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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Tiger epitomizes highs, lows of '06
By BOB HARIG
Published November 9, 2006
Tiger Woods was nowhere near the Tour Championship in Atlanta when the PGA Tour season officially came to an end Sunday. Not that he needed to be there, really. Despite skipping the final five events on the schedule, Woods had wrapped up the money title and PGA player of the year honors. He had the tour's lowest scoring average (although he won't win the Vardon Trophy because he didn't play enough rounds). So Woods, 30, was still the talk of the town, even if he might have been scraping barnacles off his yacht or polishing the jet for a trip to China this week. He won eight times on the PGA Tour in just 15 starts, including two major championships. (He added another victory on the European PGA Tour in Dubai.) He finished with six straight tour victories and will take that streak into 2007. And yet, he is more likely to remember for far different reasons the season that ranks with 2000 as his best. "If you take into account what happened off the golf course, it's my worst year," Woods said after winning the American Express Championship on Oct. 1. "People asked me, 'How do you consider the year?' I consider it a loss. In the grand scheme of things, golf doesn't even compare to losing a parent." Woods' father, Earl, died May 3 after a long battle with cancer. Tiger took nine weeks off between the Masters and the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut. Three weeks later, he finished second at the Western Open then did not lose another stroke-play event. So any recap of the season must begin with Tiger.
1. Tiger talk
Woods couldn't buy a putt on the back nine at the Masters and didn't make it to the weekend at the U.S. Open. But he was back to his dominating ways at the other two majors, the British Open and PGA Championship, running his career total to 12, just six behind the record held by Jack Nicklaus.
His PGA Tour win streak started at Royal Liverpool, where he used just one driver during the tournament. He has 54 PGA Tour titles, putting him behind only Sam Snead (82), Nicklaus (73), Ben Hogan (64) and Arnold Palmer (62). He passed Billy Casper (51) and Byron Nelson (52).
In those six straight victories, he was 109 strokes under par and won by a combined 20 strokes. And one of the wins came in a playoff. In 2000, Woods won three consecutive majors and nine tour events overall. And yet in 2006, he won eight times in 15 events.
"People want to compare it to the past," Woods said. "And I'm trying to get better in the future."
2. Phil's flop
Phil Mickelson came within one botched hole of being the top dog. Had he been able to make par at Winged Foot's 18th hole in June during the final round of the U.S. Open, he would have won his third straight major and been going for the "Mickel-Slam" at the British Open. Instead, he bounced his tee shot off a hospitality tent, failed to play safe with his approach and made double-bogey 6 when 4 would have won and 5 would have put him in an 18-hole playoff with winner Geoff Ogilvy. Mickelson's classic line: "I am such an idiot."
3. Monty gets a pass
The way Mickelson lost the U.S. Open helped ease the pain of Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, whose long quest for a major championship was within reach had he parred the final hole in Mamaroneck, N.Y. But from the middle of the fairway, Monty missed the green then hit his chip shot long. Believing he needed par to have any chance, he ran his putt by then missed the bogey putt - one that would have put him in a playoff with Ogilvy.
4. Annika's angst
She is still the No. 1 women's player, but Annika Sorenstam has been challenged this year unlike any in the past six. She trails Lorena Ochoa and old rival Karrie Webb on the money list, and each has won five tournaments to her three. Sorenstam did capture the U.S. Women's Open, a first for her in 10 years. But she'll need to win next week's season-ending ADT Championship to earn her sixth straight LPGA Tour money title.
5. A Wie bit much
For all her talent and ability, Michelle Wie, who recently turned 17, was threatening to ruin her popularity by continuing to play in men's events despite not coming close to making the cut - at least on the PGA Tour. She did make the cut in an Asian Tour event but looked bad at tournaments such as the John Deere Classic and 84 Lumber Classic as well as a European tour event. Some of that overshadowed fine showings in LPGA Tour events, especially the majors. She had five top-fives in six LPGA events and was tied for the lead on the back nine of three majors.
6. Brittany breakthrough
A week after contending at the U.S. Women's Open, Seminole's Brittany Lincicome won her first LPGA Tour title at the HSBC Women's Match Play Championship in July at Gladstone, N.J. Lincicome, now 21, defeated LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster in the 18-hole final 3 and 2. To get there, Lincicome knocked off Wie and Ochoa. "This is something that I have dreamed about since I was a little girl, playing on the LPGA Tour and actually winning a tournament," said Lincicome, who earned $500,000 for the victory and spots in this week's LPGA Tournament of Champions and next week's ADT Championship.
7. Another Ryder blowout
Just when it appeared things could not get any worse for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, the Americans matched the worst defeat in history, 181/2-91/2 in 2004. This time, it occurred at the K Club in Ireland, where they didn't win a single session. Woods went 3-2. But Jim Furyk was 2-3 and Mickelson barely showed up, going 0-4-1. The PGA of America this week announced a huge overhaul to the qualifying system, initiated by new captain Paul Azinger.
8. The little four
It wasn't long ago that Woods was being talked about in terms of the Big Five along with Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. So much for that. While Woods won eight times on the PGA Tour, the other four combined for three. True, Mickelson won the Masters, but he was not a factor after the U.S. Open. Singh won just once after winning 13 times the previous two years. And Els and Goosen went winless on both the PGA Tour and in Europe.
Highlights (or lowlights)
CAROLYN BIVENS: She made more news than her players in her first full year as LPGA commissioner, annoying media members over a right to use their own work, watching several staff members - some of whom she hired - resign and getting into spats with several tournament ownership groups over fees.
Hootie Johnson: He survived Martha Burk and stepped down on his terms from the chairmanship of Augusta National. Johnson oversaw the biggest change in Augusta's history, numerous course renovations meant to keep it current. Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is the new Augusta chairman.
DARREN CLARKE: A popular player on both sides of the Atlantic, the northern Irishman took time away from the game to be with his dying wife, Heather, then returned at the Ryder Cup six weeks after her death and won all of his matches.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: The 50-and-older tour has mostly become irrelevant with eligible players such as Greg Norman yet to play and Fred Funk still wanting to play on the regular tour. But players such as Nick Price, Mark O'Meara and Nick Faldo turn 50 in 2007. And Tampa's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am remains one of the most popular tournaments.
CHRYSLER CHAMPIONSHIP: The PGA Tour event at Innisbrook has attracted the likes of Mickelson, Singh, Goosen, Els and a slew of the top-ranked players, who all sing the praises of the Copperhead course over the past four years. The tour returns to the Palm Harbor course in four months as part of the Florida Swing.
Dakoda Dowd: The Palm Harbor 13-year-old missed the cut at the Ginn Open in Orlando in April but made mother Kelly Jo proud nonetheless. Dowd showed she has a great future at the event, which offered her a sponsor exemption so her cancer-stricken mom could see her compete with the pros.
TOP SHOTS: Karrie Webb holed a wedge from 110 yards for eagle on the 72nd hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship that put her in a playoff, where she beat Ochoa. Two months later, Webb was on the receiving end. Se Ri Pak hit a 4-iron to within inches for a tap-in birdie to win the LPGA Championship in a playoff.
Bob Harig can be reached at harig @sptimes.com or (727) 893-880