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Tiger and the Masters victory even he never saw coming

Tiger and the Masters victory even he never saw coming

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Before Jack Nicklaus authored the most iconic moment in Masters history, when he charged back from 4 shots down and shot 6-under 30 on the second nine to win his sixth green jacket in 1986, he was considered nothing more than a long shot at age 46.

Nicklaus arrived at Augusta National Golf Club that season having missed the cut in three of seven tournaments and withdrawing from another. He was 160th on the PGA money list. He hadn’t won a major in six years. He hadn’t won the Masters in 11.

Sound familiar?

While Tiger Woods might be three years younger than Nicklaus was 33 years ago, and while he hasn’t yet reached the same golden age as the Golden Bear in 1986 because of improved technology and the marvels of medicine, what he accomplished in the 83rd edition of the Masters on Sunday is every bit as remarkable.

For the first time in his career, Woods came from behind to win a major championship. He started Sunday’s final round trailing Italy’s Francesco Molinari by 2 shots, and sat 3 behind after 11, but chased the reigning Open champion down with a 2-under 70.

Woods won the Masters for the fifth time — second to only Nicklaus’ six titles — and claimed his 15th major championship, which trails only Nicklaus’ 18.

Woods also became the second-oldest man to win a green jacket at 43 years, 3 months and 15 days. Nicklaus was the oldest Masters champion at 46 years, 2 months and 23 days.

Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 21 and less than a year after he turned pro, Woods became the youngest Masters champion, winning the 1997 tournament by a staggering 12 strokes. He won his second Masters at 25, his third at 26 and his fourth at 29.

Woods waited 14 years to win his fifth, the longest gap between green jackets in Masters history. The last one might have been the most extraordinary achievement in his most extraordinary career.

Yes, Woods is ranked 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings. Yes, he won the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta in September, was runner-up at the PGA Championship in August and tied for sixth at The Open in July.

Yes, Woods was among the betting favorites this week. He’s always a factor at Augusta National, where the club lengthened half of the holes to “Tiger-proof” the course after his 2001 victory.

In an effort to keep Woods from continuing to dominate the most fabled golf course in the world, Masters officials moved back tees. They added trees to the sides of fairways to make them narrower. They watered greens less to make them firmer and less receptive.

Woods was a very young man in 1997. Now, the most famous golfer in the world is battling time and decline, just like Nicklaus did more than three decades ago.

To truly appreciate what Woods did on Sunday, you have to consider where he was two years ago.

In April 2017, Woods’ career was in jeopardy because of a debilitating back injury. Before Woods arrived at Augusta National to take his seat at the champions dinner, he needed a nerve block to endure sitting in a chair.

Immediately after the dinner, Woods flew to London to meet with specialists, who recommended spinal fusion surgery to alleviate back spasms and pain and discomfort in his leg. He had surgery in Texas later that month, the fourth back surgery of his career.

Some of his problems have been self-inflicted. On May 29, 2017, Woods was arrested on DUI charges near his home in Jupiter Island, Florida. Officers found him asleep in his car. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and entered a treatment program. That incident followed a very public divorce in 2010 from his wife, Elin Nordegren, which revealed details of his infidelity.

“It was not a fun time,” Woods said earlier this week, after receiving the Ben Hogan Award, given to the comeback player of the year, at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner in Augusta. “It was a tough couple of years there. But I was able to start to walk again. I was able to participate in life.

“I was able to be around my kids again and go to their games and practices and take them to school again. These are all things I couldn’t do for a very long time.”

Woods faced months of rehabilitation and recovery. He didn’t play golf competitively for months. The first time he hit a driver again, it went 90 yards. He was afraid to take a swing. He had to rebuild his game from scratch.

“Golf was not in my near future or even the distant future,” Woods said. “I knew that I was going to be a part of the game, but play the game again, I couldn’t even do that with my son Charlie. I couldn’t even putt in the backyard.”

By December 2017, the player who spent a staggering 281 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the world was ranked 1,199th.

While others might have wondered whether Nicklaus was finished when he won his last green jacket, even Woods questioned whether his professional career was over.

“I was done,” Woods said.

Now, two years later, Woods is a Masters champion again. The 14-year gap between his 2005 victory at Augusta National and the title on Sunday is the longest in Masters history. Gary Player went 13 years between winning green jackets in 1961 and 1974.

Before Sunday, Woods hadn’t won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — a span of 3,954 days. It’s the fifth-longest drought in majors history. He had gone 0-for-28 in majors he had played since then.

Since Woods previously won the Masters in 2005, 55 majors had been played and 35 different players — including 32 first-timers — had won. It seemed that younger players like Molinari, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spiethand Rory McIlroy had evened the playing field or even surpassed him.

In his younger years, Woods routinely outdrove opponents by 30 or 40 yards. At the Masters, it might not have mattered if he was teeing off from the Kroger parking lot across Washington Road. Compared to Woods, it seemed as if everyone else was playing with hickory shafts.

This week, Woods didn’t even rank among the top 40 players in driving distance. He relied on his course knowledge, iron play and short game to come out on top. He was No. 1 in greens in regulation and ranked in the top 15 in putting.

For four days in Augusta, Woods played like a champion again. And his play resembled the great Masters champions before him.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a man that had as much talent,” said Player, a three-time Masters champion. “He had his difficulties to encounter, and I always said if Tiger never had the problems he had, which were numerous, he would have won at least 20, 21 majors. I don’t think there’s a debate about that. I don’t think anybody would ever deny that.”

The question now is whether the most talented golfer in history can become the greatest player in history. Nicklaus never won another major on the PGA Tour after winning the Masters for the final time.

Was Sunday also Woods’ final crowning achievement, or is there more to come?

SOURCE: ESPN

2019 Players Championship opening favorites

2019 Players Championship odds, field: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy co-favorites at TPC Sawgrass

It should come as no surprise that the two golfers who duked it out a few weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship are the favorites for this week’s 2019 Players Championship. Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy share the honors at 12-1 even though neither has ever won at TPC Sawgrass.

The duo has combined for exactly zero top-10 finishes at this tournament in the last three years it has been played, and their most recent top 10 was a T8 by McIlroy back in 2015 when he finished four strokes out of a three-way playoff. Still, TPC Sawgrass is expected to play soft and long this year, which will benefit both. Also, it helps that they’ve combined for nine top 10s and a pair of wins (both Johnson’s) in 11 worldwide starts this year. You could make a reasonable argument that these two — Nos. 1 and 2 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained by a wide margin — have been the two best players on the planet so far in 2019.

Here’s a look at everyone with 45-1 odds or better for the Players this week.

  • Dustin Johnson: 12-1
  • Rory McIlroy: 12-1
  • Justin Thomas: 16-1
  • Justin Rose: 20-1
  • Rickie Fowler: 20-1
  • Brooks Koepka: 22-1
  • Francesco Molinari: 22-1
  • Tiger Woods: 22-1
  • Bryson DeChambeau: 25-1
  • Jon Rahm: 25-1
  • Xander Schauffele: 25-1
  • Tommy Fleetwood: 28-1
  • Sergio Garcia: 33-1
  • Adam Scott: 40-1
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 40-1
  • Jason Day: 40-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 40-1

Did you notice whose names weren’t on there? How about three-time major winner Jordan Spieth (50-1), major champions Henrik Stenson (50-1) and Patrick Reed (66-1). Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson (66-1) and last year’s champ Webb Simpson (50-1) are absent, as well.

There are certainly good reasons all are 50-1 or worse, but it’s still pretty shocking to see written down on paper. Thomas is likely going to end up being my pick, and I think even at 16-1 odds he has value. He and Schauffele are two of just four players gaining two or more strokes per round on fields this year (McIlroy and Johnson are the other two), both have longer odds than the top dogs and both have had a lot of success at TPC Sawgrass in the past.

Dustin Johnson wins WGC-Mexico Championship

Dustin Johnson wins WGC-Mexico Championship for 20th career PGA Tour victory

By Josh Berhow

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

Johnson had a big lead heading into the final round, but his Sunday at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City was drama-free.

Dustin Johnson had a big lead heading into the final round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, but his Sunday at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City was drama-free. Here’s what you missed.

Who won: Dustin Johnson (five-under 66, 21 under overall)

How it happened: This one was never in doubt. Johnson led Rory McIlroy by four after 54 holes and made the turn on Sunday leading McIlroy and Paul Casey by five. The back nine was nothing more than a victory parade to the clubhouse. Johnson, 34, made birdies on 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16 to sign for a 66. McIlroy, who made six back-nine birdies, was second at 16 under, five back of Johnson. The three players who tied for third were five back of McIlroy.

Key hole: The lead was still four when McIlroy and Johnson reached the par-5 6th. They both found tree trouble, although Johnson was awarded a free drop while McIlroy wasn’t. Johnson made birdie and McIlroy made bogey, which increased the lead to six.

Why it matters: It’s Johnson sixth career WGC victory, and he’s second to only Tiger Woods’s 18. Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy are tied for third with three WGC titles. The victory was also DJ’s 20th of his PGA Tour career, which gives him lifetime member status.

Best round: Justin Thomas made nine birdies in his first 12 holes (to one bogey) and shot a nine-under 62. He missed a 14-footer for birdie on the final green that would have broken his own course record.

Best greenside magic: Tommy Fleetwood.

As for Tiger?: He closed with a two-under 69 and tied for 10th. He’s now off for a week until he plays back-to-back at Bay Hill and The Players.

Up next: Thomas defends his title at The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka also headline the field. Woods tweeted earlier this week he would not be playing, despite the proximity to his home.

SOURCE: GOLF.COM

Tiger Woods reflects on George H.W. Bush

Tiger Woods reflects on fast rounds, long-lasting impact of George H.W. Bush

NASSAU, Bahamas — Known for his proclivity to play golf fast if not well, George H.W. Bush would not slow down the pursuit of an 18-hole round just because he was in the company of Tiger Woods.

On a visit to Bush’s hometown of Houston years ago to work with instructor Butch Harmon, Woods had the occasion to play with the 41st president of the United States. And as tributes poured in after Bush died at age 94 on Friday, Woods chuckled at the memory of their speedy round.

“It was one of those very quick ones,” Woods said at the Hero World Challenge on Saturday. “Eighteen holes in probably under two and a half hours. I met him on numerous occasions. He was fantastic to be around. He was just one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around. So down-to-earth.”

Bush was a big contributor to golf, especially after leaving the White House in 1993. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011 through the Lifetime Achievement category. The United States Golf Association bestowed its highest honor on Bush in 2008, the Bob Jones Award. The PGA of America gave him its Distinguished Service Award in 1997, and the PGA Tour honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Bush, who played baseball at Yale, did not take up golf until he was in his 20s, but became quite competitive at the sport. He also had family ties to it. His grandfather, Herbert Walker, was USGA president in 1920, and the Walker Cup — an amateur biennial competition between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland — was named after him. Bush’s father, Prescott, was USGA president in 1935.

Bush was the first honorary chairman of the First Tee, a program started in late 1997 that gives golf opportunities and teaches life lessons around the country.

“Obviously his name is synonymous with golf,” Woods said. “Being around him for all these years and getting a chance to be around him at the Presidents Cup and him being involved since its inception in ’94 … he was such a class act. Anyone who’s ever been around him knows how much he loved his golf and how much he supported it and how much we’re going to miss him.”

Bush attended several Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups over the years; he was at the former the first time it ventured outside the United States in 1998.

Jack Nicklaus, who captained the U.S. team that year (the only time it has lost in the competition), took to Twitter on Saturday to share a story from that event, which was played at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

“On the final day, President Bush stood on the first tee to greet all 24 players,” Nicklaus wrote. “From (the) first singles pairing until the last, the temperature dropped 40 degrees & with it came steady rain. President Bush stood in pouring rain & shook every hand — with grace & a big smile. To me, it spoke volumes about his enduring and endearing character.”

For Bush as a player, what stood out to just about everyone who came in contact with his game was the fast pace.

Bush once told a group of kids at a First Tee program that he never wanted to see them plumb-bobbing a 3-foot putt. And as the 41st president told ESPN writer Don Van Natta Jr. for his book “First off the Tee,” the family mantra was: “We’re not good, but we’re fast.”

Woods described Bush’s pre-shot routine as “basically club, ball, one look, gone.”

Bush played a lot of his golf at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he became proficient enough to win the club championship in 1947. Perhaps his most famous round of golf came in 1995 as part of the Bob Hope Desert Classic at Indian Wells Country Club near Palm Springs, California. For the pro-am, PGA Tour pro Scott Hoch was grouped with Bush, sitting president Bill Clinton, former president Gerald Ford and Hope. During the round, which was filled with errant shots, Bush hit a couple of spectators, one of whom was bloodied when a shot caromed off a tree and hit her on the nose.

Perhaps most horrifying of all to Bush? The round took more than six hours.

SOURCE: ESPN

Seeking Golf Course Superintendent

REMINDER: 2018 Chili Open Golf Tourney – Friday, 11/23

2018 Chili Open Golf Tourney – 11/23

2018 Greenskeeper Revenge Tourney – 11/11

After a big year, Tiger Woods needs some rest

After a big year, Tiger Woods needs some rest

PARIS — Tiger Woods is not used to others celebrating at his expense, but there he was on the 17th green Sunday afternoon, helpless. Jon Rahm had knocked his approach shot stiff, a short birdie putt away from putting Woods out of his misery, another Ryder Cup match lost.

One of golf’s great mysteries continues: Why is Woods’ Ryder Cup record so lousy?

He went 0-4 at Le Golf National after what was an inspired effort to even be part of the U.S. team. He came to France off the jubilation of victory at the Tour Championship, a satisfying-yet-emotional win that obviously left him spent, and he departed with the worst record of any player in the competition.

Two more Ryder Cup partners went on his résumé — Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau — adding to a long list of infamy that has seen Woods’ overall record drop to 13-21-3. He’s 9-19-1 with partners, and lost at singles for the first time since 1997.

All manner of explanations have been given over the years, none of which really apply now, if they ever did: he doesn’t care; he doesn’t like playing with a partner; he’s horrible at team events.

Woods might have had his issues 20 years ago, but now as one of the game’s elder statesmen, he has become heavily involved in the U.S. Ryder Cup process that selects the captains and assistant captains. He has already signed on to be the U.S. Presidents Cup captain in 2019 — and why would a guy who doesn’t give a rip do that? — with an eye on a future Ryder Cup captaincy.

And if you want to put Woods down for withering in the moment, that simply ignores his long career body of work, which includes his victory a week ago in Atlanta.

“We all saw his great win last week, and I think that took something out of him,” said Francesco Molinari, who went 5-0 for the Europeans and three times defeated Woods in the team competition. “But he was still hitting great shots. He’s still a really tough competitor.”

Said Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava: “I think he’s frustrated and also disappointed because he knows he was playing well coming into the tournament. But I don’t think he’s going to let it spoil the year that he had. It is going to sting for a while. Didn’t win a match, and that hurts.

“But you know what, better things are ahead.”

First off, there will be rest.

Woods looked as if he could use it. In brief comments after losing his match to Rahm 2 and 1, he was resigned to having cost the U.S. a chance at victory with his play over the past three days. A few hours later, when the entire team conducted a postmatch news conference, Woods looked exhausted, as if he could fall asleep at any moment.

“I played seven out of nine weeks because I qualified for [the WGC event in] Akron, and all of those are big events, starting with the Open Championship, you’ve got the World Golf Championships, you’ve got another major championship, you’ve got the [FedEx] playoffs and then you have the Ryder Cup on the back side.

“So a lot of big events, and a lot of focus, a lot of energy goes into it. I was fortunate enough to have won one, and we were all coming here on a high and feeling great about our games, about what we were doing, and excited about playing this week.”

It never carried over. On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson said, “I honestly think this is the best I’ve seen him swing the club since 2000.” But Woods never brought that same speed and cohesion to the event.

At times throughout the Ryder Cup, Woods appeared to be moving slowly and swinging without much conviction. He had his moments, just not enough of them. On Sunday, he eagled the ninth hole and birdied the 12th, but as LaCava said, “That’s never going to be enough in something like this.”

After posting seven top-7s, climbing from 656th in the world to 13th, winning his first tournament in five years and being part of the Ryder Cup team, Woods, 42, is probably in for a long, extended break.

There is a chance he might play a late fall event on the PGA Tour before his scheduled Thanksgiving weekend match with Mickelson, followed by the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. It makes sense if that is all he does.

“For me, it’s been a lot of golf in a short period,” he said. “I’ll have a better understanding of what my training needs to be for next year so that I certainly can endure the entire season because this year was very much up in the air of how much I would play or if I would play at all.”

As it turned out, Woods played a ton, missing only two cuts and competing in 68 official rounds on the PGA Tour. The Ryder Cup made for a 19th event, a total number of tournaments he has exceeded once in the past 13 years.

So yes, Woods had a lousy Ryder Cup. So did Mickelson. So did No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson. Jordan Spieth lost at singles for the sixth time in six tries in both Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup competition. DeChambeau, in his first Ryder Cup, was shut out.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but Woods’ name will show up at the bottom of the stat sheet, his 0-4 record there for all to see where the scoreboard is the ultimate judge.

And yet, Woods deserves a bigger-picture view. After all he endured to get back here, and after the success he had along the way, the Ryder Cup pain is undeniable. So are the bodily aches he has endured along the way.

But it will pass in time, and just getting here will be celebrated, even if the result will not.

SOURCE: ESPN

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