On the Doorstep of History
Behold the sporting feats equally as monumental. Jones wins his eras grand slam. Owens runs to gold in Berlin. Dimaggio hits in 56 straight.
And now, Tiger Woods stands poised to hold all four major championship titles at the same time.
This is New York Times, front page news. It may be enough to revive what in these jaded days seems almost archaic, the ticker tape parade for that one single athlete. The true American hero.
And make no mistake, that is what we have here. A golfer so extraordinary as to be a dyed-in-the-wool Lindbergh, Jones, Owens and Dimaggio forever legend in Tiger Woods.
So Woods is perched on the doorstep of history. When, I ask you, has he failed to fully embrace it? All hes done is make history at every remarkable point of his singular career. As a teen, he won three straight U.S. Junior Ams followed by three straight U.S. Ams. Six in a row. Match play. Not a single loss for six straight years. Then he wins the Masters by a dozen. NBA games are won by 12, not major championships. O.K. sometimes theyre won by 15 shots. Thats right, he won the U.S. Open by 15. And that was his prelude to becoming the youngest to win the career slam at no less a spot than the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews. Bottom line, Tigers propensity for matching the moment is unparalleled in the annals of sport.
Interestingly, I appeared as a guest recently on a radio talk show and the host told me that his father, representative in his mind of the older generation, was reluctant to anoint Tiger at this point as the best ever. Its possible that people less willingly accept that which they cannot explain. And Tiger is so often beyond comprehension. Is Woods the most accomplished right now in terms of raw career numbers? Of course not, but only because he hasnt played long enough. Clearly if he stays healthy and at this current pace hell have all the meaningful records, like Jacks major mark and Sneads win total, by the time hes in his mid-30s. That said, even if Tiger stopped playing at this moment, hed likely still be regarded by most knowledgeable observers as the best ever. The reasons are fairly simple. No one whos ever hit it this long, has hit it this straight, this consistently while at the same time putting better than, say, Ben Crenshaw; competing psychologically like Jack Nicklaus; and displaying the sheer imaginative genius and daring that even swashbucklers like Seve and Arnie couldnt have duplicated in their own heydays. No one, but no one, has ever played golf the way Tiger does.
Most remarkable of all might be his ability to play at such a high level on such a consistent basis. Or perhaps its his complete mastery of fear and self doubt. Or maybe its his uncanny ability to so quickly turn trouble into outright triumph, as he did in Canada last year or Bay Hill this year. There seem to be no limits to how he can stupefy us.
And wouldnt it be great if all that stood between Woods and history was Augustas back side on Sunday? Its the best hold your breath stretch in golf. At number 12, when a player swings, we hold our breath for those three seconds or so until the ball lands and then we hear either the collective, Yes, if it lands safely, or the painful Ohhhh if it comes up short in Raes Creek. Same holds for the second into 13, as was the case with Duval last year, and the 15th, too. Three-shot deficits can be erased in a single hole on the back nine at Augusta.
Now beyond Tiger, its impossible to dismiss several contenders, notably Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Both possess all the requisite components needed to prevail, including length and touch, the latter being vastly improved in the case of Singh. Mickelson needs to avoid the unforced error and better harness his explosiveness. Both players have competed well on a consistent basis over the last three months.
But winning majors for those not named Tiger, it seems, has never been tougher because Tiger looks to be the best built major machine ever made. Are todays challengers not as strong as those who occasionally had their way with Nicklaus? Who do you like in the hypothetical, head to head, Trevino or Mickelson? Watson or Love? Or is Woods simply so good as to have ified challengers in a way that even Jack could not? Hard to know.
What we do know is that Tigers mantra all through his spellbinding journey has been to give himself a chance to win on Sunday afternoon. No one doubts that hell have that chance, as he so rarely fails to show up when it matters the most. However it happens-- in a runaway, in a down to the wire classic, or in gallant defeat--we await the historic trip with great, great eagerness.
What do you think of Tiger's chances to win the Masters and hold all four majors?
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Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.