Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003

By Mercer BaggsDecember 29, 2003, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of articles highlighting the top stories of 2003. Check back through the end of the year to see the rest of the list.
2003 Stories of the YearEvery season you can rest assured that Tiger Woods will somehow create one of the top 5 stories of the year.
More often than not, No. 1.
But this year, he is relegated to the realm of Buffalo Bills, Susan Lucci and most Democratic presidential candidates over the past 1/3 of a century.
This year, Tiger is second. And its because of the one big thing that he failed to do for just the second time in his professional career.
Just as it was with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods name is synonymous with major championships. More than anything, those four annual events define Woods legacy.
Woods has only been a full-time professional for seven years, and yet only four players in the history of golf have won more major titles than him. Had he collected another one this season, that list would have been reduced to just two ' Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.
But, alas, he did not, and remains tied with Tom Watson with eight career major victories.
It all began eight months ago in Augusta, Ga.
Woods entered the Masters Tournament, of course, as the favorite. Hes always the favorite in any tournament in which he competes ' particularly in the majors ' so there was no added weight of expectation ' at least not from being the man to beat.
On the other hand, there was an immeasurable amount of pressure placed upon him by being the two-time defending champion.
Only three players have won back-to-back green jackets ' Woods, Faldo (1989, 90) and Jack Nicklaus (1965, 66). And none have ever pulled off the hat trick.
With Martha Burk ring-leading a literal sideshow in his periphery, Tiger put on the blinders and tried gamely to once again accomplish what no one before him had ever achieved.
Woods, however, played his first 36 holes ' which took three days to complete due to a wash-out Thursday ' in 149 strokes. He went 22 holes before making his first birdie, and had to make a three-foot par putt on No. 36 simply to make the cut.
He rebounded in the third round with a 6-under 66 to move into contention; four back of 54-hole leader Jeff Maggert.
But Tigers imminent attack proved inept. He chose driver ' whether soley on the advice of his caddie or not ' at the short par-4 third, blocked it right, had to hit his second shot left-handed and eventually made double bogey.
He shot 3-over 75 to tie for 15th.
I made a mental blunder on 3, Woods said following his round. I wanted to hit iron. It was a bad decision. Stevie (Williams, Woods' caddie) said it was a better play from down below. I went with it but ultimately it's the player's call and consequently I made the wrong decision.
With visions of a three-peat blinded, Woods set his sights on a repeat in the U.S. Open, where, for the second straight major, he failed to make a birdie in the first round.
He did make an eagle, though, to offset a pair of bogeys at Olympia Fields for an even-par 70.
Woods was five off the 18-hole lead, and moved to within three at the halfway point. But a Saturday 75, combined with 36-hole leader Jim Furyks 67 left the 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open champion 11 off the pace entering the final round.
He finished with that same deficit, and in a tie for 20th place.
Disappointment at the first two majors quickly turned to frustration at the third ' and it took only one swing.
Tigers opening-round woes continued at Royal St. Georges as he lost his ball after his very first shot of the tournament disappeared in the shin-high heather. He made triple bogey and carded three straight bogeys at one stretch, but still managed a 2-over 73 to keep himself just five back of an unstable leader in Hennie Otto.
By Saturday night, Tiger had inched to within two strokes of the lead. Sunday, he seemed poised to end his year-long major drought when he birdied three of his first seven holes to move to 2-under-par for the tournament.
Everyone was ready to crown Tiger champion until he inexplicably bogeyed four of his next 11 holes, including two of the final four. He finished two back of Ben Curtis, who was the only player under par at minus-1.
You've got to have things go your way in order to win,' said Woods, whose last major title came in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage. And this week I got my share of good breaks, and also got my share of really bad ones, too.
Three down, one to go, and you just knew hed get it done at the PGA Championship. Hes clutch. And, after all, this is the tournament where he snapped a 10-major winless streak in 1999.
Each major (this year), I've had a chance going into the weekend. Sunday at Masters I was right there, a couple of shots back. At the U.S. Open, I was a few shots back going into Saturday. And then Sunday (at the British Open), I had a great chance. I've been there, I just haven't won, he said prior to the start of the PGA.
That's the way it goes. I've tried. It's not like I'm not trying out there. Sometimes I just can't quite get it done and other times you can, and obviously this year, I've come close and just haven't quite gotten over the hurdle.
This time, Woods stumbled over nearly every obstacle before crossing the finish line at Oak Hill. He didnt break par in any round ' the first time he had done that in a major since the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie ' and tied for 39th place ' his worst-ever showing as a professional in a major.
I've done it before,' Woods said of going a season without a major victory. 'I did it in '98. It won't be the last time and it certainly has not been the first time.
You're going to go years where you just don't win. That's okay, as long as you keep trying to improve.
For the record, Woods posted five PGA Tour victories this season to go along with his fifth straight PGA of America and PGA Tour Player of the Year trophies. He also won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average for the fifth consecutive season.
He just had that one ' or four ' major blemish.
This year has been one of those years where I have won 1/3 of my tournaments. People say I have had a terrible year. I still don't understand why people look at it that way, Woods said at the Funai Classic. Granted, I didn't win a major championship this year, that's disappointing. I tried. I had my chances.
That's what I focus my whole year around and trying to win those.
Related Links:
  • No. 1: Sorenstam's Season Transcends Wins
  • No. 2: Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003
  • No. 3: What a Year for Watson
  • No. 4: Player of Year Down to the Wire
  • No. 5: Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch
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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.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    “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.

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    Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

    PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

    While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

    But then . . .

    “Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

    In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

    She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

    With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

    At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

    Park’s back with a hot putter.

    That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

    “The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

    Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

    “But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

    Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

    Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

    They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

    Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

    “I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

    “She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

    Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

    “I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

    Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

    “When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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    Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

    PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

    It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

    “This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

    Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

    “First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

    Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.