No 7 Rise and Fall of the Big Five

By Mercer BaggsDecember 20, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Stories of the Year - #7Editor's note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 stories from the 2005 golf season. This is Story No. 7.
 
As each year comes to a close, we tend to forget the things that took place in the beginning of the season. We place those into the back of our minds, well behind the things that happened a month ago, a week ago and yesterday.
 
But think back to January and February and March really up until July. There was one story, one manufactured and mass circulated story on the PGA Tour that trumped all others: the Big 5.
 
Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods
Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods were two of golf's Big 5 in 2005.
You guys made that up, Retief Goosen said to the media earlier this year.
 
And he was absolutely correct.
 
This was a complete media concoction. Players arent nearly as concerned with rivalries as are media and fans. They just want to win; we want that extra excitement.
 
And to be truthful, the hysteria was all Tigers fault. He took away much of that extra excitement by being so dominant over the years. There was no Big 5; there was simply One.
 
But then Tiger decided to rework his swing. And Phil Mickelson won a major. And Vijay Singh won just about everything he entered. And Ernie Els dominated overseas.
 
All of a sudden, there seemed to be parity at the top in mens golf.
 
Entering the 2005 season, Singh was the No. 1 player in the world, not Woods. And Mickelson was the reigning Masters champion, not Woods. And Els was the chic pick to win multiple major titles on the year, not Woods.
 
This was the Big 4. But we were forgetting someone.
 
Goosen is often overlooked and often left out of the discussion of great modern day champions. He sits off to the side of consciousness, either stewing inside or not giving a damn (hes a tough man to read).
 
So out of respect to the man who often gets little, the Big 4 became the Big 5
 
It all seemed a bit too contrived at first. What were the odds in this day of depth that four or five men would dominate a tour consisting of the best players in the world?
 
Turned out they were pretty good ' at least early on in the 2005 season.
 
Singh won the second event of the year, the Sony Open. Woods won the third event, the Buick Invitational. Phil won Nos. 5 and 6, the FBR Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
By the time the tour hit Florida, eight tournaments had been contested in which at least one of the Big 5 had competed. And one of the Big 5 had won four of those events.
 
Thats when it really got interesting.
 
At the Ford Championship, the first event on the Florida Swing, Woods and Mickelson went head-to-head in a final-round duel that ultimately proved to be the most exciting 18 holes of the season.
 
Both men made only one bogey that day. Woods, who started the final round two back of Mickelson, shot 6-under 66. Mickelson had a 69. Tiger won at the buzzer, when Mickelson narrowly missed holing a chip shot at the last.
 
Leaving Doral and heading to Augusta, the buzz over the Big 5 was pinning the needle. It only helped matters that Els won multiple events overseas during this time and Mickelson captured his third title of the season the week before the Masters.
 
The Masters, however, would prove to be the beginning of the end for the Big 5.
 
Woods, of course, won his fourth green jacket that week ' and his first major championship in nearly three years. With it, he regained control of the top spot on the world ranking.
 
Tiger Woods
Woods separated himself from the pack with his British Open victory.
Singh won two weeks later, defending his title in Houston, and then two weeks thereafter in Charlotte to keep alive the theme of top-ranked domination.
 
But Singhs Wachovia triumph proved to be the last victory by any of the Big 5 members until the British Open. And when Tiger throttled the field at St. Andrews, there was little doubt that Woods had once again separated himself from everyone else.
 
Woods was the key cog to this Big 5 machine. When he broke away, the machine fell apart.
 
In sport as in every part of society, we love to build things up and then tear them down. We like to pull for the underdogs until they win ' and keep winning. We like to make people into celebrities and then pull out the pedestal on which we placed them.
 
In this case, the notion of a Big 5 was created. And for a while it thrived. But instead of getting tired of it and tearing it down, Tiger went ahead and did that for us.
 
Woods was able to slide out of this pack rather easily. In addition to his own fine play, his exit was greased by the fact that the rest of the members werent performing up to standards.
 
Singh was unable to duplicate his remarkable finish of 2004, winning only once in the final six months of the year.
 
Mickelson cooled down considerably after his torrid start. He collected just one more title ' albeit a big one ' once the major season started.
 
Goosens air of unflappability took a severe hit as he blew a three-stroke lead through 54 holes of the U.S. Open, shooting 11-over 81 on Sunday. He also blew chances to win the British Open, PGA Championship and Tour Championship. In each of those three events, he was three back entering the final round and all three times shot over par.
 
And then there was Els, who injured his knee after the British, forcing him to skip the PGA Championship and the Presidents Cup. Els was unable to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2001. He also failed to record a top-10 finish in a major for the first time since 1999.
 
On the other hand, Woods managed to win the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational and the WGC-American Express Championship, as well as the Dunlop Phoenix Open in Japan.
 
He finished the year with six PGA Tour wins, including two majors. He won player of the year honors, the money title, and had the lowest stroke average on tour. He finished in the top 5 in 13 of his 20 official starts.
 
It would seem that the Big 5 is dead and buried with a tombstone that reads: Born January 1, 2005 ' Died July 17, 2005.
 
But maybe, just maybe, a hand will emerge from the grave. After all, Tiger did miss the two cuts this year. And Vijay did dust him head-to-head at the Buick Open. And Phil did win the PGA Championship. And Ernie did return from a four-month layoff to win in just his second start. And Retief did win in the U.S. and in Europe, as well as just last week in South Africa -- over Els.
 
Stay tuned. This story may again be written in 2006 ' with a different theme.
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Bios: Tiger | Vijay | Ernie | Phil | Retief
  • Getty Images

    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

    Getty Images

    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

    Getty Images

    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

    Getty Images

    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”