Notes Tiger vs Nicklaus Quite the Comparison
After he won the 2002 U.S. Open for his eighth major, Golf Digest asked readers on its Web site if they thought he would break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors, and 73 percent said yes. The same question was posed two years later -- with Woods still stuck on eight majors -- and 71 percent said no.
This week, the online survey by Golf Digest asked how many times he would win the Masters. Nearly 70 percent said either seven or eight green jackets.
If nothing else, winning the Masters allows conversations to resume about his quest to reach 18 majors. Woods now has nine majors at age 29, trailing only Nicklaus and Walter Hagen (11), tied with Ben Hogan and Gary Player.
Woods remains ahead of schedule.
He has won nine of his first 33 majors as a pro. Nicklaus had won seven at that point.
Woods twice has gone 10 majors without winning, while Nicklaus' longest drought at this stage in his career was 12 majors, from the '67 U.S. Open to the '70 British Open at St. Andrews.
But if Woods wants to keep pace, the next five years will be crucial. Nicklaus won seven of the next 22 majors after ending his dry spell, including multiple-major seasons in 1972 and 1975.
Nicklaus says he wasn't aware of Bobby Jones' record of 13 majors (including six amateur titles) until the Golden Bear won his 10th. Woods was not aware he was halfway to Nicklaus' mark after winning the Masters.
``I haven't thought about it -- that's the first time,'' he said. ``I guess I am halfway. A long way to go.''
OFF THE MARK
Mark O'Meara has one more chance to secure full-exempt status for the year.
O'Meara missed the final two months last year with a wrist injury and was given a minor medical extension. Because he earned $543,866, the two-time major winner had eight tournaments to make $79,396 -- which would give him the equivalent of 125th on the money list last year.
He has played seven times this year, made three cuts and is $10,892 short with one tournament left. O'Meara, 48, helped his cause last week at the Masters by tying for 31st to earn $46,550.
O'Meara likely only needs to make the cut at his next tournament to make up the difference.
Either way, he plans a full schedule. O'Meara already has exemptions to the Wachovia Championship and the Byron Nelson Championship. If he still doesn't have his card by the end of the year, he can use his one-time exemption for top 50 in career money to play next year.
Gene Sarazen (1935) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) are the only players to win a green jacket on their first try, but there was a strong showing by Masters rookies this year.
Luke Donald, who staggered to a 77 when the second round was completed Saturday morning, closed with two 69s to tie for third. Rod Pampling and Mark Hensby of Australia tied for fifth, while David Howell of England recovered from his third round (76) to shoot 69 and finish in a tie for 11th.
All of them will be back next year by finishing in the top 16.
The one to watch the rest of the year might be Donald, whose classic swing and level head might allow him to start contending in the majors on a regular basis. Donald started last year at No. 130 in the world ranking and has climbed to No. 13 after the Masters.
Nike Golf was quick to announce that for the first time in its short history making golf clubs, more players used its irons than any other brand at a PGA Tour event -- and at the Masters, no less.
But only at the Masters can aging champions tee it up, and that's what caused the biggest stir last week at Augusta National. Nike was said to have paid $20,000 for players to use its irons.
Billy Casper played the Masters for the first time since 2001, carrying a Nike bag and using its clubs to post a 106. Charles Coody also switched to the swoosh, while Tommy Aaron continued to carry a Titleist bag -- stuffed with Nike clubs, of course. Other aging champs using Nike clubs were Sandy Lyle and Ray Floyd.
Kel Devlin at Nike said it was an example of how aggressive the company has been signing up players from all tours.
``This is not a one-week deal,'' Devlin said.
Having the most irons in play, according to the Darrell Survey, allows Nike to run advertisements telling everyone about it. But it probably gets more attention from its staff member wearing a green jacket Sunday -- Tiger Woods.
CADDIE FOR A CURE
The caddie for two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer has come up with unique program to raise money for leukemia research and other charities.
Russ Holden has started ``Caddy For a Cure,'' which allows people to bid for a chance to caddie for a PGA Tour player during a practice round at five tournaments this year.
Among the players who already have signed up are Langer, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia, Chad Campbell, Justin Leonard, Kenny Perry and Peter Jacobsen.
Cink, Langer, Lehman and Fred Funk were auctioned off for the first tournament, the MCI Heritage.
The not-for-profit group will give 100 percent of the proceeds to four charities -- the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, the player's charity of his choice, the tournament's charity and the PGA Tour Caddie benevolent fund.
Other tournaments where players will be involved in the program are the Houston Open, the Colonial, the Barclay's Classic at Westchester and the John Deere Classic.
Players might want to consider going to the John Deere Classic with hopes of winning soon. Three players in the field last year won the following week -- Jonathan Byrd at the B.C. Open, Todd Hamilton at the British Open and D.A. Points on the Nationwide Tour. ... Chris DiMarco became the 41st player to finish second to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour. ... Last week was the first time Woods won any tournament when shooting over par in the first round. He opened with a 74, the highest first round by a Masters champion since Mark O'Meara in 1998.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods has won as many majors (9) as the next four players in the world ranking combined -- Vijay Singh (3), Ernie Els (3), Phil Mickelson (1) and Retief Goosen (2).
``Just wondering what he was smoking.'' -- Tiger Woods, on what he thought when Jack Nicklaus said Woods might win more green jackets than Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer combined.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday
Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.
European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.
Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.
Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.
Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.
Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.
Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener
RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.
Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.
Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.
''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''
The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.
''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''
Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.
''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''
Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.
''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''
The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.
''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''
The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.
After Further Review: American success stories
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...
Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.
After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.
Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray
On the resurgence of American women ...
American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.
The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell
In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit
Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.
“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.
Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).
It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.
“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.
“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”
Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.
“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”
Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.
“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”
Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.
This is how Kang remembered the conversation:
Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”
Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”
Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”
“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”
Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.
“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.
“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”