Woods' fading star allows others to shine

By Doug FergusonNovember 30, 2011, 12:32 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The pool of young talent in golf has never looked deeper.

Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open at age 22, the second-youngest player to win a major since The Masters began in 1934. Jason Day, the 24-year-old Australian, was a runner-up in two majors this year. Rickie Fowler, 22, won his first pro event in South Korea and is responsible for all those bright orange Puma hats in just about any gallery.

Matteo Manassero won twice on the European Tour before he was 18. Ryo Ishikawa had 10 wins in Japan before he was 19.

The list gets even longer with budding stars in their 20s – Martin Kaymer, Charl SchwartzelDustin JohnsonKeegan BradleyWebb Simpson and Anthony Kim.

Attribute that depth to Tiger Woods.

It’s not because he set the bar so high and made everyone try to get better. It’s because he no longer wins so many tournaments. So maybe the pool only looks deeper because it no longer has such a big fish.

For the second straight year, nobody won more than three times on the PGA TourLuke Donald was among seven players with two wins this year, while Jim Furyk won his third event last year in his final start at the Tour Championship.

The five previous years, Woods won at least six times in all but one year. The exception was 2008, when he missed the second half of the year with knee surgery. He won four times in six starts.

It’s one thing to talk about this great parity in golf, particularly on the biggest tour. But two questions should be asked: Would that perception of parity exist if Woods had not gone away the last two years? Is it possible that just as many great young players were around over the last decade, only to be overlooked by the overwhelming presence of the game’s biggest star?

Sergio Garcia nearly won the PGA Championship at 19 except that he went up against Woods that day in Medinah. Adam Scott was 23 when he won The Players ChampionshipJustin Leonard was 25 when he won the British Open. Phil Mickelson won as an amateur.

“The talk like there’s parity on Tour is slightly flawed, because there’s always been parity,” Geoff Ogilvy said in a recent interview. “It’s just that there was one guy who made no one notice. The last 15 years you’ve had Phil Mickelson, Ernie ElsDavid Duval, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia. You had arguably more proven players – lots of them – over the last 15 years. Now it’s the same.

“You have new names, but we notice them now. The media notices them. Fans notice them.”

They used to be looked upon as possible challengers to Woods. Now they are seen as potential replacements.

Woods has gone two years since his last win, which for so many years seemed unimaginable until his personal life unraveled, until he chose to go through yet another swing change, then effectively went four months without being able to practice due to injury. Through it all, his confidence eroded with each setback.

Thirteen players have won the last 13 majors, dating to Padraig Harrington at the 2008 PGA Championship. There was a time when Woods won seven out of 11 majors early in his career, and six out of 14 majors right before reconstructive knee surgery.

If he had kept winning at the rate he did for 14 years, would anyone have noticed this crop of young players?

“Rory McIlroy would still be up there,” Hunter Mahan said Tuesday. “But Tiger played a practice round and it made news. He’s chasing records whenever he plays. How are you not going to write about that? No offense to the young guys.”

Nick Watney also suggested that McIlroy, based on his sheer talent and eight-shot win at the U.S. Open, would get his fair share of attention even if Woods had kept winning a major a year, along with a half-dozen other titles.

“But he would be like Sergio was, like Adam Scott was, like whoever the media tabbed – Charles Howell, at one point,” Watney said.

The question is whether Woods can get back.

The Chevron World Challenge, for an 18-man field in which everyone but the host – Woods – is among the top 50, figures to be a good benchmark. Woods has gone 26 official events without winning. He is coming off two strong weeks in Australia during which he hit the ball where he was aiming for nine rounds in windy conditions.

To win at Sherwood – or even to be in contention – would send expectations for 2012 higher than they have been in two years. But the road back doesn’t start until he’s posing with a trophy.

What happens then?

Only three players at Sherwood are older than Woods (Steve Stricker, Furyk, K.J. Choi), so the challengers he faces around the world are all younger than they used to be. And while none of these guys has won more than three times in a year, they feel a lot better about themselves because no one else has won that much more.

That’s the Tiger effect.

“Golf is a very confidence-driven game,” Ogilvy said. “A lot of these players now have more confidence than if he was winning eight times a year. Because if a guy is winning eight times a year, even if you win three times, you don’t feel like you’re as good of a player because there’s someone who’s so much better than you.”

Donald is No. 1 by a wide margin, courtesy of his work ethic, consistently being in the top 10 and four wins around the world. But it’s not domination that golf saw for the better part of a dozen years.

Golf always has had its share of rising stars. It only looks as if there are more now because no one is that much better than anyone else.

Catch live coverage of the Chevron World Challenge on Golf Channel and NBC: Thursday and Friday – 2:30PM ET on Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday – 12:30PM ET on Golf Channel, 3PM ET on NBC.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There’s was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

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Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 2:00 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.

In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.

Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.

Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.

''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''

Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."