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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    After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

    Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

    On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

    Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

    After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

    Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

    A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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    Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

    At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

    “The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

    Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

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    Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

    Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

    “Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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    Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

    PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

    Laura Davies won the day.

    It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

    Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

    Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

    For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

    In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

    “I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

    At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

    “It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

    Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

    “It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

    With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

    “People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

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    Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

    “Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

    She also relished showing certain fans something.

    “Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

    Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

    In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

    Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

    “The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

    After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

    “I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

    Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

    In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal 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 upon returning.

    “I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

    And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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    Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

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    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

    The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

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    “Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”