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Woods’ yardstick for playing Masters: Can he win? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 9:00 PM


Associated Press


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tiger Woods said long ago he would give up golf when he felt he could play his best and still not win.

That includes his lifetime invitation to the Masters.

“Let me put it to you this way,” Woods explained last week at his World Challenge. “I’m not going to beat Arnold’s record. I’m not playing that long, that’s for sure.”

Palmer set a record in 2004 by playing in his 50th consecutive Masters. Woods won his first green jacket when he was 21 and with reasonable health (a big assumption considering his injuries), he would seem to be in the best position to break that record. Even with his injuries, the Masters is the one major Woods has never missed.

He just doesn’t appear the least bit interested in that kind of a record.

“For me, I always want to win,” he said. “So if I can’t win, why tee it up? That’s just my own personal belief. And I know what it takes to prepare to win and what it takes to go out there and get the job done, and there’s going to become a point in time where I just can’t do it anymore. We all as athletes face that moment. I’m a ways from that moment in my sport, but when that day happens, I’ll make a decision and that’s it.”

But for Woods or any golfer, it’s tough to know when that day happens.

Palmer never won another PGA Tour event after the Bob Hope Classic in 1973, though he remained competitive for many years. Several players eligible for the Champions Tour are hesitant about moving on.

When is it time?

“In golf, you can still win golf tournaments in your 50s and guys have done it,” Woods replied. “Probably the more difficult thing is that you can still finish top 10, top five, but you’re probably just not quite as efficient as you need to be to win golf tournaments. But you can still be there.”

Might he change his mind about the Masters as he gets older? It doesn’t sound like it.

“Mellowing on that? No. I’ll be on that first tee starting out the event, I’m sure,” he added with a smile and a dose of sarcasm. “So I mean, you hit a good drive and you can’t get to where you can see the flag? I don’t know why it’s even fun.”

STENSON AWARD: Henrik Stenson has won the Golf Writers Trophy from the Association of Golf Writers, awarded to the top golfer who was born or lives in Europe, along with European teams. Stenson became the first player this year to win the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.

Nearly two-thirds of the AGW members made Stenson their first choice on a ballot that included U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Europe’s Solheim Cup team that won on American soil for the first time.

Stenson was the first Swedish male to win the award. Annika Sorenstam won the award twice.

Stenson primarily lives at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla.

IN THE BAG: Jack Nicklaus won’t have a bouquet of head covers in his bag when he plays the PNC Father-Son Challenge this weekend, though the 14 clubs in his bag have changed from his prime.

Nicklaus noted when he played on the PGA Tour, he carried a driver and a 3-wood, a 1-iron through a 9-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter.

“Now I’ve got a driver, a 3-wood, a 4-wood and a 5-wood,” he explained last week in a conference call. “I’m not a big hybrid guy, although I’m playing with one right now and I took out the 2-iron. That’s pretty much where I am. I’m usually a 3-iron through 9-iron, pitching wedge and sand wedge. I don’t know if that’s 14 or 15 (clubs) but it’ll be 14 when I tee it up.”

No other player hit more memorable shots with a 1-iron than Nicklaus, a club that featured in three of his majors — the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the 1975 Masters and the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.

But there were times when he benched the 1-iron.

“I used to even go to Augusta when I carried a 1-iron a lot and sometimes I’d put in maybe a 4- or 5-wood, simply because you needed some elevation to stop it on the greens and some of the lies you played,” Nicklaus added.

THE HANEY SHOW: Hank Haney has gone from writing a book on his years with Tiger Woods to hosting his own radio show on SiriusXM.

The radio network continues to beef up its programming. It already has shows for Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter, along with 2-time Masters champion, architect and golf savant Ben Crenshaw. Haney will host “Hank Haney Golf Radio,” an instructional-based show that will air Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. ET starting on Jan. 3.

The program will be geared around Haney’s teaching philosophy and he will take calls from listeners who want help with their games. Haney also will offer his analysis on today’s players and take on current topics, which are sure to include Woods.

TWEETING TIGER: Jason Dufner jokingly tweeted to Woods that the schedule of the World Challenge be changed so Dufner could watch Auburn in the SEC title game last week. Woods replied on Twitter, “Petition denied.”

It was a significant only because it was Woods’ first tweet in more than a month. It was his 35th tweet in the span of a year, most of them commercially related. And that Dufner tweet was the first of — get this — FIVE tweets in two days.

Woods said girlfriend Lindsey Vonn is trying to persuade him to tweet more. Progress remains slow.

“I grew up in a different era and it’s a little bit different for me,” Woods added, who is 9 years older than the downhill ski champion. “I’m still a little bit old-school. I’m kind of getting it but still not grasping the whole concept yet. But I’ll get there eventually.”

DIVOTS: K.J. Choi donated his $100,000 from the World Cup to help with relief efforts in the Philippines. “I wanted to represent Korea in sharing the sentiment of my fellow countrymen to our friends in the Philippines,” Choi said. “I send my deepest condolences to the people of the Philippines who have lost their families and homes. The donation from the KJ Choi Foundation was sent to the American Red Cross. … Redstone Golf Club is now called “Golf Club of Houston” under a contractual requirement when it changed ownership. It still is host of the Shell Houston Open, the final PGA Tour event before the Masters. … Cal coach Steve Desimone has been selected U.S. captain of the Palmer Cup next year. The Palmer Cup, which matches college players from the United States and Europe, will be June 26-28 at Walton Heath.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The 19 tournaments Woods played this year offered an average of 72.7 world ranking points to the winner.

FINAL WORD: “Driving accuracy far outweighs distance. And I sleep better at night knowing that.” — Zach Johnson. He was No. 8 in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour last year and No. 153 in driving distance.

Golf in 2013: Sharing the wealth: Wanting to return among the elite in golf, Graeme McDowell mapped out a plan last fall. He figured out how many ranking points he would need to get back into the top five in the world.

And he went about it the right way. It started with his win at the World Challenge a year ago. He won at Hilton Head on the PGA Tour. He won the World Match Play Championship and the French Open on the European Tour. He was third at World Golf Championships in Doral and Shanghai.

“I’ve got to say, I got pretty close to that target that I set myself,” McDowell said.

Little did he know how much the target would be moving in an extraordinary year for golf.

McDowell ended last year at No. 15 in the world. Now he is all the way up to No. 12.

“I wasn’t really factoring on how many great players around me were going to have incredible seasons,” McDowell said. “So making an impact in that top 10 in the world has been very difficult to do this year because you just get so many guys playing incredibly well.”

Call it bad timing for McDowell and happy days for golf.

Rarely has the golf season — men and women — felt so rewarding for so many players. Perhaps that explains why Woods could win five times — more than any other player in the world — capture the PGA Tour money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average, then listen to people discuss the definition of player of the year and whether he is worthy without having won a major.

Woods won the vote as the best player on the PGA Tour.

He is used to playing under a different set of standards, a victim of his own success. Anyone else with five trophies from the courses where he won — Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass and Firestone — and there wouldn’t be a debate.

But this wasn’t just any other year.

Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters and along the way earned redemption from blowing the British Open nearly nine months earlier. He had the outright lead on the back nine at the British Open this year before faltering. A month later, he won The Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs, arguably one of the strongest fields of the year with the tour’s top 125 players who are all on form.

When he finally went home to show off his green jacket, Scott won the Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Masters, then teamed with Jason Day to give Australia its first World Cup title in 24 years. He was poised to capture Australia’s Triple Crown until Rory McIlroy beat him on the last hole in the Australian Open.

A better year than Woods? Probably not, though it depends how much weight is given a major.

Perhaps a better question: Did he have a better year than Phil Mickelson?

Lefty came within a cruel lip-out of shooting a 59 in the Phoenix Open, which he wound up winning. Showing off a short game like no other, his chip on the 18th hole at Castle Stuart gave him a victory in the Scottish Open. And his Sunday at Muirfield gets little debate over the best round of the year. Mickelson made four birdies on the last six holes for a 66 to capture the one major that not even he thought he could win.

Who won the most meaningful major this year? Mickelson or Scott? Best to save that argument for the bar.

Not to be forgotten is Stenson, who in April wasn’t even eligible for the Masters. He finished one shot behind in the Shell Houston Open, which got him to Augusta National. But it was the summer when the Swede began to shine.

A tie for third in the Scottish Open. Runner-up at the British Open. Runner-up at Firestone (by seven shots to Woods), third at the PGA Championship. He won two FedEx Cup playoff events to win the $10 million FedEx Cup. And for good measure, he won the final event in Europe to become the first player to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season.

Missing from the equation this year was the guy who started the year at No. 1 — McIlroy. He still had a good view.

“You’ve got Tiger with five wins this year. Adam breaks through for his first major. Phil wins the major he thinks he’s never going to win. Henrik comes back,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, it’s deep. You’ve got to play really well to win. … But I think golf is in great shape.”

On the LPGA Tour, the points-based player of the year came down to the next to last week, even though Inbee Park had won three straight majors among her six titles. Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis won the other majors. Lewis won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Pettersen had a chance to win the money title until she faltered in the Titleholders.

That’s what inspired LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan to say, “Sports are at their absolute best … when the best athletes in that sport are having the best years of their lives.”

It’s hard to say with certainty that Woods was at his absolute best,and not just because he didn’t win a major. It used to be that when Woods was at his best, there was not enough wealth to go around. Now there is.

What a year.

Last Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 9:33 PM

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