A down year for Tiger leads to parity in golf
In the years when he wasn’t winning a major or three, Woods compensated by winning at least five times on the PGA Tour against some of the strongest fields on some of the toughest courses. He won 31 times and six majors in the previous five years.
The only time during that stretch that Woods did not win PGA Tour player of the year was in 2008, when he made it through only half the year until his knee gave out. Padraig Harrington captured the last two majors to win the award, although Woods still earned some consideration. He won four times in six starts, including a U.S. Open.
The FedEx Cup playoffs get under way this week at The Barclays, and Woods is at No. 112 in the standings, sandwiched between Bob Estes and Cameron Beckman.
Dominance has given way to parity.
Five players have multiple victories this year – Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan – yet none of them has more than two wins, and none of them won a major.
Why has no one filled the void?
“That’s how good Tiger Wood is – that’s what I make of it,” Adam Scott said Tuesday.
Els has been leading the FedEx Cup standings since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He begins the playoffs with only a 149-point lead over Stricker. A year ago, Woods had a 1,276-point lead over Stricker going into The Barclays.
“This is just an observation,” Zach Johnson said Tuesday. “But I watched Greensboro for about six holes on Sunday and they showed the standings. I knew Ernie had been on top forever, but he still is. The other years it seemed like it was so volatile that even I was at No. 1 for like a week. Now it’s all bunched up.”
Golf is bunched up at the moment, at least on the PGA Tour.
“No one has separated themselves,” Mahan said. “Tiger hasn’t won five times. You’ve got a bunch of guys who have won twice.”
In its first three years, the FedEx Cup has provided four great tournaments after the majors were over, and the list of winners backs that up – three wins for Woods; two apiece for Mickelson, Stricker, Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas; and Heath Slocum as the outsider, but only after beating Woods, Stricker, Harrington and Els on the last hole. Even so, it had little bearing on anything except a bank account.
This year – thanks to Woods – it’s a little different.
The four playoff events over the next five weeks most likely will decide who was the best player on the PGA Tour this year. Not only is there no clear-cut favorite for player of the year, it’s hard to determine the front-runner.
“Ernie?” pondered Mahan, but only after taking several seconds of thought. “He’s leading the points race, right? And he won twice. And he was right up there in two majors.”
Actually, only one major.
Els had a share of the lead Sunday in the U.S. Open until he started dropping shots along the Pacific cliffs and never got them back. He wound up third, then missed the cut in the British Open and fizzled at the PGA Championship.
Winning the FedEx Cup might be all it takes for Els to be voted player of the year. Then again, it’s mathematically possible for him to do that without winning another tournament. Can a guy get voted best player with only two wins and no majors?
“If Phil wins, it’s got to be over,” Mahan said, continuing to work this out while speaking to no one in particular.
The defining shot of this goofy season was the 6-iron Mickelson hit through the pines on the 13th at Augusta National when he won the Masters. He is the only major champion in the FedEx Cup because the other three – Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer – were not PGA Tour members.
For the eighth time over the last three months, Mickelson will have yet another chance to replace Woods atop the world ranking. It should have happened by now, as poorly as Woods has performed. Trouble is, Mickelson hasn’t been much better. Lefty has not finished in the top 10 in the four tournaments he has played since the U.S. Open.
Mahan won in Phoenix, got engaged to a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, then won his first World Golf Championship title at Firestone. He would get consideration with a victory or two in the next month, plus the $10 million prize for the FedEx Cup.
The same holds true for Stricker, Furyk and Rose. Someone needs to separate themselves from the pack.
“I guess there’s a lot of people in the mix,” Dustin Johnson said. “But whoever has a good playoffs will probably be the top candidate.”
That might include Johnson, himself. Two playoff wins, a FedEx Cup, a victory earlier this year at Pebble Beach, sympathy for the bunker ruling at Whistling Straits. Why not?
“If I could win a couple of playoff events and the FedEx Cup, I’d be happy,” Scott said. “Even if you didn’t vote for me.”
Given the way this season has gone, the four playoff events could go to players who had not won anything all year.
Even someone like Woods.
Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018
Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.
Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.
An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.
View this post on Instagram
I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise
Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.
“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.
Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.
“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.
Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.
Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.
“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.
Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy
We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.
This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.
Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.
Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters
SOTOGRANDE, Spain -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.
More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.
English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.
''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''
Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend
After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.
The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.
The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.
Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.
“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.
In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.
“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”
In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.
“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.
Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.
“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”