Will Woods ever come from behind to win a major?

By Joe PosnanskiJuly 21, 2013, 11:32 pm

The biggest question in golf has been the same for a long time: Will Tiger Woods win 19 major championships, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record? That’s the question that has been asked ever since Woods came on the scene, especially after we learned that he used to keep a poster in his childhood bedroom with Nicklaus’ accomplishment in the same way that many kids keep growth charts in theirs.

The consensus answer to the question has changed many times through they years.

In 2005, when Woods won his ninth and 10th major championships (he was not even 30!) the answer was: Obviously, yes, he might win 25 or 30 majors.

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In 2008, when Woods won his 14th major on one leg (and at the still exultant age of 32), the answer was: Are you kidding? Of course he will break it.

In 2009, when Woods showed a few vulnerabilities (injuries, and losing a third-round lead at a major championship for the first time – and to Y.E. Yang, no less), the answer was: Sure, probably he will break it.

In 2010, when Woods was disgraced after his private life was splashed on tabloid covers for all to see, the answer was: Um, well, maybe.

And now? What’s the answer now? Woods hasn’t won any of the last 21 major championships. It’s a longer dry spell than Nicklaus ever had – even longer than the gap between Nicklaus’ PGA Championship victory in 1980 and his extraordinary Masters victory at the age of 46. I know there are still many people who think Woods will beat Nicklaus’ mark, but I don’t, I haven’t for a long time. And the odds are getting longer all the time.

In any case, there might be an even more interesting question to ask about Woods.

Will Tiger Woods ever come from behind to win a major championship on Sunday?

For a long time now, this shortfall has seemed to me a pretty big hole in Tiger Woods’ remarkable record. Yes, true, it might seem like nitpicking a masterpiece of a career, like saying that the lighting around the Mona Lisa is off. But Woods has always been playing for something bigger than money or victories. He has been trying for best ever.

Every single great player for the last 50 years – every last one of them – had a Sunday where they came off the pace and won. Nicklaus came from behind eight times on Sunday through the years. Yeah. Eight. He was 22 years old when he trailed Arnold Palmer by two shots at Oakmont, the U.S. Open, and he came back and won in a playoff. He was 46 when he went into Sunday at Augusta down four shots and in a seven-way tie for ninth place.

Arnold Palmer came from seven back at the 1960 U.S. Open in Cherry Hills and it is the summit of his extraordinary career.* Gary Player came back four times, his most thrilling being the 64 he shot on Sunday at the 1978 Masters to overcome a seven-shot deficit. Tom Watson twice came back from three back at the British Open. Nick Faldo won the 1989 Masters from five back and the 1996 Masters from six back (when Greg Norman collapsed). And so on.

*It is amazing to me that for Palmer – who is known for the Sunday charge – it is the only time in his career that he came back to win a major in the final round.

All of the great ones have come from behind to win. All of them have had a miraculous Sunday when they took  chances and pushed the limits and knocked down some flagsticks and made some crazy putts. In most cases, these are the rounds that are best remembered.

But Tiger Woods – the extraordinary Tiger Woods – has not yet done it.  Oh, sure, he’s had some astounding Sunday battles (like his playoff with Bob May at the PGA) and he has hit some legendary Sunday shots (like the chip-in at 16 at Augusta). But all of them have come when he had some measure of control. all 14 of his major championships have come from the 54-hole lead. This makes him the best closer in the history of sports (Mariano Rivera included).

But no Sunday comebacks? Not one? It seems impossible. But it’s true. I’ve heard people say he’s not the Sunday player he used to be. But even the young Tiger Woods never came back to win. He came close one time, in 2002, at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, when he entered Sunday down five and shot a brilliant 67 at the PGA Championship. He fell one shot short of Rich Beem, who had the day and tournament of his life. But Woods was pretty magical that day.

Since then? No. He has not come from behind and, for the most part, he has not even scared the leaders when he was not ONE of the leaders. A few examples:

• In 2003, he was four shots back at Augusta heading into the final round of the Masters. He blew up, shot 75, and fell off the leaderboard while Mike Weir shot 68 and won in a playoff (and Len Mattiace shot SIXTY-FIVE to get in that playoff).

• Same year, at the British Open at Royal St. George’s, he was two shots off the lead going into Sunday. He shot 71, even par, and Ben Curtis – who also went into the final day down two strokes – shot better and won.

• At the 2005 U.S. Open, Woods did charge a bit, but only after a bogey-bogey start doomed him, and he fell two shots short of Michael Campbell.

• At the 2006 Masters, he trailed Phil Mickelson by two entering Sunday, but could not keep a round going and he shot 70 and finished tied for third, three back.

• At the 2007 Masters, he went into Sunday down just one shot, and could only manage par as Zach Johnson (who went into Sunday down two shots) passed him and got the green jacket.

• At the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Woods trailed by two, shot 2 over par, and was passed by Angel Cabrera.

• At the 2010 Masters, he was four behind Lee Westwood going into the final round, and he shot a solid 69, but Phil Mickelson shot a breathtaking 67 and won.

There are more. You cannot really expect any golfer – even one as great as Tiger Woods – to be extraordinary on a specific Sunday. Golf isn’t like that. But over time, sure, you would think Woods would have won ONE of these tournaments, right? At some point, you would have to think he would go crazy on a Sunday, shoot 64 or something like that, come from way behind, steal a major championship from someone else. He seems too gifted, too determined, too daring, too amazing to never take a major championship Sunday and make it his own.

But it has not happened. Sunday at Muirfield seemed the time and place. Woods came into the final round trailing leader Lee Westwood by two shots. According to announcer Andy North, he made sure to warm up right next to Westwood – maybe just a little “I’m coming” message. And hey, Westwood has had his Sunday demons. Woods striped his opening drive right down the center. Yes, this seemed like his day.

And then … it just wasn’t. He three-putted the first green for a bogey. He bogeyed the fourth hole (as did just about everyone else). He bogeyed the sixth. It isn’t exactly that he was playing badly. He just wasn’t playing well. Nothing good was happening. He was cursing and muttering and hitting from the deep rough and leaving putts short (or, in the jargon of golf, “woefully short”).

For a while, he could not drop out of the tournament no matter how poorly he played. Nobody could grab hold. Leader Lee Westwood faltered. His playing partner Adam Scott rose and fell. Others like Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan would make guest appearances near the top of the leaderboard.

And Ian Poulter, who had Tweeted his intention to make things interesting though he went into the final round eight shots back, went on a crazy run, making eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie, and then just missing two more birdie putts before he cooled off.

And Woods? Nothing interesting. Nothing seemed to fire.

Of course, the Sunday hero turned out to be Mickelson, this time with an absurdly wonderful 66 that legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins called  “one of the greatest final rounds of a major on one of the most baffling courses I’ve ever seen.” Mickelson made a series of extreme putts under fiery pressure and he hit a long putt at 16, a bomb of second shot at 17, and an approach on 18 that were all right out of Penn and Teller’s magic act. It was Mickelson at his best. And it was at just the right time.

Tiger Woods’ greatness is beyond dispute. No one ever played golf as well as he did in the early 2000s and again in the mid-2000s. Heck, he has won four times this year and he has been in contention at all the majors – he’s still playing golf about as well as anyone, ever.

But, yes, I think the career is just slightly incomplete without at least one magical Sunday when he hits a bunch of spectacular shots and charges from behind and wins. Woods still thinks he has five more major championships in him, though he turns 38 in December. Maybe he does. Maybe he’s kidding himself. In either case, Sunday hurt. The day was there for him. He just needed some Sunday magic. And, again, the Sunday magic wasn’t there

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Club apologizes for calling cops on black women members

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 11:07 pm

YORK, Pa. - A golf club in Pennsylvania has apologized for calling police on a group of black women after the co-owner and his father said they were playing too slowly and refused requests to leave the course.

“I felt we were discriminated against,” one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. “It was a horrific experience.”

Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

At the second hole, a white man whose son co-owns the club came up to them twice to complain that they weren’t keeping up with the pace of play. Thompson, an attorney and the head of the York chapter of the NAACP, told the newspaper it was untrue.

On the same hole, another member of the group, Sandra Harrison, said she spoke with a Grandview golf pro, who said they were fine since they were keeping pace with the group ahead of them.

Despite that, the women skipped the third hole to avoid any other issues, she said.

It’s part of golf etiquette that slow-moving players let groups behind them play through if they are holding things up, and often golf courses have personnel who monitor the pace of play, letting golfers know when they are taking too long.

The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the county and world, Thompson said. They’re very familiar with golf etiquette, she said.

After the ninth hole, where it is customary to take a break before continuing on the next nine holes, three of the group decided to leave because they were so shaken up by the earlier treatment, the women told the paper.

Thompson said the man from the second hole, identified as former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, his son, club co-owner Jordan Chronister and several other white, male employees approached the remaining two women and said they took too long of a break and they needed to leave the course.

The women argued they took an appropriate break, and that the men behind them were still on their beer break and not ready to tee off, as seen in a video Thompson gave the newspaper. The women were told that the police had been called, and so they waited.

Northern York County Regional Police arrived, conducted interviews and left without charging anyone.

“We were called there for an issue, the issue did not warrant any charges,” Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said. “All parties left and we left as well.”

A phone listing for Steve Chronister rang busy on Monday. He told the York Daily Record he didn’t have time to comment on Sunday.

Jordan Chronister’s wife and co-owner of the club, JJ Chronister, said Sunday she called the women personally to apologize.

“We sincerely apologize to the women for making them feel uncomfortable here at Grandview, that is not our intention in any way,” she told the newspaper. “We want all of our members to feel valued and that they can come out here and have a great time, play golf and enjoy the experience.”

She said she hopes to meet with them to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.

Thompson said she’s not sure a meeting is what needs to happen.

“There needs to be something more substantial to understand they don’t treat people in this manner,” she said.

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Randall's Rant: Augusta has the power to strengthen LPGA

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 9:57 pm

Augusta National Golf Club is turning women’s golf upside down.

If you care about the LPGA, that should be your hope, anyway.

Your hope should be that the investment made in the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship announced at the Masters three weeks ago will eventually filter up the women’s ranks.

While the new amateur event comes with significant challenges for the women’s tour - with its first major (the ANA Inspiration) in a tough spot the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur - there is LPGA seed money being planted in Georgia

There’s an investment that may grow the women’s game beyond fueling new interest among girls.

“I just hope corporations start recognizing the value of investing in the women’s game, the way Augusta National does,” two-time major champion Cristie Kerr said. “There are so many corporate sponsors in the men’s game who don’t invest a single dollar in the women’s game. Obviously, that’s their prerogative, but we have a lot of value as a tour.”

And there’s your hope.

Augusta National is a collection of power brokers, CEOs and leaders now invested in growing the women’s game.

They’re taking a special interest in watching these young female amateurs emerge, and it’s only natural to expect they’ll become emotionally invested in where these young players go.

And a lot of these young players will go on to the LPGA.

The LPGA is thriving under commissioner Mike Whan’s leadership, with Whan seeing opportunities where others didn’t. He saw Asian interest in the tour as an asset, not the liability so many thought a decade ago.

The LPGA had withered to 23 events in 2011 with $40 million in total prize money. This year, it's up to 34 events with a tour-record $68 million in prize money. Whan did that with a lot of Asian backing.

Of the 10 tour events the LPGA has staged so far this year, including this week’s tournament in San Francisco, nine have Asian-based title sponsors. Even the LPGA’s domestic events are thriving on Asian money. 

All six of the U.S. events staged so far this year have Asian-based title sponsors. You have to move into May and next week’s Volunteers of America Texas Classic before finding an American corporate title sponsor of an American LPGA event.

That starts changing with summer approaching, but overall there will be 17 Asian-based companies or organizations as title sponsors of LPGA events this year, with 14 American-based entities sponsoring or owning events.

Whan says that’s a good thing.

“The diversity of sponsorship on the LPGA makes us a stronger business,” Whan said. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve worked through recessions in different parts of the world. None of those recessions were crippling to our overall schedule, because we have so many sponsors on board, from so many different places.”

Whan says American corporate interest is growing considerably, with more American marketing partners joining the LPGA this year. The next steps players would like to see are increased purses and endorsement opportunities for women.

The winning two-man team at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic this week will take home a combined $2,073,000. This week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship features a $1.5 million purse for the entire field.

“The income gap in golf is as much a concern to me as the corporate income gap is to working women,” 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis wrote in an essay earlier this year for the World Economic Forum.

U.S. Solheim Cup captain and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster started wearing a San Francisco Giants cap this year with no endorsement deals on her bag or shirt. She has become more outspoken about the lack of corporate support for all female golf pros.

“I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said at the last Solheim Cup. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”

With Augusta National investing in young amateur women, it may only be a matter of time until corporate America significantly steps up support. The game’s greatest power brokers appear ready to grow with the young women they will begin investing in next year. That should be the hope for anyone who cares about the LPGA.

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Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event, which benefits Tiger Woods' TGR Foundation, was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017. This year the tournament will be conducted at TPC Potomac without a title sponsor.

According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

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Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

“To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

Just wait until her putter heats up.

Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.