Woods back at Sawgrass, site of much frustration

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. — Stop me if you’ve heard this before: that Craig Perks has won as many Players Championships as Tiger Woods. So has Jodie Mudd, before he switched from tee times to horses. So has Mark Hayes, and Mark McCumber, and Fred Funk, not a world challenger there.

Perks, a genial New Zealander, never won any other tournament and never came close afterward. He followed Woods in the winner’s  circle in 2002, and there you’ll find his name, sandwiched between Tiger’s and Davis Love III’s. And this is the PGA Tour players’ own course, their home campus, so to speak.

Strange, when Woods shows up on the Sawgrass course, his game seems to have gone in another direction. The past six times he has played here, he has finished out of the top ten, quite uncharacteristic of the man generally considered to be the best player in the world. He sat it out last year for knee surgery. This year he’s back, but his game is in recovery.

It’s simply strange that on this stage, a sort of annual reunion of what several players like to call “the best field of the year,” Tiger is not a constant among the trophy chasers. The year Perks won, he finished 14th. He has finished as far back as 53rd, and in the past four years he  competed, he has never been closer than 16th.

“I haven’t hit the ball well here,” he said. “Coming into this event, for some reason or another, I haven’t hit it well. The year I did, the last year I played, I did, but I couldn’t make a putt.

“It’s similar to a major championship” — of which Woods has won 14 — “you have to have all the pieces in order in order to win this tournament.”

The Players has opened doors for some aspiring players, but rarely have they followed through. Tommy Tolles, a University of Georgia alumnus, finished second in 1996, but has since drifted  into oblivion. Scott Gump finished two strokes behind David Duval in 1999, has never ranked higher than 165th since, and went penniless last year.

The finish a year ago was a strange one. Paul Goydos, whose game had taken a sad decline for several years, along with his personal life, came out of the mist and tied Sergio Garcia, who won in a playoff. Goydos summarily returned to oblivion. Sergio, meanwhile, eventually returned to the list of puzzling stars who never quite live up to their potential. He has mainly aroused attention this year with his criticism of Augusta National after another Masters collapse.

Well, the old gang is all here again, from Brad Adamonis to Y.E. Yang. Ah, yes, Y.E. Yang, of the Korean Yangs. It may have slipped your mind, but remember the year Tiger Woods passed up the Tour Championship at East Lake to get some “R&R?” Then appeared the following week in the Shanghai Open — for a $3-million fee — and lost on the final day to this modest Korean, Y.E. Yang.

One and the same. Y.E. just won the Honda Classic a few weeks ago on our soil. He’ll be in the threesome right behind Woods, Justin Leonard and Ernie Els on Thursday. Check it out.

5 comments Add your comment


May 6th, 2009
5:22 pm

Been to 10 or 11 TPC’s. Much easier to view than is the Master’s though it can’t touch the ambience. It is one of the best risk/reward courses there is on tour. For every opportunity, there is a penalty. You must put together allaspects of your game to do well. I have seen 18 (toughest hole) played easily and 2 played horribly. Great place to watch golf. Great tourney.

Jeff Kaldahl

May 6th, 2009
5:49 pm

Are you crazy? Do you watch golf? What gives with comments like,

“…he has finished out of the top ten, quite uncharacteristic of the man generally considered to be the best player in the world. He sat it out last year for knee surgery. This year he’s back, but his game is in recovery.”

Who doesn’t consider Tiger to be the best player in the world? As for a game in recovery…I bet most of the players on tour would like to have a “game in recovery” as successful as Tiger has been this year. 1 win and 2 or 3 other top tens (including the Masters)? I think the shear absurdity of that remark and how high we hold the bar for Tiger illustrates he is UNDOUBTEDLY the best player in the world.


May 6th, 2009
8:09 pm

Jeff – take a break, you are entirely too serious about this blogging. you must learn to control your anger, grasshopper.


May 7th, 2009
12:21 am

Thanks, Furman. Interesting point you make. Sound like list of The Players Championship winners is like the list of PGA Championship winners: a lot of less-than-distinguished names.

You know, since Tiger’s come back from almost a year off, he’s been in contention almost every tournament. I think I’m right in saying that no other player has been as consistently dangerous.

And yet, because he hasn’t won, writers and commentators are saying his absence has given others courage and that they’ve caught up to him. Goodness, talk about have set the bar high!

Time was, a player won a couple of tournaments a year and he was doing pretty well. Now, Tiger doesn’t win in his first five tournaments and he’s slid back into the field. Funny old world.


May 7th, 2009
5:35 am

another great article furman and you make an interesting point concerning tiger,but it happens with other great champions both individual/team sports.

there are some venues that cause players not to perform as well as other sites.

saying that, i would not bet against tiger in this event,but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out!