Woods Named Player of the Year
Woods won the award for a record fifth consecutive year and for the sixth time in the last seven years. Tom Watson had captured the award four straight times from 1977 to 1980.
'Congratulations to Tiger for his sixth Player of the Year Award,' said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. 'And congratulations also to the other four players nominated who produced outstanding results during the 2003 season.'
Woods was major-less for the first time since the 1998 season, which was also the last time he did not win the money title.
Singh snapped Woods' reign atop the money list as he picked up a tour-record $7,573,907. The Fijian earned four wins on the season and posted 18 top-10 finishes in 27 starts. Singh's wins came at the Phoenix Open, Byron Nelson Classic, John Deere Classic and Funai Classic at Disney World.
Woods, who played in nine fewer tournaments than Singh, recorded 12 top-10s in 18 starts and won five times.
'Quite frankly, I would have been disappointed if I didn't win,' said Woods. 'Considering I had won five times this year.'
Woods also has several lengthy streaks going. He has made 114 consecutive cuts, breaking the record of the legendary golfer Byron Nelson. Also, he has been the No. 1 ranked player in the world for 226 straight weeks.
Woods is on pace to snap the all-time record of longest at No. 1 in the world set by Greg Norman. Woods has been atop the rankings for a total of 296 weeks, just 35 shy of Norman's all- time mark of 331 weeks.
While coming back from off-season knee surgery, Woods burst out of the gate by winning three of his first four events - the Buick Invitational, WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational. He later picked up titles at the Western Open and WGC-American Express Championship.
'Everything was OK physically, it was just the mental hurdle of getting out there and knowing I can swing like I used to without hurting myself,' Woods said. 'Last year I was feeling so much pain, I was altering my game.'
At the majors, Woods' best showing came at the British Open, where he tied for fourth. At the Masters, Woods barely survived the cut, then climbed to a tie for 15th.
Despite a second-round 66, Woods stumbled to a share of 20th at 3-over-par at the U.S. Open. At the PGA Championship, the season's final major, Woods was not a factor and never broke par en route to a 12-over-par 292.
He became the first person since Fred Couples in 1991 to win the Player of the Year Award without winning a major or capturing the money title.
'Everyone is basing my performance on what I did in 2000 and it is very hard to duplicate what I did that year,' said Woods. 'That was a very magical year. But this year, I won five times and two of them were World Golf Championships, so of the biggest tournaments in the world, at least I was able to get a couple of them.'
Also announced on Monday were the Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year Awards. British Open champion Ben Curtis was honored as the Rookie of the Year, while Peter Jacobsen garnered Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Curtis, playing in his first major at the British Open, was the only player to finish under par for the event. The victory vaulted him 361 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings, the single greatest jump since the rankings began in 1986. He ended the season 46th on the PGA money list with $1,434,911.
Jacobsen picked up his first win since 1995 when he titled at the Greater Hartford Open. Jacobsen, who becomes eligible for the Champions Tour when he turns 50 on March 4, earned a career-best $1,162,726 this season.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."