Planet Golf — 13 September 2018 by GW staff and news services
Would a Woods win be a fitting finish?

Tiger Woods is a lock to win the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake next week, breaking a win gap that goes back to the 2013 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

Wait. What? Why? Yeah, Woods is playing well, his T6 at the BMW Championship at Aronimink marking his fourth top-10 finish since July. He’s 20th in the FedExCup, and has won at East Lake before, in 2007. But forget about all that. More importantly, a Woods win is the only result that would make sense at the end of a year in which so many people broke dry spells it was hard to keep track.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back to this spot,” Keegan Bradley said after he beat Justin Rose in a playoff at the BMW Championship on Monday, when he notched a fourth PGA Tour victory a scant six years and 160 starts after his third. “And today I did it.”

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back to this spot, and today I did it.

Maybe that wouldn’t fit on a bumper sticker or a T-shirt, but it nicely sums up the 2017-’18 season. Alternatively, if you imagine many of this season’s winners as the Tom Hanks character from Castaway, that’s a lot of guys who had time to grow a prodigious beard and learn how to spearfish in between victories.

For a while the Tours longest gap between wins was by Butch Baird, who triumphed at the 1961 Waco Turner Open and then, 15 years later, the ’76 San Antonio Texas Open. Long gap. Good for him. But Robert Gamez was winless for 15-plus years when he won the 2005 Valero Texas Open (since the 1990 Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill) to break it.

Lesson: If you want to get your act together, go to San Antonio. Lesson II: It’s never too late.  

Jason Day went 33 starts between his win at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2016 and the Farmers Insurance Open in early 2018. Day later won the Wells Fargo Championship, going for a two-win season just a year after he enjoyed a no-win season.

Speaking of THE PLAYERS Championship, when Webb Simpson waltzed to victory in May it was his fifth TOUR win but his first since the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Speaking of children, Gary Woodland’s wife, Gabby, and their son, Jaxson, surprised him on the 18th green at TPC Scottsdale after he shot 64 and won a playoff over Chez Reavie at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his first victory since the 2013 Barracuda Championship. 

On the subject of surprises, Phil Mickelson ended the longest drought of his career, which went all the way back to the 2013 Open Championship, a span of 96 starts, when he won the WGC-Mexico Championship in March. A week later, Paul Casey ended a gap of 150 starts between the 2009 Houston Open and his second Tour win at the Valspar Championship, denying Woods.

A week after that (trend alert!), Rory McIlroy shot a final-round 64 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, breaking a dry spell of 19 Tour starts that dated back to his victory at the Tour Championship in 2016. He took just 100 putts, the fewest of his career for a four-round event, and was +10.027 in Strokes Gained: Putting.

He also ended the talk about 2017 being the first year since 2008 when he didn’t win on any tour.

While we’re talking Europeans, McIlroy’s Ryder Cup teammate Ian Poulter’s third Tour victory, his first of the non-WGC variety, at the Houston Open broke a win drought that dated to the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions and spanned 93 starts. That’s a long gap, even factoring in Poulter’s 2016 foot surgery. Having slipped all the way to 207th in the world after The Honda Classic last season, Poulter is now 34th and set to play on his sixth European Ryder Cup team.

Speaking of players returning to Cup-worthy prominence, Bubba Watson went 43 starts between his win at THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2016 and the Genesis Open at Riviera earlier this season. Then the floodgates opened, as he notched his 11th TOUR win, at the WGC-Dell Technology Match Play, six weeks later, and kept on going at the Travelers Championship.

Kevin Na, who in July won A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, was making his 158th start since winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children in his hometown of Las Vegas in 2011.

All of these stories should more than inspire Woods, to say nothing of Tony Finau, whose last win came at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. Finau, of course, has nevertheless risen all the way to FedExCup No. 3 with 11 top-10 finishes this season, tied for the Tour lead.

Inspiration at East Lake could go a long way. And if not? Well, there’s always San Antonio.

 

 

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