Looking Back on the PGA TOUR

By Sports NetworkDecember 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)PHILADELPHIA -- The 2006 season saw big wins on the course, some big losses off the course and the usual dramatic and sometimes strange endings.
 
It was a year when the world's No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, lost his father and missed a cut at a major before rebounding with a stunning stretch of golf that saw him win the final two majors of the year.
 
The season also witnessed several first-time winners as well as some veterans reclaiming their cards in different ways. Jeff Maggert (1999) and Corey Pavin (1996) snapped long winless streaks to secure playing privileges for the next two years, while former major champion and television broadcaster Paul Azinger finished inside the top-125 on the money list to earn his card for next year after using his one-time, top-50 all-time money list exemption.
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods won eight times on the PGA TOUR in 2006, including his last six starts.
The season got off to a fairly normal start for Tiger Woods with two wins in his first four starts, but that is not what made him the Player of the Year.
 
After earning those two early wins and being unable to come from behind and win the Masters, Woods' biggest loss would come off the course.
 
He lost his father, Earl, to a long battle with cancer after failing to win the Masters. The younger Woods would not be seen on a golf course again until the U.S. Open, but what followed the most difficult loss he has faced to this point in his life was a stunning display of golf.
 
After grieving the loss of his father, Woods returned to the course at the U.S. Open. Maybe he wasn't ready, maybe this, maybe that. Whatever you want to call it, the result still stands. Woods missed the cut for the first time as a professional in a major.
 
Woods was next seen on a golf course at the Western Open, where he has won three times in his career. The 30-year-old posted three rounds in the 60s, but finished two strokes behind first-time winner Trevor Immelman.
 
From that point forward, the rest of the PGA TOUR was left in the dust. Woods ran off six, count 'em six, straight wins.
 
These tournaments did not have watered-down fields. They included the best of the best.
 
In order: He claimed his third British Open by two strokes over Chris DiMarco (whose mother had passed away the week before the championship); won the Buick Open by three over Jim Furyk; cruised to five-shot win over Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship; bested Stewart Cink in a playoff for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title; used a Sunday 63 to take down Vijay Singh by two at the Deutsche Bank Championship; and ran away with a six-shot victory over Adam Scott and Ian Poulter at the WGC-American Express Championship.
 
PHEW!!!
So let's recap. That was six wins that: came by an average of over three shots per title; earned him $7,016,480 (which in and of itself would have put him second on the money list); gave him 12 major championship titles and moved his PGA Tour win total to 54.
 
Oh, by the way, he did win the money title with $9,941,563 and had eight total wins in just 15 starts. Not a bad winning percentage for a golfer.
 
Woods says his win streak came to an end with his first-round loss at the HSBC World Match Play Championship on the European Tour, but his PGA streak is still intact.
 
He is more than halfway to Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight wins and has a stellar record at the season-opening events where he normally plays. Who knows what could happen. I surely wouldn't doubt him in his quest for history.
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The Rookie of the Year race was a tight one between Trevor Immelman and Camilo Villegas. The nod here goes to Immelman, mostly due to his win at the Western Open.
 
The South African missed fewer cuts -- five to Villegas' 11 -- had one more top-five finish, four more top-10s and earned over $2.1 million more than the young Colombian.
 
Immelman got off to a really slow start with five missed cuts in his first nine starts. However, he didn't miss a cut the rest of the year. In his final 15 PGA TOUR starts in '06, Immelman finished outside the top 20 just three times.
 
In May, he collected back-to-back second-place finishes, including a playoff loss to Jim Furyk at the Wachovia Championship. Immelman's best finish in a major came at the U.S. Open, where he tied for 21st.
 
He broke into the winners circle in July at the Western Open, an event dominated recently by Tiger Woods. Immelman closed with a four-under 67 to hold off Mathew Goggin and Woods by two strokes.
 
He ended the season as the only rookie in the field at the Tour Championship. Immelman closed with three straight rounds in the 60s to finish in a tie for fifth and earn $266,000, which gave him over $3.8 million for the season, putting him seventh on the money list.
 
Kudos to Villegas for his stellar season as well. He did have four top-five finishes and earned over $1.7 million. That came one year after he played his way onto the Nationwide Tour after beginning the '05 season with no status.
 
SHOT OF THE YEAR
We're going to split this one into good shot of the year and bad shot(s) of the year.
 
The good, okay great, shot of the year was Tiger Woods' hole-out eagle at the British Open. While successfully defending his title at the Open Championship, Woods needed every stroke he could get as he fended off a strong challenge from Chris DiMarco.
 
Woods approached his ball in the 14th fairway at Royal Liverpool with four- iron in hand. He ripped his second shot to the par-4 on the exact line he was targeting.
 
What Woods wouldn't know, as he was unable to see the green, was how perfectly the ball bounced and rolled right toward the hole. The ball tracked the final 15 feet perfectly and dropped into the hole for eagle.
 
'I never saw it. I didn't see the flag,' admitted Woods. 'Just left of the TV towers was where I was aiming. I was trying to hold it on the wind. I hit it pretty good.'
 
The bad shots go to Phil Mickelson. With the U.S. Open in his grasp, Mickelson lost his drive on the 17th hole into a trash can. Good aim, Phil, but the trash can was nowhere near the middle of the fairway.
 
If that wasn't bad enough, Mickelson's tee shot at the 18th bounced off the tents lining the fairway to the left. He then hit a tree with his second shot, which led to a double-bogey that cost him the title and left Mickelson famously saying, 'I'm such an idiot.'
 
Honorable mention for a good shot goes to Chris Couch. Couch, who turned 33 the day after the event, needed a par on the final hole at the Zurich Classic to win by one stroke over Charles Howell III and Fred Funk.
 
Couch found a greenside bunker at the last and had a tough lie. With water over the green, Couch could only advance the ball a few feet into the rough.
 
Using his cross-handed chipping style, Couch chipped his fourth shot into the hole from 55 feet to secure the win. The shot was impressive enough, but it helped Couch complete a comeback that saw him make the cut on the number then rally for the win. He became just the fourth player in PGA TOUR history to make such a comeback and win.
 
TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR
The aforementioned collapse by Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open was not the only bad ending at Winged Foot.
 
Winner Geoff Ogilvy chipped in for par on 17, then was in a sand-filled divot on 18 and was able to save par from that as well, closing with a two-over 72 to finish at plus-5.
 
Mickelson's late mistakes cost him as he closed with a 74 to end one behind the Australian. Colin Montgomerie, already a two-time U.S. Open runner-up, was in the fairway at the last.
 
The Scotsman changed clubs for his approach and came up well short of the green in some thick rough. Montgomerie blasted his chip 40 feet from the hole and, three putts later, he was in the clubhouse at 6 over par. That mistake came after he poured in a long birdie putt at the 17th.
 
Oh, yeah, current world No. 2 Jim Furyk also had a shot at winning the title, which would have been his second U.S. Open title. He pushed a seemingly simple par putt at the last and that bogey cost him a shot at a playoff as he shared second with Monty and Mickelson at plus-six.
 
So after all that, Ogilvy walked off with his first major championship win and third PGA Tour title overall.
 
GOOD YEAR
Despite his tough loss at the U.S. Open, it was a stellar year for Jim Furyk. He began the 2006 as the seventh ranked player in the world, but ends it ranked No. 2 behind only Tiger Woods.
 
Furyk was one of five people on the PGA TOUR with two wins this year, while he also posted the most top-5 finishes (12) and tied for the most top-10s (13). Furyk ended the year second on the money list with $7,213,316.
 
Australian Adam Scott capped a spectacular season with a victory at the TOUR Championship. That was his first victory since the 2004 season. Scott ended the season with $4,978,858 and eight top-5 finishes.
 
Though several others collapsed to give him the U.S. Open title, Geoff Ogilvy also won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship en route to finishing fifth on the money list.
 
BAD YEARS
Okay, so he got off to a good start with four top-10s in his first five starts and won two events, including the Masters, but Phil Mickelson's year ended with a thud. After sharing second at the U.S. Open, he played in just five events with his best finish a share of 16th at the PGA Championship. He closed his season by going 0-4-1 at the Ryder Cup, then announced he wouldn't return until 2007. Hope his four-month vacation was fun.
 
Despite being ranked in the top-10 in the world all year, Retief Goosen was unable to collect a PGA TOUR win and posted just five top-5 finishes in 18 starts. He ended second at the Players Championship and tied for third at the Masters, but finished just 18th on the money list.
 
Another player ranked in the top-10 in the world all year who went winless was Ernie Els. He posted just two top-5s, including a third-place finish at the British Open. However, Els finished only 28th on the money list and slid to seventh in the world rankings.
 
It is hard to pick on a guy who made a stunning admission, but it came well after the fact. Steven Bowditch told reporters during PGA TOUR Q-School that he had battled depression throughout the season. That helps explain his missing the cut 13 times, being disqualified four times, withdrawing from three events and making just two cuts all season. Here's hoping he recovers soon and plays well in '07 as he'll be on the PGA TOUR for five events through the minor medical extension.
 
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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.