined what Woods would do?
 
Even those predicting great things for him couldnt quite grasp how truly talented this young man was.
 
Take Johnny Miller. At the end of the 96 season, in which Woods won two of seven events to earn his TOUR playing status, Miller was asked if Tigers early success had surprised him and what he expected of his career.
 
Miller responded: Its going to be a pretty awesome future. He could be the greatest player there ever was. You have to think (hes) not going to (win) 20 majors, and hes probably not going to win 60 tournaments, but he could win 50 (events) and 12 (majors).
 
For completely different reasons, that probably sounded as ridiculous then as it does now ' and thats not an offense to Miller. Miller was making a bold statement back then, probably one that received a bit of ridicule. Now thats he's won 50 and 12 ' at the age of 30! ' hes a lock for 60 TOUR wins and a very good bet for 20 major victories.
 
Woods just wanted to win once. That was his goal when he turned pro, just so he could get his TOUR card and avoid Q-school. Five tournaments into his career, he nabbed that title in Las Vegas. Two weeks later, he won again at Disney and qualified for the TOUR Championship.
 
Winning on TOUR means everything. It proves to yourself and to everyone else that you belong. It changes the way others view you. And that was the case for Woods.
 
His quick and early success showed that he was more than just potential ' he was the goods. His peers now knew this. And they could only ponder how he would shape the future of the game.
 
I think, obviously, he has got a tremendous career, said Nicklaus, who predicted that Woods would win 10 Masters titles ' the same number as he and Arnold Palmer combined. Im very interested in his career. Very interested to see what he does.
 
I firmly believe that Tiger may be pushing us, said Tom Lehman, who was Player of the Year in 96, thanks to his Open Championship and TOUR Championship victories. Nobody wants to get passed over by a new person. It may come to a point where this new person is just so talented you cant help it, its unavoidable.
 
Said 1996 PGA champion Mark Brooks at that year's TOUR Championship: I guess the scariest thing is somebody overheard somebody in the locker room say he hasnt even shot his A game yet. Hes played nothing short of phenomenal at this point. And if hes got an A game that he hasnt shown yet, then were probably all in trouble.
 
They were. They still are.
 
There was a debate a few years ago, back in 2001, when Woods had just completed the Tiger Slam, as to whether or not he was good for the game. Was one mans dominance over an entire sport good for the sport itself?
 
That question should no longer be presentable.
 
Ten years ago, Woods was on the cusp of it all. He was just a skinny kid back then, wearing a shirt at least one size too large. He got giddy about things like being able to get a courtesy car even though he wasnt old enough to rent one. He discussed his affection for eating anything greasy. He talked about paying for dinner with gift certificates.
 
How it all has changed. The little things are now routine; not amusing. His body is now his temple. Money is no longer, and will never again be an issue.
 
Over the last decade, Woods has had numerous ups and a few downs. Hes been a lightning rod for lavish praise and biting criticism. He seems to have as many detractors as he does fans. And there is still some jealously among his peers, but much more awe and respect.
 
Without question, however, he has been good for the game. And the game has, undeniably, been very good to him.
 
A dream come true, Woods said in describing his career a few weeks ago. I did not think that in my wildest dreams I could actually have achieved what I've achieved so far.
 
As you look at my overall career, it's been a fantasy.
 
Fantasy is imagining 10 years ago that Woods could accomplish all that he has in such a short period of time. It's not fantasy anymore; it's reality.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Tiger Woods Bio
  • Tiger Woods Photo Gallery
  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.