Tiger Woods still the one who moves the needle
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Despite the criticism for not winning a major, Tiger Woods has had a very strong year heading into this weekend's BMW Championship.
Tiger Woods will tee off in a Pro-Am Wednesday at 7 a.m. at Conway Farms, and by 7:03 someone in the throng following will wonder whatever happened to him.
The answer is that he's won five times this year on the PGA Tour.
BMW ChampionshipWhen: Today through Sunday
Where: Conway Farms Golf Club, 425 S. Conway Farms Drive, Lake Forest
Schedule: • Wednesday -- Gates open at 6 a.m. with pro-am event at 7 a.m. on holes 1 and 10, and 1 p.m. for afternoon start. • Thursday and Friday -- Gates open at 9 a.m.; 10:15 first tee • Saturday and Sunday -- Gates open at 9 a.m.; 10:15 first tee
Tickets: $10 for practice rounds; $40 tournament round; $100 weekly badge; $75 Trophy Club day ticket sold out; $195 Trophy Club weekly badge. Available at bmwchampionshipusa.com.
Parking: Free shuttle service available from Lake Forest's two Metra stations from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., plus parking available on Everett Road (exit I-94 at Town Line Road and follow signs).
Purse: $8 million in prize money; $1.44 million for the champion
Field: 70 finalists in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy
TV: Golf Channel from 2-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 2 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday NBC from 2-5 p.m. Saturday and 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday
Beneficiary: A Western Golf Association event that helps provide Charles "Chick" Evans Caddie Scholarships from the Evans Scholars Foundation
When he meets the media following his round, someone will ask why he hasn't won a big tournament in years.
The answer is most players on the Tour consider The Players Championship to be the fifth major, and Doral and Firestone are WGC events, which -- like The Players -- feature full fields and the best golfers in the world. Woods won all three in 2013.
And by the time he gets in his BMW courtesy car and leaves the course Wednesday afternoon, he will have been questioned 10 different ways about his fall from the summit of golf.
The answer is, he's taken back the No. 1 ranking in the world, is second in FedEx points to Henrik Stenson by a fraction, and, unless Adam Scott or Phil Mickelson wins one of the next two weeks, Woods will also capture PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time in 17 years.
"When you consider where Tiger Woods came from and where he is, to regain the No. 1 spot in the world, to contend in major championships, to win The Players, win five times, second place at Barclays with a bad back, to me it's not a close race," said Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee.
"To me, it's Tiger Woods. What he's done this year is extraordinary."
The reality is Woods is not quite the player he was at his very best and is held to a different standard -- his own as it relates to major championships -- but the criticism would be laughable if it wasn't so lazy and the narrative so inaccurate.
Tiger Woods is, quite simply, the best player in the world again, and he will win majors again, just as he did in 2008 when he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg and torn ACL.
What most seem to forget is that he missed the last two majors of 2008, considered part of the mysterious drought, which really contains little mystery.
In 2009 he was sixth at the Masters and U.S. Open and lost the PGA Championship to Y.E Yang on the final hole on Sunday.
Then came the scandal that most believe is the reason he hasn't won a major since Torrey Pines, but to suggest Woods has lost his nerve is a failure to acknowledge his victories since and a refusal to comprehend that a swing change costs a normal human at least two years off the calendar.
Woods says you have to hit a particular shot 10,000 times in order to rely on it in competition, and injuries have been the real reason he hasn't won a major, because he hasn't been healthy and practicing year-round in at least seven years.
In 2010, playing after long layoffs, he finished fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open. In 2011, injuries severely limited his playing schedule, but he again finished fourth at Augusta. In 2012 he won three times after some said he'd never win again and had a third at the Open Championship.
This year, along with 5 victories, he began to put his entire game back together.
Woods wins the Masters if he doesn't hit the stick and go in the water on 15 on Friday. He had a bad elbow going into the U.S. Open, didn't play for a month before the British Open, where he played well, finished sixth and could not make a putt, and he was just bad with a bad back at the PGA.
For any other golfer, it would be the season of a career and he'd be congratulated, not questioned, but it's Woods and if he never catches Jack Nicklaus it'll be because of those injuries.
Yet, he is skewered regularly, and it's remarkable when you consider the numbers of jobs Woods has created among the media because of his popularity, the ratings and crowds he draws, the channel he created and the storm of money he has rained down on his competitors.
In 1996, when Woods turned pro, the 100th ranked golfer -- Olin Browne -- collected $223,703.
This season, No. 100 -- Ted Potter Jr. -- has raked in $829,770. In 22 events, Potter has made 11 cuts and has one finish inside the top 10, a sixth at the Greenbrier.
That's not inflation. That's an entire economy created by one man, flourishing even during an economic crisis.
"If I was playing golf today, I would be pinching myself every single day," said Chamblee, who played on the Tour from 1985-01. "To play golf in this era with the Tiger Woods exposure and money and the FedEx Cup and all the momentum the PGA Tour has, you see players out there who had decent success who won $25 million. It's just an unprecedented time to be playing golf.
"In the past you could play golf and have a nice time, but these guys now are making the kind of money that not only do their kids not ever have to work, but maybe their grandkids won't have to work."
Yeah, Tiger Woods has had a pretty good run that is far from over, though listening to those with agendas it may no longer seem apparent.
Yet, if you make it to Conway Farms this week for the BMW Championship, two things will be immediately clear.
One is that you better get here early if you want to see Woods play a hole. The other is that there's only one noise you can hear from the other side of the course.
It's the Tiger Roar.
Seems that golf fans, unlike those who still don't get it, have not forgotten Woods yet.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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