Age, major venues make 2014 huge for Woods

By Doug FergusonDecember 31, 2013, 5:29 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Four years later, the words of Jack Nicklaus resonate even louder.

''If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard,'' Nicklaus said at the start of 2010.

Nicklaus was referring to his record 18 majors, and the major championship venues that favored Woods – Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, all courses where he had won before. Woods never had a serious chance on the back nine of any major that year. His tally remains at 14.

And that makes 2014 even bigger.

Woods is facing another favorable menu of major championship sites. He already has won majors at Augusta, Royal Liverpool (British Open) and Valhalla (PGA Championship). The U.S. Open is at Pinehurst No. 2, were Woods was third in 1999 and runner-up in 2005.

''I'm trending in the right way,'' Woods said recently. ''I've finished third, second ... you get the picture, right? OK.''

A new year begins Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, and while Woods is among PGA Tour winners who chose to sit this one out, his performance in the majors this year figures to be a major topic of conversation over the next eight months.

''I always think that the Masters signals a lot with Tiger,'' NBC analyst Johnny Miller said during a conference call. ''If he doesn't win the Masters, I think it gives a great, big 'Uh-oh,' because that course is so perfect for his game. I'll leave it at that. But if he wants to get off on the right foot, I think he needs to get off at the Masters.''

There's a big difference with Woods the last time he faced such a tantalizing rotation of majors.

Nicklaus spoke of a ''big year'' when Woods was more of a mystery than ever. No one had seen Woods in more than a month going into 2010 and didn't even know where he was. His personal life at home, his mystique in golf and his appeal in the corporate world were crumbling in spectacular fashion.

Now, he is No. 1 in the world. He won five times last year against some of the strongest fields. He won the Vardon Trophy for the ninth time, the PGA Tour money title for the 10th time and was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time.

Still, there remains an uncertainty about Woods, mainly because he hasn't won a major since 2008 and he hasn't broken 70 on the weekend of any major since the 2011 Masters. That's a startling statistic for a guy who has built a reputation as golf's greatest closer.

''It's getting much harder for Tiger because guys are not wilting on him,'' Miller said. ''So he's got a double whammy in that he's not able to close as well as he used to, and then the guys are more heroic against him like they never were before. ... Guys are saying, 'Yeah, you're Tiger Woods and you're the greatest ever, but now at your age, I can beat you.' He needs to do it in the majors.''

Will familiar venues help?

Not necessarily.

Woods forever is linked with Augusta National because of his record score (270) and margin of victory (12 shots) in the 1997 Masters, his back-to-back wins (2001-02) and that magic moment with his chip on the 16th hole that led to his playoff win in 2005. But he has not added to his wardrobe of green jackets in eight years, his longest drought in any major. Who saw that coming?

And while he is trending in the right direction at Pinehurst No. 2, the Donald Ross design has gone through a restoration project that eliminated rough and replaced it with sandy dunes, pine straw and wire grass.

Woods won the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool when it was firm and fiery, a links that was more yellow than green because of a dry summer. Woods hit only one driver the entire week. It might not be the same course if England gets a wet summer – and yes, it does rain in England – and players see Hoylake green, lush and longer.

Valhalla is where Woods made what he considers the biggest putt of his career, a 6-footer on the final hole for birdie to force a playoff that he won over Bob May in the PGA Championship. It gave Woods his third straight major in that amazing summer of 2000.

If that seems like a long time ago, it was. Woods will not have seen Valhalla in 14 years when he returns this summer.

The best gauge of Woods and his pursuit of Nicklaus is more about him than the course he is playing. More than St. Andrews or Pebble Beach, more than Hoylake or Valhalla, it's best to consider Southern Hills. That's the course that supposedly gave Woods fits because of its tight, bending, tree-lined fairways. Woods won the 2007 PGA Championship that year, proof that when he's on his game and in the right frame of mind, he can win any major on any course.

More significant than where the majors are played in 2014 is the fact Woods turned 38 on Monday.

By age alone, Woods has been ahead of Nicklaus' pace in the majors since winning his seventh major in 2002 Masters at age 26. They are tied now. Nicklaus also had 14 majors when he turned 38, and then he added his 15th major that summer in the British Open.

That's what makes this a big year for Woods.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”


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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”