The keys to Tiger's stretch of dominance

By John HawkinsFebruary 6, 2012, 9:13 pm

Back when he ruled the earth with a steel shaft (in his driver) and a putter that usually listened, Tiger Woods was a frequent participant on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing. He played in five of the year’s first eight events in 2000, kicking off his miracle season with ultra-dramatic victories at Kapalua and Pebble Beach. By 2006, however, both events had been removed from Woods’ schedule, as had the Tour stops in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Looking at the exodus from a distance, it’s justifiable to wonder why a guy who was born and raised in southern California would drop all those tournaments, but there were extenuating circumstances. The Tour schedule itself changed to make room for the FedEx Cup playoffs in late summer – Woods began playing more in August and September. He also added events in Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

Injuries and personal issues have affected Tiger’s competitive frequency in recent years, but from a career high of 21 starts in 1999, he hasn’t played in more than 17 when fully healthy since the FedEx Cup structure was implemented in 2007. Among the tournaments he dumped, Pebble always seemed the most puzzling, which makes Woods’ return to this week’s AT&T National Pro-Am somewhat significant.

If his 15-stroke triumph at the ’00 U.S. Open was the greatest single-week performance in golf history, Tiger’s victory on the same famed links five months earlier was equally remarkable, if not nearly as historic. Woods trailed Matt Gogel by seven strokes with seven holes to play, finished eagle-birdie-par-birdie and won by two. Run that last sentence through your department of logic a couple of times and tell me what you think.

That final round was completed on Monday because of weather – I was covering the event for Golf World, a weekly magazine that went to press later that afternoon. The usual Sunday finish was no big deal: you write 1,500 words, send your article at maybe 2 a.m. and move on after five or six hours of sleep. If the tournament leaked into the next day, however, you were dealing with a newspaper-like deadline.

They would need your piece as quickly as possible, meaning an hour or so after the final putt, so if you had any common sense, you would have 75 percent of your story written, then top it off with a few hundred words and hope you didn’t make any factual errors. I basically had my homage to Gogel entirely written before Woods went on his rampage. Not only was most of that stuff useless, I had about 90 minutes to chronicle one of the greatest comebacks ever. In any sport.

It also happened to be Woods’ sixth consecutive Tour victory, a streak that had begun the previous August. The fifth of those wins had occurred four weeks earlier in Hawaii – an unforgettable regulation-to-playoff duel with Ernie Els – so there wasn’t much concern about overstating the otherworldly nature of Tiger’s accomplishments. His ability to succeed under immense competitive duress was extraordinary, but then, we’d seen that years earlier when he’d won three consecutive U.S. Amateurs.

The fact that he did it over and over again still blows my mind, not so much as a sports fan, but as a semi-trained journalist. Twelve years after Maui and the incredible Pebble rally, I look at Woods’ stretch from the ’99 PGA Championship to his defending the PGA title in overtime against Bob May as the finest 12-month performance ever produced by a sportsman.

Greatness arrives, usually for a reason. Having been given a front-row seat to view Tiger’s invincibility at the turn of the century, I see five clear points that triggered his dominance, listed here in chronological order:

Butch and Stevie – It took Woods more than a year to tighten his swing under the tutelage of former coach Butch Harmon, but once he was able to synchronize his arms and body without any excess at the top, he consistently drove the ball in the fairway and rarely dealt with the killer miss. Harmon also was responsible for Woods’ hiring caddie Steve Williams to replace Fluff Cowan in March 1999. Six months into the partnership, Woods liked and trusted Williams to the point where every decision made on the golf course was a comfortable one.

Here comes Sergio – No question, the swift emergence of 19-year-old Garcia, who took Tiger to the wire at the ’99 PGA, forced Woods to realize that as good as he was, he had to keep working to realize any visions of superiority. David Duval had resided atop the World Ranking for five months until Woods reclaimed the top spot at Medinah, but Garcia was four years younger, every bit as marketable and perhaps just as gifted.

Brookline and Payne – A bit of a philosophical tangent here. The amazing U.S. rally at the ’99 Ryder Cup reminded Tiger that everyone loves a winner, that losers are bums, and heightened his comfort level in the team dynamic. Payne Stewart’s death a month later reminded Woods, at least subconsciously, that life can be way too short, that there are no guarantees. You make hay when there is hay to make.

The Pebble comeback – The miraculous Monday surge vaulted Woods’ confidence to an unprecedented level. No deficit was too large if you wipe out all margin for error, and for the balance of 2000, Tiger was as close to error-free as a golfer has ever gotten. This guy didn’t need a phone booth to change into his Superman outfit.

Singh’s Masters victory – The only major title Woods didn’t win in the 22-month stretch from August ’99 to June 2001 turned into the ultimate motivational factor for a guy who could find incentive in a pile of bread crumbs. Neither Tiger nor Williams was fond of Singh, whose claim to the green jacket in 2000 sent Woods to the U.S. Open with smoke pouring from his ears.

At Pebble, Williams recalls Tiger working on his putting until dark that Wednesday night. “During the practice rounds, he couldn’t find a stroke he was comfortable with,” the caddie told me in 2010. “So he went to the practice green and stayed there for hours. He was making a lot of putts, but he didn’t like the way they were going in.”

Such a level of devotion is almost impossible to maintain, but at the age of  24, unmarried and uncommonly focused, armed with a competitive drive that seemed to fuel his skill and willpower, Tiger Woods did things no other golfer has ever done. He has returned to Pebble Beach several times since, most notably at the 2010 U.S. Open, where his attempt to win a 15th major succumbed to a lackluster Sunday, but there is no dismissing the notion that two milestones in his illustrious career were achieved on American golf’s most hallowed seaside turf.

It’s nice that he’s back. We’ll see if it’s just a one-shot deal.

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Chamblee: Like Tiger in '13, Mickelson should've DQ'd self

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 2:46 pm

Two days after Brooks Koepka left Long Island with the U.S. Open trophy, the third-round antics of Phil Mickelson are still garnering plenty of discussion.

Mickelson became a lightning rod of opinion after he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, incurring a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification. In the aftermath, he explained that he made a conscious choice to take the penalty to avoid playing back and forth across the crispy putting surface, and he tied for 48th after a final-round 66.

Speaking Tuesday on "Morning Drive," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee shared his view that Mickelson would have been well-served to disqualify himself ahead of the final round. He also compared it to Tiger Woods' incident at the 2013 Masters, when he took an incorrect drop and, like Mickelson, received a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

"I think Tiger, at least it's my opinion that his year would have been less distracting if he had done so," Chamblee said. "And I think the same of Phil Mickelson. If he had withdrawn from the championship and said, 'Look. This is a little sketchy. It didn't play out the way I thought. I've given it some thought and it's in the best interest of the championship that I withdraw.'"

Chamblee added that Mickelson's antics were "really distracting" on a day filled with drama as the USGA lost control of course conditions, noting that Mickelson and playing partner Andrew "Beef" Johnston were the only tee time where both players failed to break 80 despite the difficult conditions.

But having had time to review the situation and having surveyed a number of peers, Chamblee is as convinced as ever that Mickelson made a mistake by showing up for his final-round tee time.

"What Phil did, I haven't run into a single person that hasn't said he deserved to be disqualified," Chamblee said. "Under any interpretation, a serious breach - if gaining an advantage is not a serious breach, I don't know what is. And he clearly said he was gaining an advantage and doing it for strategic reasons."

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.


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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.