Looking Back on the PGA TOUR

By Sports NetworkDecember 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)PHILADELPHIA -- The 2006 season saw big wins on the course, some big losses off the course and the usual dramatic and sometimes strange endings.
It was a year when the world's No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, lost his father and missed a cut at a major before rebounding with a stunning stretch of golf that saw him win the final two majors of the year.
The season also witnessed several first-time winners as well as some veterans reclaiming their cards in different ways. Jeff Maggert (1999) and Corey Pavin (1996) snapped long winless streaks to secure playing privileges for the next two years, while former major champion and television broadcaster Paul Azinger finished inside the top-125 on the money list to earn his card for next year after using his one-time, top-50 all-time money list exemption.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods won eight times on the PGA TOUR in 2006, including his last six starts.
The season got off to a fairly normal start for Tiger Woods with two wins in his first four starts, but that is not what made him the Player of the Year.
After earning those two early wins and being unable to come from behind and win the Masters, Woods' biggest loss would come off the course.
He lost his father, Earl, to a long battle with cancer after failing to win the Masters. The younger Woods would not be seen on a golf course again until the U.S. Open, but what followed the most difficult loss he has faced to this point in his life was a stunning display of golf.
After grieving the loss of his father, Woods returned to the course at the U.S. Open. Maybe he wasn't ready, maybe this, maybe that. Whatever you want to call it, the result still stands. Woods missed the cut for the first time as a professional in a major.
Woods was next seen on a golf course at the Western Open, where he has won three times in his career. The 30-year-old posted three rounds in the 60s, but finished two strokes behind first-time winner Trevor Immelman.
From that point forward, the rest of the PGA TOUR was left in the dust. Woods ran off six, count 'em six, straight wins.
These tournaments did not have watered-down fields. They included the best of the best.
In order: He claimed his third British Open by two strokes over Chris DiMarco (whose mother had passed away the week before the championship); won the Buick Open by three over Jim Furyk; cruised to five-shot win over Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship; bested Stewart Cink in a playoff for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title; used a Sunday 63 to take down Vijay Singh by two at the Deutsche Bank Championship; and ran away with a six-shot victory over Adam Scott and Ian Poulter at the WGC-American Express Championship.
So let's recap. That was six wins that: came by an average of over three shots per title; earned him $7,016,480 (which in and of itself would have put him second on the money list); gave him 12 major championship titles and moved his PGA Tour win total to 54.
Oh, by the way, he did win the money title with $9,941,563 and had eight total wins in just 15 starts. Not a bad winning percentage for a golfer.
Woods says his win streak came to an end with his first-round loss at the HSBC World Match Play Championship on the European Tour, but his PGA streak is still intact.
He is more than halfway to Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight wins and has a stellar record at the season-opening events where he normally plays. Who knows what could happen. I surely wouldn't doubt him in his quest for history.
The Rookie of the Year race was a tight one between Trevor Immelman and Camilo Villegas. The nod here goes to Immelman, mostly due to his win at the Western Open.
The South African missed fewer cuts -- five to Villegas' 11 -- had one more top-five finish, four more top-10s and earned over $2.1 million more than the young Colombian.
Immelman got off to a really slow start with five missed cuts in his first nine starts. However, he didn't miss a cut the rest of the year. In his final 15 PGA TOUR starts in '06, Immelman finished outside the top 20 just three times.
In May, he collected back-to-back second-place finishes, including a playoff loss to Jim Furyk at the Wachovia Championship. Immelman's best finish in a major came at the U.S. Open, where he tied for 21st.
He broke into the winners circle in July at the Western Open, an event dominated recently by Tiger Woods. Immelman closed with a four-under 67 to hold off Mathew Goggin and Woods by two strokes.
He ended the season as the only rookie in the field at the Tour Championship. Immelman closed with three straight rounds in the 60s to finish in a tie for fifth and earn $266,000, which gave him over $3.8 million for the season, putting him seventh on the money list.
Kudos to Villegas for his stellar season as well. He did have four top-five finishes and earned over $1.7 million. That came one year after he played his way onto the Nationwide Tour after beginning the '05 season with no status.
We're going to split this one into good shot of the year and bad shot(s) of the year.
The good, okay great, shot of the year was Tiger Woods' hole-out eagle at the British Open. While successfully defending his title at the Open Championship, Woods needed every stroke he could get as he fended off a strong challenge from Chris DiMarco.
Woods approached his ball in the 14th fairway at Royal Liverpool with four- iron in hand. He ripped his second shot to the par-4 on the exact line he was targeting.
What Woods wouldn't know, as he was unable to see the green, was how perfectly the ball bounced and rolled right toward the hole. The ball tracked the final 15 feet perfectly and dropped into the hole for eagle.
'I never saw it. I didn't see the flag,' admitted Woods. 'Just left of the TV towers was where I was aiming. I was trying to hold it on the wind. I hit it pretty good.'
The bad shots go to Phil Mickelson. With the U.S. Open in his grasp, Mickelson lost his drive on the 17th hole into a trash can. Good aim, Phil, but the trash can was nowhere near the middle of the fairway.
If that wasn't bad enough, Mickelson's tee shot at the 18th bounced off the tents lining the fairway to the left. He then hit a tree with his second shot, which led to a double-bogey that cost him the title and left Mickelson famously saying, 'I'm such an idiot.'
Honorable mention for a good shot goes to Chris Couch. Couch, who turned 33 the day after the event, needed a par on the final hole at the Zurich Classic to win by one stroke over Charles Howell III and Fred Funk.
Couch found a greenside bunker at the last and had a tough lie. With water over the green, Couch could only advance the ball a few feet into the rough.
Using his cross-handed chipping style, Couch chipped his fourth shot into the hole from 55 feet to secure the win. The shot was impressive enough, but it helped Couch complete a comeback that saw him make the cut on the number then rally for the win. He became just the fourth player in PGA TOUR history to make such a comeback and win.
The aforementioned collapse by Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open was not the only bad ending at Winged Foot.
Winner Geoff Ogilvy chipped in for par on 17, then was in a sand-filled divot on 18 and was able to save par from that as well, closing with a two-over 72 to finish at plus-5.
Mickelson's late mistakes cost him as he closed with a 74 to end one behind the Australian. Colin Montgomerie, already a two-time U.S. Open runner-up, was in the fairway at the last.
The Scotsman changed clubs for his approach and came up well short of the green in some thick rough. Montgomerie blasted his chip 40 feet from the hole and, three putts later, he was in the clubhouse at 6 over par. That mistake came after he poured in a long birdie putt at the 17th.
Oh, yeah, current world No. 2 Jim Furyk also had a shot at winning the title, which would have been his second U.S. Open title. He pushed a seemingly simple par putt at the last and that bogey cost him a shot at a playoff as he shared second with Monty and Mickelson at plus-six.
So after all that, Ogilvy walked off with his first major championship win and third PGA Tour title overall.
Despite his tough loss at the U.S. Open, it was a stellar year for Jim Furyk. He began the 2006 as the seventh ranked player in the world, but ends it ranked No. 2 behind only Tiger Woods.
Furyk was one of five people on the PGA TOUR with two wins this year, while he also posted the most top-5 finishes (12) and tied for the most top-10s (13). Furyk ended the year second on the money list with $7,213,316.
Australian Adam Scott capped a spectacular season with a victory at the TOUR Championship. That was his first victory since the 2004 season. Scott ended the season with $4,978,858 and eight top-5 finishes.
Though several others collapsed to give him the U.S. Open title, Geoff Ogilvy also won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship en route to finishing fifth on the money list.
Okay, so he got off to a good start with four top-10s in his first five starts and won two events, including the Masters, but Phil Mickelson's year ended with a thud. After sharing second at the U.S. Open, he played in just five events with his best finish a share of 16th at the PGA Championship. He closed his season by going 0-4-1 at the Ryder Cup, then announced he wouldn't return until 2007. Hope his four-month vacation was fun.
Despite being ranked in the top-10 in the world all year, Retief Goosen was unable to collect a PGA TOUR win and posted just five top-5 finishes in 18 starts. He ended second at the Players Championship and tied for third at the Masters, but finished just 18th on the money list.
Another player ranked in the top-10 in the world all year who went winless was Ernie Els. He posted just two top-5s, including a third-place finish at the British Open. However, Els finished only 28th on the money list and slid to seventh in the world rankings.
It is hard to pick on a guy who made a stunning admission, but it came well after the fact. Steven Bowditch told reporters during PGA TOUR Q-School that he had battled depression throughout the season. That helps explain his missing the cut 13 times, being disqualified four times, withdrawing from three events and making just two cuts all season. Here's hoping he recovers soon and plays well in '07 as he'll be on the PGA TOUR for five events through the minor medical extension.
Related Links
  • PGA TOUR Statistics
  • Getty Images

    Repeat U.S. Open win gives Koepka credit he deserves

    By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2018, 2:08 am

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an ironic twist Sunday, the last man to win consecutive U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final round at Shinnecock Hills.

    Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his composure as the on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his ball in the fescue. Didn’t talk too loudly while Koepka lined up a putt.

    Instead, Strange stood off to the side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in awe as Koepka stamped himself as the best U.S. Open player of this next generation.

    And so after Koepka became the first player in 29 years to take consecutive Opens, Strange found himself fourth in the greeting line near the 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s playing competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.

    But there Strange was, standing on a sandy path leading to the clubhouse, ready to formally welcome Koepka into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.

    “Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above the din. “Incredible.”

    That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying.

    Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, deep fescue, but heavy rain early in the week and the absence of any significant wind turned golf’s toughest test into the Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his way to a record-tying score (16 under par) and over the past year has never felt fully appreciated, in large part because of the weirdness of the USGA setup.   

    U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

    Koepka doesn’t concern himself with that type of noise, of course, but when he arrived at Shinnecock earlier this week he felt a sense of familiarity. The generous fairways. The punishing venue. The premium on iron play.

    “It’s a similar feel,” Elliott said. “We said it all week.”

    A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills might not have been held in high regard, but the rich history of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.

    “He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m proud of him because there was some talk last year of Erin Hills not being the Open that is supposed to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”

    “This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.

    Those around the 28-year-old were shocked that he even had a chance to defend his title.

    Last fall Koepka began feeling discomfort in his left wrist. He finished last in consecutive tournaments around the holidays, then underwent an MRI that showed he had a torn ligament in his left wrist.

    Koepka takes immense pride in having a life outside of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – but he was downright miserable during his indefinite stint on the sidelines. He said it was the lowest point of his career, as he sat in a soft cast up to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The only players he heard from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

    “You just feel like you get forgotten,” Koepka said.

    During the spring, Elliott would occasionally drive from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in the dumps,” he said. “That sort of injury he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was the most frustrating thing.”

    After the Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling better and that he was going to start hitting balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes at The Floridian.

    “He was hitting it right on the button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. I have no idea how he does it. He’s just a tremendously talented guy.”

    In limited action before the Open, Koepka fired a trio of 63s, at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been short on confidence – as a 12-year-old he once told his dad that he was going to drop out of school in four years and turn pro – and he recently woofed to swing coach Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win sometime in May or June.

    “I said to him on the range this morning, ‘You were on your couch in January and February, not really knowing if you were going to be able to play here,’” Harmon said. “I think that’s why it means so much to him. That’s one of the reasons that he kept saying no one was more confident than him, because to get this opportunity to come back and play and have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”

    Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in the mix, then survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for the lead, along with Johnson, the world No. 1 and his fellow Bash Brother.

    As much as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in crunch time, especially in this major. There’s no better stage for Koepka to showcase his immense gifts than the Open, an examination that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never joined the growing chorus of complainers at Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing the setup was this: “I think the course is very close.”

    Rather than whine, he said that he relished the challenge of firing away from flags. He accepted bad shots. He tried to eliminate double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no hesitation gouging out of the deep fescue, his ferocious clubhead speed allowing him to escape the rough and chase approach shots near the green, where he could rely on his sneaky-good short game.

    “He has the perfect game to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He probably plays more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play the way he does in majors every week. I just think he knows how important pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”

    Johnson has many of the same physical and mental attributes, and they’ve each benefited from the other’s intense focus and discipline. They both adhere to a strict diet and are frequent workout partners, which even included a gym session on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They made small talk, chatting about lifting and how many of the Sunday pins were located in the middle of the green, but after they arrived at the course they barely said two words to each other.

    “They’re good friends on and off the course,” Harmon said, “but they definitely want to kick the s--- out of each other.”

    “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re standing between me and the trophy. You don’t care much for him for 4 1/2 hours.”

    There was much at stake Sunday, but none more significant than Koepka’s march on history. Squaring off head-to-head against the game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from the outset, going 3 under for the first 10 holes to open up a two-shot lead. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.  

    In the end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.

    “You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, shaking his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”

    As Koepka marched away to sign his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer the answer to the trivia question, the last guy to go back-to-back at the Open.

    “Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a part of a group. And it’s a good group. I hope it means as much to him as it has to me.”

    Getty Images

    This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win

    By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:39 am

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.

    His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.

    “This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”

    The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.

    U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

    Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.

    There was also one other similarity.

    “Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.

    “It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”

    Getty Images

    Sunday drama won't overshadow USGA's issues

    By Randall MellJune 18, 2018, 1:30 am

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – It looked like a British Open.

    It was playing like a U.S. Open.

    Through two rounds, Shinnecock Hills was double trouble in the best kind of way.

    It was a hybrid in the most appealing sense of golf course architecture’s ancient allure and its modern defenses.

    Halfway through, the USGA was nailing the setup, with Dustin Johnson the only player under par in one of the toughest but fairest tests in recent U.S. Open memory.

    This looked like it was going to be remembered as USGA CEO Mike Davis’ masterpiece, but even a Sunday to remember couldn’t trump a Saturday to forget.

    Sunday’s drama - with the history Brooks Koepka made becoming the first player in three decades to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, with Tommy Fleetwood’s 63 equaling Johnny Miller’s final round record - could not restore faith being lost in the USGA’s ability to set up and manage this championship.

    This U.S. Open ended with footnotes the size of headlines.

    The issues arising Saturday with the USGA losing control of the course raised even more troubling questions about why this organization’s heavy hand can’t seem to avoid becoming as much a part of the story as the competition.

    U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

    The controversy that was ignited Saturday when Phil Mickelson intentionally incurred a two-shot penalty by making a putting stroke on a moving ball also raised questions about the organization’s ability to fairly administer its own rules.

    It’s a shame, because Davis has some good ideas.

    His reimagined vision of this championship as the “ultimate test” makes sense as a better and more complete event. His ideas are designed to identify the game’s most complete player on America’s best courses better than any other major.

    It’s just not working.

    This year’s failure in the wake of the ’04 debacle at Shinnecock Hills is especially worrisome. Davis vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Somehow, some way, he let it happen again.

    Maybe the old standards we’ve come to judge the U.S. Open upon are too high, impossible to meet with today’s more athletic player, high-tech coaching and space-age drivers, shafts and balls.

    Nobody ever protected par better than the USGA, but maybe par can’t be properly protected anymore, without tricking up a course.

    Because if USGA officials can’t make its exacting formula work at an architectural treasure like Shinnecock Hills, where they had it absolutely perfect for two days, you wonder if they can make it work at all.

    The testament to how the USGA was nailing its formula wasn’t in what we heard the first two days. It was in what we weren’t hearing. Only one player was under par through Friday, but there wasn’t a complaint to be heard in the locker room or on the range.

    They were wiping the smiles off players’ faces without infuriating them.

    In that regard, the USGA was delivering a miracle.

    The wonderful appeal Shinnecock Hills held as a U.S. Open/British Open hybrid at week’s start ended up being twisted into something else by week’s end. It stood as a symbol of the championship’s confusion over its proper identity.

    Even with Sunday’s compelling storylines unfolding, players were still frustrated over setup.

    Saturday was over the edge, with Davis admitting “there were parts of this, simply put, that were too tough.” He said winds were stronger than expected, but the winds weren’t that much different than were forecast.

    So USGA officials softened the course for Sunday, with more overnight watering and more friendly hole locations.

    That turned Shinnecock Hills into Jekyl and Hyde on the weekend.

    Scoring told the story.

    Rickie Fowler shot 84 on Saturday and 65 on Sunday. Fleetwood shot 78 and 63.

    They weren’t alone, even though the weather wasn’t as dramatically different as the scores would indicate.

    This wasn’t about the weather. It was about the course being manipulated in ways that frustrated players.

    “They soaked the hell out of it,” Pat Perez said after tying for 36th. “They’ve got all the pins in the middle.

    “It is supposed to gradually get to where it was Saturday afternoon. You don’t lose it on Saturday and then try to make up for it, soak the course and make it totally different.”

    Brandt Snedeker was equally befuddled playing drastically different conditions in weather that wasn’t so drastically different.

    “The thing that is unfortunate is that the guys that were playing the best golf this week took the brunt of it yesterday, when it should have been vice versa,” Snedeker said. “Some guys got robbed of a really good chance to win a golf tournament yesterday afternoon, which is not fair.”

    There were other issues that continued to challenge faith in the USGA.

    Despite later acknowledging it set up the course too tough in spots on Saturday, the USGA put players on the clock for slow play.

    The Mickelson penalty also raised issues.

    He got a two-shot penalty under Rule 14-5 (playing moving ball) when there was some outcry over whether he should have been penalized under Rule 1-2 (exerting influence), which would have opened the door to disqualification for a serious breach. The USGA rigorously defended 14-5 (playing moving ball) as the proper call.

    John Daly wasn’t disqualified for striking a moving ball in a similar instance at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 1999. He also got a two-shot penalty, but there was a difference in the situations that might have justified Mickelson’s disqualification.

    Daly said he intentionally hit a moving ball out of frustration, as protest over the USGA’s unfair hole locations.

    Mickelson said he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills to try prevent his ball from rolling off the green. He said he knew the rules and was intentionally breaking them to gain an advantage. He compared it to using the rules to get a better lie with a drop, but there’s a difference between using the rules to your advantage and breaking them to gain an advantage.

    The difference in those motivations, as Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee pointed out, opened the interpretation of the violation as a serious breach worthy of disqualification.

    The question of whether Mickelson’s manipulation of the rules was serious enough to invoke disqualification as a breach of etiquette under Rule 33-7 was dismissed by the USGA as inappropriate.

    It should be noted that the USGA and R&A should be applauded for its monumental overhaul of the Rules of Golf, a rules modernization going into effect next year. It’s a welcomed simplification of the rules that required an exhaustive review.

    This week’s complications show the unrelenting challenges they continue to tackle.

    We leave this U.S. Open with history being made, with Koepka joining Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange as just the third players since World War II to win the title in back-to-back years.

    We also leave hoping the USGA can deliver four days of next year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach as free of controversy as it delivered the first two days at Shinnecock Hills, because this year’s championship felt half baked.

    Will Gray contributed to this report.

    Getty Images

    Brandel rips USGA: 'There's no obvious leadership'

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 1:29 am

    The 2018 U.S. Open will certainly be remembered for Brooks Koepka's successful title defense.

    But there's no doubt that it will also be remembered for Phil Mickelson's decision to hit a moving golf ball on Saturday, for the USGA's decision not to disqualify him, and for the governing body once again losing control of Shinnecock Hills over the weekend.

    Speaking on "Live From the U.S. Open" on Sunday night, analyst Brandel Chamblee took the USGA and its leadership to task for more than just the inconsistent playing conditions this week.

    His comments - edited and condensed for clarity - appear below:

    "Something was amiss in a big, big way [at Shinnecock Hills]. I think the USGA has lost a lot of the trust of the golf world. They've done it for numerous reasons.

    "On their watch, they missed COR – the rebound effect in drivers. They missed the rebound effect and the combination of the rebound effect [with] the ball. They missed it, on their watch. And now, the feeling is that they’re crying foul, even though it was on their watch. And so, essentially, the equipment companies got it done, by [the USGA’s] standards, legally.

    "On their watch, there have been huge mistakes in major championships. … We well know this one (Shinnecock in 2018) – a colossal mistake all the way across the board. The golf course was bumpy the first day; they didn’t quite get that right. It was awful the third day. And today, in a different kind of way, it was far too easy.

    "And then there’s penalties that they levy that make absolutely no sense, penalties that they don’t levy – not disqualifying Phil Mickelson yesterday. …

    "There seems to be no obvious leadership, you know, to me. No obvious leadership heading in the right direction."