|Woods closes chapter on California childhood|
|Tuesday, December 03, 2013 9:15 PM|
By DOUG FERGUSON
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Of all the memories from Tiger Woods’ roots in Southern California, it’s easy to overlook the time he made an appearance in the Tournament of Roses parade.
OK, so he wasn’t the grand marshal. And he had just turned 18.
Woods, coming off his first U.S. Amateur title, rode on the Chiropractic Centennial Foundation float that required seven tons of flowers to build. He wasn’t the only celebrity on the float on Jan. 2, 1995. Also riding were singer Lee Greenwood, Hall of Fame baseball player Joe Morgan and Olympic champion speedskater Cathy Turner.
The majestic float was toward the end of the order, trailed only by the Icelandic Horse Adventure Society and the International House of Pancakes.
For sure, there were far greater moments with a golf club in his hand.
Woods was only a toddler when he first went head-to-head with Sam Snead. It was only two holes, and Woods made bogey on both of them. Now, he is only four victories from breaking Snead’s record for career PGA Tour victories.
Woods made his PGA Tour debut at Riviera in the 1992 Nissan Open when he was a 16-year-old junior in high school. He might have made the cut if not for a growth spurt during the week that made the shaft in his driver too short. More on that later.
He never won what he often referred to as his “hometown event” at Riviera. He made up for it by winning five times at Sherwood Country Club and that doesn’t include his win over David Duval at the illustrious “Showdown at Sherwood” in what amounted to Monday Night Golf.
Woods returns to Sherwood this week, in effect closing a chapter on golf in the area he always called home.
The Tiger Woods Learning Center, a superb complex that recently received a Golden Bell Award for excellence in education, remains his tie to Southern California. And the Tiger Woods Foundation headquarters will stay in Irvine.
But he stopped playing Riviera in 2006 after he narrowly made the cut. The only regular event in California that Woods still plays is in Torrey Pines, a 2-hour drive from his hometown of Cypress in Orange County. The only time Los Angeles area golf fans could see him play was the World Challenge, a holiday event that attracts an 18-man field of players from the top 50 in the world.
This is the last year at Sherwood. Woods is moving the event to Isleworth, his old home in central Florida. Then, it could be headed to the Bahamas.
When he won the Canadian Open in 2000 with that 6-iron out of a bunker and over the water, his late father, Earl, said that day, “In every tournament, he’ll hit shots that people will be talking about for 30 years.”
One thing is certain — Woods leaves a trail of stories behind. Here are five from his time in Southern California.
TIGER VS. SLAMMIN’ SAMMY
Woods was just starting kindergarten when he was invited to join Snead at Calabasas Country Club just north of LA. They played two holes, starting with a par 3. Woods hit into a creek fronting the green and Snead suggested he just pick it up and drop it.
“That kind of ticked me off, so I decided to play it out of the water,” Woods once recalled. “I knocked it on the green and two-putted for my 4.”
Woods missed his first seven cuts on the PGA Tour, starting with the 1992 Nissan Open in his debut at age 16. He opened with a 72 and was in reasonable shape to make the cut until what his father said was a growth spurt. Woods shot 75 the next day and headed back to high school.
“I was hitting the ball good the first few days of the week,but then I suddenly outgrew my club shaft,” Woods said a year later.
His father said they didn’t figure out what happened until the tournament was over.
“He was in a growth cycle and those teenage muscles just grew overnight,” Earl Woods added.
THE END OF RIVIERA
A beautiful afternoon off Sunset Boulevard turned nasty without warning and Woods was on his back nine at Riviera without rain gear in 2006. He bogeyed two of his last three holes for a 74 to presumably miss the cut — until three more players dropped shots coming in and Woods made the cut on the number.
He was to be paired Saturday with J.B. Holmes, a big-hitting rookie who had just smashed his way to victory in Phoenix. The next morning, Woods was a no-show. He withdrew because of the flu and he has not been back to Riviera since.
THE POWER MOVE
It was baking hot in August for the “Showdown at Sherwood” in 1999, a nationally televised exhibition against David Duval, who had returned to No. 1 in the world. Because it was not an official PGA Tour event, the caddies wore shorts.
A PGA Tour rules official ordered them to change into pants. Duval’s caddie complied. Woods’ caddie, Steve Williams, did not. The rules officials made it clear to Williams that if he did not change into trousers, it would be the last time he caddied on the PGA Tour.
Woods, listening to this conversation, interrupted by saying, “Guess I’ll be playing in Europe next year.”
Williams wore shorts. Woods won the match. And it wasn’t long before shorts were approved for caddies on the PGA Tour.
Of the five wins at his World Challenge, none was more meaningful than in 2011. One shot behind with two to play, Woods birdied his last two holes to beat Zach Johnson. It was his first win since his personal life came crashing down, a span of 26 official tournaments over 749 days.
“If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward,” Jim Furyk said that day, “he’s going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.”
Woods won three times the following year, five times this year. For his swan song at Sherwood, he is No. 1 in the world.
A big week of golf on 3 continents
Joost Luiten better hope his decision to hit one shot at the BMW Masters doesn’t keep him out of that other “Masters.”
This is the last big week of tournaments around the world as players try to finish inside the top 50 to earn an invitation to Augusta National in April. Luiten is at No. 52 going into the Nedbank Challenge, but here’s where it gets interesting.
Luiten had a sore shoulder in Shanghai. He had to play two of three “Final Series” events on the European Tour to be eligible for the finale in Dubai. So he chose to hit one shot off the first tee at Lake Malaren in the BMW Masters and withdraw. He rested his shoulder for two weeks, played Turkey and then tied for fourth in Dubai.
However, that added one tournament to his total in the world ranking formula. If he had not been required to play the BMW Masters, Luiten would be at No. 49.
Ultimately, however, his performance will dictate whether he gets into the Masters. Even though it’s late in the year, the fields on three continents are packed with good players at the World Challenge in California, the Hong Kong Open and the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
The strongest field is in California, though it will have no bearing on the Masters because all 18 players at Sherwood are already eligible (and all of them are in the top 30).
Miguel Angel Jimenez (No. 48) is playing in Hong Kong, by far the weakest of the three fields. If he doesn’t play well, the Spaniard risks being passed in the ranking by Richard Sterne (No. 51) or Luiten in South Africa. Also playing in South Africa are Gary Woodland (No. 57 but already in the Masters), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (No. 60) and Peter Uihlein (No. 67).
The final tournament of the year is the Nelson Mandela Invitational, though the field is expected to be weak. Among those expected to play are Branden Grace, currently at No. 50.
For the players who don’t quite crack the top 50, Augusta National takes the top 50 one week before the Masters. Then again, Geoff Ogilvy missed the top 50 by one shot in Australia at the end of last year and went backward at the start of a new season.
WHEN GOLF GETS IN THE WAY OF FOOTBALL: Jason Dufner took to Twitter to ask tournament host Woods if the World Challenge could change to 36 holes on Thursday and Friday “so I can watch my beloved Auburn” play for the SEC Championship.
If nothing else, it got Woods to tweet something for the first time in a month: “Petition denied.”
Auburn and Missouri play at 1 p.m. PST, so Dufner’s best hope is to play so poorly in the opening two rounds that he’s off the course by then.
Woods, who went to Stanford, has no such problem. The Cardinal and Arizona State play for the Pac-12 title at 4:45 p.m. PST, well after the third round is over. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State (Hunter Mahan) goes after a Big 12 title when it plays Oklahoma at 9 a.m. PST.
ROOKIE STARS: One of the best rivalries in golf this year was not a rivalry except when measuring achievements on two tours.
Jordan Spieth started the PGA Tour season with no status and earned temporary membership, won the John Deere Classic, qualified for the Tour Championship, was picked for the Presidents Cup team and finished No. 7 in the FedEx Cup standings. It was the best rookie season on the PGA Tour since Woods started with no status and won twice in his first seven tournaments in 1996.
Across the ocean, Hideki Matsuyama was equally impressive on the Japan Golf Tour.
The 21-year-old Japanese star didn’t turn pro until April. He won four times this year, and his win last week in the Casio World Open made him the first rookie to win the Japanese money title with just more than $2 million. Matsuyama had a pair of top 10s in the majors (he tied for 19th in the PGA Championship), and he earned his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season. In his first tour event as a member, he tied for third in the Frys.com Open.
Spieth earned 184.432 ranking points this year and is No. 22 in the world. Matsuyama earned 157.47 points and is No. 23 in the world.
SEMINOLE JACK: Jack Nicklaus grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and won an NCAA title at Ohio State. He even dotted the “i” at a Buckeyes football game.
But as Nicklaus told the Palm Beach Post this week, “blood is thicker than anything else.”
His grandson, Nick O’Leary, is the starting tight end for Florida State and the top-ranked Seminoles could very well meet Ohio State if both teams win their conference championships on Saturday. Nicklaus said his allegiance would be with Florida State.
Maybe Nicklaus saw this coming.
He was at his alma mater at the start of the football season and told Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that he had already secured tickets to the title game in the Rose Bowl. Meyer cautioned Nicklaus not to jinx the Buckeyes, only for Nicklaus to tell him, “Urban, I bought the tickets for Florida State. I hope you get there.”
THE CUPS RUNNETH OVER: Add a couple of more cups to the calendar.
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand have been selected as playing captains for the inaugural EurAsia Cup. The team matches will be played March 27-29 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Among those expected to compete are Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
It gives Europe team match competition in a Ryder Cup year.
Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin have been named honorary captains of the “Concession Cup,” to be played May 1-3 at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. The matches are for leading mid-amateurs, senior amateurs and super senior amateurs from the United States against Britain & Ireland.
The club was named after the moment of sportsmanship at the 1969 Ryder Cup, when Nicklaus conceded Jacklin a short par putt for the event to end in a tie. The Americans retained the cup.
DIVOTS: Brandt Snedeker is being replaced in the Franklin Templeton Shootout field by Harris English. Snedeker hurt his left knee after losing his balance on a Segway in China and is taking the rest of the year off as a precaution. He is expected to return at the Tournament of Championship at Kapalua the first week of January. … The European Tour has appointed David Williams chairman of the board, replacing Neil Coles, who retired this year. … The winners in golf over the last few weeks include Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel and Luke Donald. … Steve Stricker is the only player from the top 10 in the world who has not won this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Snedeker are the only players from the top 25 in the world who are not playing this week.
FINAL WORD: “I have spent more time in the ice bucket than a bottle of Moet & Chandon over the last month.” — Henrik Stenson, who has been coping with a wrist injury.