The Billion Dollar Man

By Mercer BaggsOctober 5, 2009, 1:01 pm

Tiger Woods

 
DO THEY MAKE MILLION-DOLLAR BILLS?: Forbes reported this past week that, by their estimate, Tiger Woods has surpassed the $1 billion earnings mark. Forbes took into account prize money, appearance fees, endorsements, bonuses and his golf course design business. Woods, if the numbers are correct, would be the first athlete to cross this barrier.
 
Backspin I should be jealous, but I find myself feeling like Ron Burgundy when he discovered his dog ate an entire wheel of cheese. It is amazing that one man can accumulate so much. And don't go thinking this is just a byproduct of his success. This is an achievement for Woods, one he's long wanted to accomplish. Woods loves money more than Burgundy loves scotch.

Greg Norman and Chris Evert

 
SEPARATE LIVES: Just days before the start of the Presidents Cup, Greg Norman and Chris Evert announced their separation. The star couple was married for only 15 months and did not say whether they planned to divorce. Norman is the captain of the International Presidents Cup team.
 
Backspin This will make Norman's Tuesday press conference at Harding Park more interesting. Of course, he'll ask the media to respect his privacy ... but when has that ever worked. Divorce, however, is a serious matter and we'll respect it as such in Backspin. It's one of those things where someone should be allowed to say what they want on the subject and nothing more  – without bother.

Ken Green

 GREEN NOT FEELING BLUE: Ken Green, who had his lower right leg amputated after a vehicle accident in June, said he plans to return to the Champions Tour by April. A tournament was held this past week in Green's hometown of Danbury, Conn., to help raise money for Green's increasing medical and personal expenses.
 
Backspin Fred Funk, Andy Bean, Scott Simpson, Chip Beck, Bob Tway, Phil Blackmar and Brad Bryant were among the pros who took part in last Monday's event. Green has been playing recently, doing so with a special prosthesis that includes an ankle that will pivot. Green not only lost his lower right leg in the recreational vehicle accident; he also lost his brother, girlfriend and dog, who all died in the crash. That he's persevering in life and not wilting away in a dark corner is far more impressive than Tiger Woods' billion-dollar earnings.

Manuel de los Santos

 
SIMPLY AMAZING: For all the stars at the European Tour's Dunhill Links Championship, it was Manuel De Los Santos who was the main attraction. De Los Santos, who lost his left leg in an automobile accident, played the tournament without the use of a prosthesis.
 
Backspin The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic teamed with professional Richard Bland and missed the 54-hole cut by one shot, finishing at 20 under. 'I didn't make the cut but I am not disappointed, because I have had the most fantastic week,' De Los Santos said. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we'll just let the above image speak for itself.
Matt Kuchar


 
WELCOME, MATT: Matt Kuchar won his first PGA Tour event since March 2002, defeating Vaughn Taylor on the sixth playoff hole at the Turning Stone Resort Championship. The duo completed two playoff holes Sunday before darkness suspended play and then needed four more holes on a cold and windy Monday morning in New York to determine the winner.
 
Backspin The way most people treat Fall Series events, you'd think everyone was playing for pride and little more. Kuchar, however, nearly doubled his yearly earnings, collecting $1.08 million for the victory. He's now inside the top 30 on the money list, which, if he finishes there, will be good enough for a ticket to the 2010 Masters – something a Fall Series victory doesn't provide.

Lorena Ochoa


 
SUPER STAR: Lorena Ochoa sucessfully defended her title at the Navistar LPGA Classic, defeating Michelle Wie by four shots in Prattville, Ala. The victory was Ochoa's third of the season and first since April. She moved to fifth on the 2009 money list and second in the Rolex Player of the Year standings.
 
Backspin This win was just a natural progression for Ochoa, who had finished, in order, T-10, T-4 and second in her previous three starts. Wie, meanwhile, collected her fifth top-5 of the season, thanks to bookend 66s. On another note, 14-year-old Alexis Thompson, who opened the tournament in 64-69 for a share of the 36-hole lead, closed in 74-74 to tie for 27th, 12 back of Ochoa.

Jay Haas

 
IT'S OVER, IT'S FINALLY OVER: Jay Haas, fresh off his first win of the season a week prior, captured the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Haas shot 6-under 64 in the final round to rally past Tom Watson, who was trying to become the oldest winner of a major championship on the Champions Tour. The 60-year-old led by four entering the final round, but shot even-par 70 to finish one back of Haas.
 
Backspin This officially puts an end to the 2009 major season. Surprisingly, it was Watson who provided the most memorable performance of the year across all tours. That it happened on the PGA Tour – and not the Champions – and came in a losing effort makes it all the more amazing.  Watson played in seven combined majors this season and had five top-10 finishes, including that unforgettable playoff loss at Turnberry in the Open Championship.

Rio de Janeiro


 
GAMES, SET, MATCH: Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics Games. Chicago, considered one the favorites to host the Games in seven years, was the first city voted out Friday in Copehagen, Denmark.
 
Backspin The selection of Rio over Chicago shouldn't affect golf's chances of being included in 2016. That decision will come down this Friday. Chicago, with its multitude of championship courses, certainly would have been a great host site for golf, but if you're fortunate enough to cover the Olympics in seven years' time where would you rather be? I've seen 'Blame it on Rio.' I want to go there.

Arnold Palmer


 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Arnold Palmer said he plans to return Bay Hill to a par 72 for next year's Arnold Palmer Invitational. ... Kenny Perry's mother died after a long battle with blood cancer. ... GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell reported that Navistar agreed to a one-year extension as sponsor of their Alabama event, with a two-year option. ... Jerod Turner won the Nationwide Tour's Soboba Classic.
 
Backspin The course was a par 70 the last three years, but two of the current par 4s will be changed back to par 5s, including the 16th hole. Fans want to see birdies and Palmer wants to please the fans. ... Perry still plans to play in the Presidents Cup, with his family's wishes. ... More tournaments are agreeing to stick around for one more year to see if they like what they see. We hope they do. ...Even Golf Channel's Jerry Foltz, who knows the most obscure golfers in the world, had never heard of this guy before last week.

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Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Web.com Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com 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. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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Woods' dominance evokes an old, familiar feeling

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:14 am

ATLANTA – It felt so familiar – the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods’ direction.

For the handful of players who were around when Woods made a mysterious and maddening game seem simple, it was like old times, times that weren’t necessarily good for anyone not named Tiger.

“I’m kind of nostalgic,” admitted Paul Casey, who turned pro in 2000, when Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, one of his nine PGA Tour victories that year.

Casey’s 66 on Day 3 at the Tour Championship vaulted him into a tie for sixth place, but as the Englishman quickly vetted the math he knew those numbers were nothing more than window dressing.

“Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he’s 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like,” Casey laughed. “I think I’m just posturing for position.”

Casey wasn’t giving up. In fact, given that he outdueled Woods earlier this year to win the Valspar Championship he could have hedged his comments and left the door cracked however slightly. But he’s seen, and heard, this too many times to allow competitive necessity to cloud reality.

On Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was his best version. Throughout this most recent comeback he’s offered glimpses of the old guy, the guy whose name atop a leaderboard echoed through locker rooms for the better part of two decades. After starting the day tied for the lead with Justin Rose, Tiger quickly separated himself from the pack with a birdie at the first.

He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he’d extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


This was what so many had waited for. This was the Tiger that Casey and others grew up dreading, a machine that never misses iron shots and makes clutch putts look like tap-ins.

“The crowds were electric,” said Rose, who was paired with Woods. “He was running the tables there. He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.”

Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

He would finish with a round-of-the-day 65 for a three-stroke lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy. The next closest players were a dozen strokes back, including Casey at 5 under par who didn’t need to be reminded of Woods’ 54-hole conversion rate.

There are no guarantees in sports but Tiger with a 54-hole lead has been about as close to a lock as one will find this side of Las Vegas. He’s 42-for-44 when going into the final round with the outright lead and the last time he blew a 54-hole lead was at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Of course, he hasn’t had a 54-hole lead since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Truth is, he hasn’t had much of anything since ’13 when his dominance was sidetracked by an ailing back. As intimidating as Woods’ play has been this week there was an unmistakable sense of, let’s call it curiosity.

Asked if Woods’ lead felt different than it may have a decade ago, Rose’s response was telling. “Maybe,” he allowed after a pause. “It's a little more unknown now. Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable. They're incredible. But he's human, and there's a lot on it for him tomorrow, as well as the rest of us.”

Rose wasn’t trying to trick himself into thinking the impossible was possible, although many have when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, it was simply the truth. Woods has had multiple chances this season to complete the comeback and he’s come up short each time.

It was a poor iron shot off the 72nd tee at the Valspar Championship and an even worse drive a week later at Bay Hill’s 16th hole. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it’s unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive.

Nor was Rose being disrespectful. It’s simple math, really, and Woods’ body of work to this point, although wildly impressive considering how far he’s come in 12 months both physically and competitively, paints a clear picture. Given multiple chances to break through the victory ceiling he’s failed to deliver the way he did before injury and multiple back procedures.

“I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, (and) when I grabbed the lead at The Open Championship,” Woods said. “Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory, I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.”

In many ways the script couldn’t have been written any better for Woods. It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the bases are loaded for the 14-time major champion. Hero time, his time.

He’s been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.

The ultimate test still remains, but for 18 holes on Saturday it felt so familiar.