Story 1 - Tigers Season Short but Sweet

By Rex HoggardDecember 31, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesHistory will count 2008 as one of Tiger Woods greatest campaigns. But then the historian never had to toil on a central Florida couch, keeping time with a cocktail of ice and pain relievers while the world forged ahead without him.
 
In short, 08 was the best abridged season since Ben Hogan won five of six events he played in 1953, including the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. But then Woods four-of-six haul can be misleading, a disjointed calendar of brilliance mixed amid emotional challenges and physical pain.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' season ended in June, but not before collecting a 14th major trophy. (Getty Images)
Essentially, 2008 was a tale of two Torreys for Woods. One filled with promise and prompting hushed comparisons to his 2000 masterpiece, the other a 91-hole limping exhibition. Both played out on the same sprawling seaside public park, providing perfect synergy to the imperfect season.
 
In February Woods dismantled the softer, kinder version to win his sixth Buick Invitational and send a chill as palpable as any June Gloom down the backs of the collective challengers who would return to SoCal for the U.S. Open.
 
Woods lapped the Buick field by eight, led the pack in putting and was tied for second in greens in regulation. I knew I could attain another level, and here we are, was Woods frighteningly clinical assessment.
 
He followed Torrey Pines Part 1 with a commanding performance at the WGC-Match Play Championship and a walk-off birdie at the 72nd hole to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the fifth time in his last nine starts.
 
I think we need to slice him open and see whats inside there, said Stewart Cink, Woods 8-and-7 final-match speed bump in Tucson. Maybe nuts and bolts.
 
The world soon discovered the machine needed maintenance. Two days after Woods finished three shots behind Trevor Immelman at Augusta National - the byproduct of a balky putter more so than a misfiring swing - he walked into a Park City, Utah, medical facility to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. It was the second operation in five years on the same knee and would bench the world No. 1 for at least two months.
 
Although he missed The Players and Wachovia Championship, where he was the defending champion, his return to Torrey Pines combined with the buzz of a contrived uber-pairing that would feature Woods, San Diego native Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott in Rounds 1 and 2 to create a pre-championship frenzy. The affair had a Fab Four feel to it as the Southern California masses encircled the first tee to get a glimpse at history.
 
For the better part of two days, it failed to live up to its billing.
 
Mickelson ballooned to a 75 in Round 2 to drop out of the hunt. Scott nursed his way to matching 73s. And Woods knee, if not his air of invincibility, suddenly seemed frail.
 
He played his first 27 holes in 3 over par, missed more fairways (12) than he hit (nine) and had already recorded twice as many three-putts (two) as he did during his last Grand Slam tilt (2007 PGA), when he stepped to the South Courses first tee (his 10th of the day).
 
After penciling in a double bogey-6 at the par-4 opener on Day 1, Woods began an almost flawless nine holes with a birdie. He one-putted five of his final nine holes and signed for a 68 to head into the weekend one back.
 
Wincing with almost every swing and walking tenderly from tee box to green, Woods continued the exhibition on Saturday, rolling in a pair of eagles at the 13th and 18th holes to assemble the type of 54-hole lead he rarely gives away.
 
This time, however, Woods failed to deliver from the front of the pack. He doubled No. 1, bogeyed the second and needed a twisting 18-footer for birdie at the last to match Rocco Mediate at 1 under and push the bout to extra innings and one of the most memorable Mondays in recent history.
 
Oh my God, that was ridiculous, said Mediate, the 45-year-old endearing antagonist who pushed Woods to the 91st hole. He's hard to beat. I threw everything I had, the kitchen sink, everything right at him.
 
There would be more histrionics: Woods two-putt from 40 feet for birdie at the 18th extra frame to extend the Monday that wouldnt end, and ultimately a moment of rare anticlimax when Woods won the 108th U.S. Open with tap-in par at the final hole.
 
I think this is probably the best ever, Woods said of his 14th major keepsake. All things considered, (I) don't know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you.
 
It was a long week, a lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week. And here we are 91 holes later.
 
Six months and one major surgery later, the episode still maintains an instant classic quality. Whether it was enough to ease Woods transition from fearless champion to compliant patient is up to the man on the couch. The historians will take care of the rest.
 
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  • Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

    He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

    Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

    Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

    Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

    Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

    "I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

    The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

    Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

    "I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

    McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

    Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

    Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

    Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

    Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    "I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

    But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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    With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

    Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

    The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

    "I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."