Nelson Attracts the Big Four

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
04 EDS Byron Nelson ClassicFor the second straight week the PGA Tours biggest names will tee it up in the same event. And this week, Ernie Els will join the action as well. The Byron Nelson Championship marks just the fourth time this year that Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Els and Phil Mickelson will play in the same field.
They will be joined by three other players in the top 10 in Retief Goosen, Chris DiMarco and the defending champion Sergio Garcia.
The star power in this field may help extend two current trends on the 2005 PGA Tour schedule: Big names cashing a winners check and events decided in a playoff.
Starting with Singh's victory over John Daly at the Shell Houston Open, the last three events have all gone into extra holes including last week's Wachovia Championship, where Singh was again a participant. Singh alone has been in three playoffs this year, winning twice (Wachovia and Houston) and falling short to Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic in March.
So far in 05, seven of the 19 events have gone to extra holes, with all seven coming in the last 13 weeks. The record for most playoffs in a season is 16, which happened twice, back in 1988 and 91. Last year, 14 events came down to a playoff.
Which leads us back to the Byron Nelson Championship where last year was - you guessed it - decided in a playoff. In fact, only the U.S. Open and the Shell Houston Open have had more playoffs in their tournament history.
With Garcia defending his crown in Dallas just days after his tough loss at Quail Hollow, expect him to be in the mix come Sunday along with some other big guns:
The Big Four
Vijay Singh
His stats are almost as staggering as his determination to win ' he came from six back in the final round to claim his third title of the season in Charlotte. In addition to his three wins, the big Fijian also has racked up a pair of runner-up finishes, a third and two more top-5s. Hes first on the money list, first in the all around ranking, first in total birdies and eagles, and second in scoring average for the year. And when it comes to playoffs, Singh can boast of a very impressive 7-2 mark all-time. Oh, and dont forget he won this very tournament two years ago.
Tiger Woods
Ranked No. 1 in the world. Three PGA Tour wins in '05. Masters champion. A mind-boggling 142 straight cuts made. All without being able to find a fairway on a consistent basis. Throw in the fact that he now has a chip on his shoulder after being assessed a two-stroke penalty in Sunday's final round in Charlotte, and Tiger will be ready coming into Big D. Woods finished a shot out of the playoff last year and visited the winner's circle here back in 1997.
Ernie Els
New label is starting to become 'Best player to seemingly never to play in America.' But the fact is the Big Easy has played in six events on the PGA Tour this season. Started the season strong with a third, a second and a sixth in the Mercedes, Sony and Buick Invitational, respectively. A disappointing 47th place finish at the Masters has the critics wondering, but he too has three wins on the year just as Vijay, Tiger and Phil do - albeit they're European Tour wins. Els has played well here in the past with a victory back in 1995 and a tie for seventh last year.
Phil Mickelson
Completes the cycle of the Big Four that have won the Nelson with his win sandwiched between Ernie's and Tiger's back in1996. Also had a chance in 2000 but lost to eventual champion Jesper Parnevik in a playoff (there's that word again). Has had mixed results though in his past several appearances with a missed cut last year and a 44th place finish in '03.
The Great G's - Goosen and Garcia
Retief Goosen
Although the quiet one will play in the Byron Nelson for the first time in his career, he may benefit with all the talk surrounding the Big Four and then proceed with his usual fly under the radar stellar play. Had a solid Masters performance with a third place showing and is coming of a strong runner-up finish to Adam Scott in the Johnnie Walker Classic in China. With the U.S. Open just over a month away, look for the big South African to start ratcheting up his play in time for his title defense.
Sergio Garcia
The not so quiet one will be hard pressed to rebound from his disastrous collapse in Sunday's final round at the Wachovia Championship. But as defending champion here in Dallas, Garcia's pride will ultimately keep him on the right track. Its been feast or famine for Sergio at this event: He has missed cuts in 2002 and 03 to go along with last years title and a tie for eighth in '01.
A Solid Par 3
Nick Price
St. Nick, a two-time PGA Tour player of the year award winner back in the 90s, won his only title here in 1991. Although that was long ago, he has had a remarkable run in each of the past six years here, never finishing outside the top-15. Price was seventh last year and was runner-up to Vijay in '03. One of the games best ball strikers, this course and its conditions set up well for the Hall of Famer.
Robert Damron
Despite not really having anything to write home about thus far in his 2005 PGA Tour campaign, Damron might just find the mojo he needs as he arrives back in town for the Byron Nelson. His lone career PGA Tour win came in a 2001 playoff over Scott Verplank and then last year he was gunning to repeat the feat before bowing out in the playoff to Garcia. Familiar with the course, Damron has played in the Nelson every year since getting his PGA Tour card in 1997.
Jesper Parnevik
The match-maker extraordinaire has some history here at this tournament. Struggling of late without a top-30 finish in his last eight starts, the colorful Swede did in fact win the event back in the turn of the century. And yes, it happened to come in a playoff. That bodes well for Parnevik. As does the fact that four of the past five winners have been come from outside the U.S..
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    McCarthy wins Tour Championship by 4

    By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

    ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

    McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Tour Finals.

    ''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

    McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

    Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

    ''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

    The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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    LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

    ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

    Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

    “We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

    Final FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

    “His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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    For Woods, is this only the beginning?

    By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

    If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

    This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

    To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

    To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

    On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

    Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

    It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

    And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

    Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

    Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

    It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

    Final FedExCup standings

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    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

    There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

    He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

    Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

    But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

    There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

    Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

    He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

    That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

    Why go through all of that rehab again?

    Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

    Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

    Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

    Woods has put the golf world on notice.

    It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

    The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

    The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

    But that’s a talk for a later date.

    Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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    Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

    By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

    ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

    McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

    McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

    In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

    Final FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

    The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

    “I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

    It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.