Woods Adds Fifth Major to Resume
Woods was one of 22 players who had to finish their final rounds on the Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass on Monday due to a suspension of play the day prior.
Tiger captured the one prestigious event that had eluded him in his five seasons on Tour by carding a 2-under-par 34 over his final nine holes for a final-round composite of 5-under-par 67.
Its special to win this championship, said Woods. Its not a major. But to win you have to beat the best field of the year on a very tough course. I'm just fortunate enough to come out on top.
At 14-under for the tournament, Woods finished one shot clear of Vijay Singh, who was temporarily tied for the top spot until a triple bogey 7 at the 14th cost him a chance for the million-dollar first-place prize.
Bernhard Langer finished in third place at 12-under. The two-time Masters champion notched five birdies and three bogeys over his final nine holes for a final-round 68. Langer was in search of his first stateside victory since donning the green jacket in 1993.
Its Langers third-career top-3 finish at The Players without a win. The only European player to ever win this event was Sandy Lyle in 1987.
Jerry Kelly double bogeyed the final hole to drop from a share of third place into solo fourth. Still, the $288,000 he collected was nearly double his previous career-best paycheck on the PGA Tour.
I leave here disappointed, Kelly said. Yeah, good check, good week. So what? We all want to win, and thats it.
Before the beginning of the final round, Kelly ' who led Woods and Singh by two shots ' said Tiger would have to do something special to beat him.
Such was not the case on Monday.
Woods woke up with a one-shot lead over his playing companion, Kelly, and his rival, Singh. Following a three-hour weather delay on Sunday, Woods birdied the 1st, chipped in for eagle on the par-5 2nd, and the completed his day by converting a blind birdie putt in the dark at the par-5 9th.
Last year at this event, Woods and Hal Sutton were forced to complete their final seven holes on Monday. Though Tiger cut a three-stroke deficit to just one, Sutton eventually prevailed.
At 10:00am ET, Woods set out for a bit of redemption. After nearly spinning in his approach shot to the par-4 10th, Woods tapped in for birdie to immediately stretch his advantage to two shots.
That was as close as Kelly would get to Tiger for the rest of the day. After missing only five fairways off the tee over his first three rounds, the 54-hole leader went from accurate to erratic.
Kelly missed six of the seven fairways on the back nine; none bigger than the one he failed to hit at the par-4 18th. After finding the gnarly right rough, Kelly tried to force an iron to the green. The long, thick grass turned the face of his club over, resulting in a hooked approach into the water.
I was trying for the miracle shot a little bit, he said. I learned youve got to play your game and not play for second, not play for third, just play you game all the way through. And I did that up until 18.
Tigers stiffest ' and only competition on Monday ' came from Singh. The transplanted Floridian, who lives just five miles from the venue in Ponte Vedra Beach, birdied the 11th and 13th holes to tie Woods for the lead at 13-under-par.
Tiger quickly retook sole possession of the lead by sinking an eight-foot birdie putt on the 12th to move to 14-under. Woods caught a break on that hole when his tee shot kicked out of the rough and into the fairway, thus allowing an opportunity to shoot for the flag.
The tournament was ultimately determined by one shot at the par-4 14th. Brimming with confidence, Singh snap-hooked his tee shot into the water. He knew it as soon as he hit it, dropping his club on the follow-through and kicking it while it lay on the ground.
Having to hit his third shot from the tee box, Singh posted a triple bogey and fell four shots back of Woods at 10-under.
Made one bad swing and thats all it takes, said Singh. I was feeling really comfortable out there. You cannot make mistakes like that. And that was it.
Singh bravely tried to mount a comeback. Just off the green in two on the par-5 16th, Singh used the toe of his putter to pop in an eagle from the collar of the fringe. He then stuck his tee shot on the treacherous par-3 17th to within four feet and converted the birdie putt.
Following a clutch par save at the 18th, Singh signed for a round of 4-under-par 68 and waited on the sidelines at 13-under.
Despite a birdie at the par-5 16th, Tiger wasnt out of the woods just yet. He still had to navigate the 17th, which he double bogeyed in the second round. Just trying to find land on the island green, Tiger hit a 9-iron. His ball caught the putting surface, and then kicked hard left into the greenside rough. His ball stayed dry by a mere foot.
I knew when I hit it, I hit it the ball the right distance. From there, it is up to the bounce. I hit it soft over there and it rolled (to the fringe), and I got a horrible lie over there. Woods said.
Woods chip shot came up six feet short of the hole; however, he rammed home the par putt to remain two up with one to play.
At the 18th, Tiger opted for a 2-iron. Thursday, he hit 3-wood into the water. This time he avoided the hazard, but found the penal left-hand rough. Knowing he needed only a bogey to win, Woods successfully laid up and then placed his third shot 25 feet below the hole.
With the engraver already carving his name into the side of the trophy, Woods allowed the man to finish the job by two-putting for victory.
After eight Tour starts without a win, Woods has now triumphed in successive weeks (Bay Hill Invitational). He also claims the top spot on the seasonal money list. The $1,080,000 first-place check pushed Woods to over $2.25 million for the year.
As the Florida Swing comes to a halt, Woods will head back to his residential home in Orlando for a little rest, before starting again his preparation for the Masters Tournament in next week. Woods will be trying to win his fourth consecutive major in Augusta.
You can't really look at the fact that I have a chance to win four consecutive majors,' said Woods. 'I'm going to treat it just like I do every major. I'm going to try and win the golf tournament.'
News, Notes and Numbers
*This was Tiger Woods 26th career PGA Tour victory. Hes now tied with Henry Picard at 19th on the All-Time PGA Tour winners list.
*This is the eighth time in Tigers career that he was won in back-to-back starts.
*Woods joins Jack Nicklaus as the only men to win all four majors and The Players Championship. He and Nicklaus are also the only men whose PGA Tour win-count is more than their age. The 61-year-old Nicklaus has 70 career wins. The 25-year-old Woods now has 26 Tour titles.
Full-Field Scores from The Players Championship
Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.
If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.
“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”
Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.
“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”
That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.
After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.
Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”
Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.
“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”
Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.
For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd
A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.
“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.
Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.
The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.
Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.
“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.
Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.
But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.
“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ... I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”
There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?
“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”
For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.
While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.
“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.
What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.
“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”
This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.
It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.
This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.
But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.
Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.
He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.
“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”
Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.
In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.
Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.
“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.
“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.
“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."
A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.
“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.
“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.
“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”
Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."
Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.
“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.
“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”
Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.
“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.
Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course
Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.
The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.
Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.
In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!