It All Began in Las Vegas

By George WhiteOctober 7, 2002, 4:00 pm
It all had to begin somewhere. The American colonies had their Lexington and Concord, when they ended up winning their independence. The Wright Brothers had their Kitty Hawk, when they made the first airplane. And Tiger Woods had his Las Vegas, the first in a long, long run that has led him to 34 PGA Tour victories.
The year was 1996, and Woods was six weeks removed from winning at the pinnacle of his amateur career ' the third win, as a matter of fact, at the U.S. Amateur. That happened at the end of August. Then he turned professional and finished in a tie for 60th at Milwaukee. The next week he was at the Bell Canadian, where he leaped up to tie for 11th. Then it was on to the Quad City, where he held 36-hole and 54-hole leads before finally succumbing to Ed Fiori and a tie for fifth place. Next up was the B.C. Open, his fourth tournament in as many weeks, and Woods was almost there, tying for third.
Las Vegas, then, was the place. He took a week off to rest, even though he received a world of criticism for skipping the Buick Challenge ' and therefore missed the Fred Haskins Award ceremonies for being the top college player. But rejuvenated by that one week of rest, Woods came to Las Vegas refreshed and ready, playing for the first time against the tours A-Team as a pro. Six of the tours top-10 money-winners were on hand, including names like Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Tiger made an adjustment before the tournament began, noting that he was 134th in putting on the tour. He practiced with a Scotty Cameron putter the Tuesday before the tournament, and it worked wonders for his confidence. He put it in his bag before the tournament began, and it continued to get the ball in the hole for the entire week.
He started play at the Las Vegas Hilton course, considered the easiest of the tournament courses, and could do better than a 70. That placed him well back in the field, eight shots behind Keith Fergus. After that, though, there was no catching him.
Tiger leaped into contention with a 63 Thursday, normally when a tournament starts but the second day of the five-round Las Vegas Invitational. His 63 included 12 straight threes. But Rick Fehr had tied an all-time PGA Tour record by shooting 64 in the opening round and 62 in the second, and he was the leader going into the third round Friday.
Woods crept up the ladder a little more with a third-round 68, then followed with another solid round, a 67, on Saturday. So beginning Sunday he was at 268, but still four shots out of the lead and with six players standing between him and leader Ronnie Black.
Tiger opened fast in the fifth and final round. A wedge to 15 feet and a bullseye putt meant a birdie at hole No. 1. But something was obviously wrong ' Woods was fighting a groin injury and it didnt look like a title was in his immediate future on this day.
Tiger was en route to shooting a 64, though, and nothing like a little groin injury was going to stop him this day. He already had the lead midway through the back nine, and it was just a case of continuing steady play as first one player and then another fired and fell back. Black. Kelly Gibson. Dave Stockton, Jr. Mark Calcavecchia. All tried their best to close the gap, and none could do it ' save one. Love.
Love scrambled back with a birdie on 16 and after 90 holes, they were all tied. It was to be a playoff between the 20-year-old youngster who had played exactly five tour events, and a 32-year-old 11-year veteran who had already won 10 times.
Woods went with a 3-wood in the playoff at the par-4 18th and hit it just short of Loves driver. Tiger then lofted a 9-iron to 18 feet of the flag, but Love pulled his 8-iron approach into the back bunker.
Love blasted from the bunker to six feet. Tiger putted it close and made his par, then settled down with the whole world to watch Love. Davis par try slid by the hole, and just like that, Tiger had the first win of his victory-filled career.
He is obviously the next great player, Love said after it was over. We are going to try to beat him just like were trying to beat Phil Mickelson. I think everybody better watch out. Hes going to be a force.
Before he started his unlikely run ' he also won in his next tournament, Disney ' Justin Leonard made a comment that was definitely untrue. Itll be very difficult for Tiger to make $150,000 (before the end of the 96 season), said Leonard. Thats a lot of pressure riding on a 20-year-olds shoulders.
Untrue. Tiger did manage $150 thousand. In fact, he managed $790,594.
Oh gawd, said Peter Jacobsen. If this is how he is every week, then its over. Hes the greatest player in the history of the game.
And that was true, spoken when Tiger was still a 20-year-old.
Yes its true, as Tiger is now 26 and the owner of those 34 titles plus seven others from around the world. But it had to start somewhere, and it all began in Las Vegas.
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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


Grade: B+


Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 

Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.


Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.

Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.