A Return to Domination

By Mercer BaggsDecember 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 1 from this past season.
 
The 2006 PGA TOUR season had a defining event, the U.S. Open. It was at Winged Foot where Tiger Woods missed his first cut as a professional in a major championship. It was also where Phil Mickelson made double-bogey on the 72nd hole to lose by one.
 
For Woods, the result was disappointing. He was competing in his first event in nine weeks, his first event since the death of his father to cancer in May.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' six-event PGA TOUR winning streak began at the Open Championship.
For Mickelson, the result was disheartening. He was ready to stake full claim to Tigers throne atop the world of golf.
 
Tiger recovered. Phil did not. And the current landscape of golf can be traced back to that one event.
 
How would things have been different if Mickelson had made par? If Mickelson had won his third straight major championship? We can only wonder. Mickelson can only imagine.
 
Woods, however, does not dwell on such scenarios. He doesnt have to. He had no problem dusting himself off after being trampled at the Open. Though he had never missed a cut as a professional in a major, the aftereffects were nothing he hadnt dealt with before: frustration, anger, disappointment. Nothing that couldnt be overcome. Nothing like the pain of losing a loved one.
 
For Mickelson, it was different. Everything was going his way. He was peaking. And then he crashed. In six brutal swings everything changed.
 
Mickelson was crushed. He was a public punch-line once again. He hasnt since been the same.
 
The same can be said for Tiger.
 
Woods next emerged at the Cialis Western Open, and he was not the same player who exited early at Winged Foot. He didnt win that week, but his runner-up performance helped set the stage for his return to dominance.
 
Watching Tiger Woods play the role of superior golfer is like watching Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series. The plot is roughly the same in each movie, but the action is so captivating that you dont mind its repetitive nature.
 
Weve seen Woods dominate before, most notably in 2000. That year serves as the standard of Tigers greatness. But even he admits that what he accomplished over a three-month stretch in 2006 rivals that of six years ago.
 
'It's close,' he answered when asked to compare the two campaigns. 'Very close.'
 
The winning started at the Open Championship, where he was the defending champion. Woods conquered Royal Liverpool by executing a game plan that involved hitting only one driver all week. His performance was masterful.
 
That was the beginning of six straight PGA TOUR wins, including the PGA Championship, where he outclassed and overpowered the field at Medinah.
 
His final numbers included eight PGA TOUR victories (and one more in Dubai) and $9.94 million in official TOUR earnings. His lead in the Official World Golf Ranking, which was less than six points after the U.S. Open, is now more than double that.
 
Was it his best year ever? Not according to Woods. Not when you consider everything that took place outside the ropes.
 
If you take into account what happened off the golf course, it's my worst year, he said. I consider (this year) as a loss. In the grand scheme of things, golf, it doesn't even compare to losing a parent.
 
Tigers personal life took a very serious hit in 2006. And whether inspired or not by his fathers passing, Woods was nearly unbeatable upon his return to the game.
 
Not that he was invincible. He lost to Shaun Micheel in the European Tours World Match Play in mid-September. He also failed to win November events in China and Japan, falling to Padraig Harrington in a playoff in the latter.
 
Tiger Woods
Woods has once again separated himself from the rest of the golfing world.
However, unlike just six months ago, no one is questioning who the best player in the world is.
 
Woods got to this point, or should it be that he returned to this height of excellence, after completing his second major swing overhaul.
 
He and instructor Hank Haney spent the majority of the 2004 season defending themselves over the alterations. He won only once that year. But in 2005, he collected six TOUR trophies, including at The Masters Tournament and British Open.
 
Still, it was Mickelson who was perceived by many as The Man as the seasons second major loomed. Mickelson had won the BellSouth Classic by 13 and had claimed The Masters for his second consecutive major triumph.
 
Woods, meanwhile, had been sidelined for more than two months because of his fathers failing health and ultimate death.
 
While Winged Foot proved a back-breaker for Mickelson, it provided some much needed competition for Woods, if for only two days. Though he missed the cut, he returned to action three weeks later rarin to go.
 
And where he went was where only three men had ever gone before. Only Byron Nelson (11 straight in 1945) and Ben Hogan (six straight in 1948) had ever won six straight PGA TOUR events.
 
And, of course, Woods, who won six straight from the latter stages of 1999 to the beginning of 2000.
 
Hes now the first to accomplish such a feat twice.
 
I think it's interesting how I was getting ripped for making my swing changes, now here we are. That's why I made those changes. It's nice to have the opportunity to do the things I know I can do in this game of golf, Woods said after his sixth win-in-a-row at the WGC-American Express Championship.
 
Woods seems to have once again significantly separated himself from the rest of the TOUR pack. His chief rivals appear to once again be found in the past rather than the present ' including himself circa 2000.
 
Woods won nine times that year. He won three consecutive major championships. He finished in the top-5 17 times in 20 events played.
 
Many wonder if Woods can duplicate that season in 2007. Woods wonders if he can better it.
 
People want to compare stuff to the past, he said, and I'm trying to get better in the future, not the past.
 
Woods is again without peer, at least a modern one. Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els appear to be less of a challenge than breaking Jack Nicklaus career major victory record or Byron Nelsons TOUR winning streak or Sam Sneads career TOUR wins mark.
 
But despite them all ' those in the present and those from the past ' and despite how well he is playing entering the upcoming season, Woods knows that there will always be one against whom he will always find his truest competition.
 
It's always yourself, he said. You're always trying to better what you've done in the past, always. Hopefully that's good enough to beat the rest of the guys. But if you keep improving each and every day, then in the end you're always going to have a very successful career.
 
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Woods Repeats at Open Championship
  • Woods Wins Going Away at PGA
  • Tiger Woods' Bio
  • Getty Images

    Tiger putts way into contention at The Open

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 5:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.

    Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.

    “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.

    Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.

    “I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”

    Getty Images

    TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 4:58 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:

    • THAT WAS AWESOME!

    At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.

    • Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

    • This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.

    • One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.

    • On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    • Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.

    • One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.

    • In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”

    Yes, yes it is.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 21, 2018, 4:55 pm

    It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.

    Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:

    Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Tiger makes 6 birdies, 1 amazing par in Rd. 3

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 4:10 pm

    Tiger Woods started the third round of The Open at even par, having made seven birdies and seven bogeys over the first 36 holes at Carnoustie.

    Following three pars to start on Saturday, Woods went on a birdie binge.

    No. 1 came with this putt at the par-4 fourth.


    No. 2 with this two-putt at the par-5 sixth.


    No. 3 thanks to this 30-footer at the par-4 ninth.


    No. 4 after nearly jarring his approach shot on the par-4 10th.


    No. 5 when he almost drove the green at the par-4 11th and two-putted, from just off the green, from 95 feet.


    And No. 6, which gave him a share of the lead, came courtesy another two-putt at the par-5 14th.


    Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th to drop out of the lead and almost dropped - at least - one more shot at the par-4 18th. But his tee shot got a lucky bounce and he turned his good fortune into a par.


    Woods shot 5-under 66 and finished the day at 5 under par.