A Major Streak Comes into Play for Woods

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
USGAJack Nicklaus holds the record in major championships, one that might never be broken because it was established through decades of superior golf and a few good breaks. About the only player who has even a remote chance is Tiger Woods.
 
This record is about playing, not winning.
 
And while Woods is still more than 25 years away from matching Nicklaus' record of 146 consecutive starts in the majors, it's worth noting now because Woods has not played since the final round of the Masters six weeks ago. And it might be even longer before he returns to the PGA Tour as he grieves the death of his father and adjusts to life without him.
 
Conventional wisdom has been that Woods will play next week at the Memorial, where he has won three times.
 
'I think Tiger will probably play,' Nicklaus said over the weekend. 'If he doesn't play, that's certainly his choice.'
 
Nicklaus, the tournament host, was only guessing, which is all anyone can do.
 
Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG, is known in some quarters as 'Dr. No' for his propensity to turn down up to 100 requests a day, sometimes without even listening to them. These days, he might as well be called 'Dr. I Don't Know,' because he doesn't.
 
'At this point, it's undecided,' Steinberg said Tuesday morning.
 
The deadline to enter the Memorial is 5 p.m. Friday, and whether Woods decides to play probably will draw more attention than anything that happens at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
 
The assumption is that Woods will want to play at least once before the U.S. Open.
 
If he doesn't play in the Memorial, that will be nine weeks away from tournament golf before the U.S. Open, which would constitute the longest layoff of his career. There have been three times that Woods did not play a regular PGA Tour event before a major -- three weeks off between the British Open and PGA Championship in 1999, and four weeks off between the U.S. Open and British Open in 2002, when he missed the Western Open with the flu.
 
But that assumes he will play in the U.S. Open. And no one can say with certainty that he will.
 
It would be surprising if Woods skipped a major, but not shocking.
 
Not in this case.
 
Earl Woods died May 3 at home in Cypress, Calif., the same house where Tiger climbed out of a high chair, grabbed a golf club and imitated his father by hitting a ball into a net -- left-handed until Pops turned him around to the right side. Subsequent lessons on the golf course were more about father-son than father-prodigy.
 
Earl did not live vicariously through his son. His goal was for Tiger to take full control of his life, which he did.
 
But no one knows how a son mourns the loss of his father, how long it takes until he is ready to move on. Earl also left behind a wife of 32 years, and Tiger no doubt is still tending to his mother.
 
'We haven't had any indication that he's not going to play,' USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said Tuesday.
 
The U.S. Open ends on Father's Day, as usual, and what a tribute that would be. The last time a major was played at Winged Foot, Davis Love III won the PGA Championship, making a birdie on the final hole as a glorious rainbow stretched across the horizon and tears were shed in remembrance of his father, a PGA professional who died in a plane crash in 1988.
 
'Tiger is going to be in the same boat as me,' Love said Tuesday. 'Every time he goes to play golf, he'll think of his father. That's not going to change. It's going to be hard for a while, but it'll also be a positive for him down the road.'
 
Then again, Woods is fiercely private with his family and his emotions. Does he go to the U.S. Open where the Father's Day angle is played to the hilt? Does he go to Winged Foot, one of the toughest tests anywhere, having not prepared the way he was taught?
 
Nicklaus also was 30 when his father, Charlie, died of cancer on Feb. 19, 1970. He didn't play the two weeks before or after his father died, skipping Doral for the only time in his competitive career, returning at what is now the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
'I took it in a different way,' Nicklaus said. 'I felt like my dad wanted me to play golf. That's what he lived for, what I did. For me to crawl into a shell, I didn't think was the right thing to do.'
 
Nicklaus was at a different stage in his career. He was in the longest drought of his career in the majors, winless since the 1967 U.S. Open, a streak that stretched to 12 majors before winning at St. Andrews for the first time that summer. He broke Bobby Jones' record for most majors three years later at the PGA Championship, and ended his career with 18 professional majors.
 
That's the standard of greatness Woods now pursues.
 
To miss the U.S. Open would end any chance of Woods going after the other major record -- consecutive starts.
 
The record doesn't get much attention, but it might be the most underrated streak in sports. Nicklaus played every major from the 1962 Masters through the 1998 U.S. Open. He had to be great to win all four majors -- three of them come with exemptions through at least age 65, while the U.S. Open has a 10-year exemption. He needed some help -- the USGA gave him a record eight special exemptions. And he needed good health.
 
Love has the longest active streak at 63 consecutive starts, which likely will end in the next five years or so. Woods has a realistic chance only because he already has captured the career Grand Slam and because he started at age 21, one year earlier than Nicklaus.
 
That chance will be gone if Woods doesn't play the U.S. Open, although that's not what motivates him.
 
Woods will play when he's ready. And only he knows when that will be.
 
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    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open at Carnoustie. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was one of dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even continuing to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

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    Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

    There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

    Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

    In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

    “It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

    “That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”