Tiger Woods: In Title Only

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IFebruary 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 11:  A TAG Heuer watch billboard with an image of golf legend Tiger Woods is shown  on December 11, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Woods announced that he will take an indefinite break from professional golf to concentrate on repairing family relations after admitting to infidelity in his marriage. Woods has a TAG Heuer professional golf watch model named for him.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson is making a name for himself.

With his third victory on the PGA TOUR coming last week at Pebble Beach, he certainly has distinguished himself from the rest of the pack of up-and-coming golfers.

In fact, he is one of only three golfers in the world to have at least three PGA TOUR victories while still in his 20s.

The other two golfers with that distinction are fellow American Sean O'Hair and Australian Adam Scott.

At age 25 he is the youngest of the trio of heirs apparent.

With this year's U.S. Open being contested at the famed ocean side Monterey Peninsula gem, where Johnson has now won back-to-back titles, could there be a major victory in sight for the tall and sleek South Carolinian?

Sure weather, course setup, and conditions will be different in June, but Johnsons  birdie on the 18th at Pebble Beach to outright win the tournament is a positive barometer of bigger and better things to come.

After bogeying No. 17 Johnson fought right back with a huge drive past the two cypress trees on the ocean side of the fairway. Seemingly confident, he missed his three-iron from 235 yards where he had to miss it—the front right bunker.

No Bubba layup here.

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After a masterful sand wedge he made the four-footer for victory.

With all the opportunities to compete in front of him, he may never look back.

Already having completed the sixth week of the 2010 season, the excitement and storylines of the PGA TOUR speak for themselves.

Groove-gate, the debate between Scott McCarron and Phil Mickelson over whether or not playing the square grooves of Ping Eye 2 wedges is cheating, erupted at Torrey Pines three weeks ago.

Mickelson, while not agreeing that he cheated when playing the "legal" wedges, took them out of his bag for two weeks after making his point in the season opener in his hometown of San Diego.

His point being PGA TOUR players today will do anything to get a competitive advantage.

Playing within the rules of golf is good. Conducting oneself with the spirit of the game in mind is a totally different and higher standard.

Many doubt if Bobby Jones would have liked his Masters champion's line of reasoning that goes something like this—the governing bodies of golf in the best interest of the game outlawed clubs with square grooves; Ping Eye 2 wedges have square grooves therefore I should play them in competition because I am able to do so from a legal perspective.

Wasn't it Jones that set the standard for golfers to call penalties on themselves? The amateur started that tradition back in the 1920s when his ball moved ever so slightly and only for his eyes to see.

Did he really see it move when no one else did? They tried to convince him it did not move and even though he could have easily agreed with them he knew to do so was not in the spirit of the game of golf.

Then when everyone congratulated him for not cheating he dismissed them saying it would be no different than recognizing ordinary people for not robbing banks.

Remarkably Jones was a lawyer too!  

The competition on the golf course has been keen this year.

For Geoff Ogilvy, the 2010 season started a lot like the 2009 season with him winning the "champions-only SBS Championship" on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

Ogilvy outran a Sunday 63 by Rory Sabbatini, but only by one stroke. Also in the hunt at the end were two future stars of the PGA TOUR: Sean O'Hair and Matt Kuchar.

The question will be can Ogilvy keep it going for the rest of the season and win a major to go along with the one gifted to him by a "stupid" Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006?

The tour remained in Hawaii for the Sony Open where 33-year old Ryan Palmer won for the third time in his career while beating the likes of Robert Allenby, Steve Stricker, and Retief Goosen.

Rookie sensation Rickie Fowler made his debut at the SONY Open only to go away disappointed after missing the cut.

Troy Merritt, Q-School medalist led the field of 16 rookies finishing tied for 20th.

The tour then headed into the California desert for the Bob Hope Classic where young Bill Haas officially began walking in his father Jay's footsteps. He won his first tournament by one stroke over Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark, and Bubba Watson.

The Haas duo became the eighth father and son combo to win on the PGA TOUR. The last to do so was Al and Brent Geiberger when Brent won the 1999 Canon Greater Hartford Open.

After Fowler hopelessly missed the cut at the Hope he competed well at the Farmers Insurance Open and finished tied for fifth. Nationwide star Michael Sim finished tied for second one stroke behind champion Ben Crane.

Amidst the Mickelson groove controversy, Steve Stricker grinded out his eighth PGA TOUR victory at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open.

Rookie Alex Prugh made it three Top 10 finishes in a row as he made his way north up the Pacific Ocean coast line.

Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer ever, turned 70 on Jan. 21  and will join 80-year old Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter at the Masters.

With the tour heading to the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship outside Tucson, Arizona this week, the absence of Tiger Woods is notable.

Dominant in WGC's, having won 16 times in 31 starts, the absence of a physically healthy Woods is inexplicable within the isolated bubble of competitive golf.

Can this be a foreshadowing of a no-show at the Masters?

Will Tiger be unable to make the first tee and compete for his 15th major championship in less than two months?  

Tiger Woods, in title only?

No mention of Tiger Woods in this article?

That's because he is ranked No. 1 in the world in title only.

Titles are titles; playing championship golf is what champions do.

 

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net