As the PGA Tour rolls into the Texas capital, Austin, there is a massive amount of excitement in the air. Any time the PGA Tour sets up shop for an event, there is always plenty to look forward. This week is no exception.
There’s really only one person that still “moves the needle,” as the saying goes. You guessed it, Tiger Woods. He is playing this WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship event for the first time in quite a few years and certainly the first time under the new match play format. This elite field is limited to the top-ranked 64 players. While Dustin Johnson is still ranked #1 in the world, Tiger is a very respectable #14.
Austin Country Club (the host club), has only ever had three head golf professionals. The first was Harvey Penick, and he served the post for over 50 years. Two of his most famous students, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, will tell you Harvey was the finest teacher ever to work the range. Harvey wasn’t just a teacher for the elite, gifted golfers, he even taught players like me. I have to admit, some of the finest time I spent in the game was on the range with Penick.
Harvey turned the reins over to his son, Tinsley, who, one could easily say, was a Harvey clone. They were so alike in personality, demeanor, and skill. I’m saddened to learn that last week Tinsley left us. Tinsley will be laid to rest this week. I have never met a gentler soul.
The third head golf professional is a fine gentleman by the name of Dale Morgan, who took over the post when Tinsley retired. Three fine head professionals, each is a credit to the game and to the PGA of America. In all my years covering golf, I have never met any finer.
Last week, the PGA Tour made history. It was the Valspar Championship played outside Tampa, FL, at the Innisbrook Resort and for the third week in a row, a European player has won. I’m calling it an “aftershock of the Ryder Cup,” as all three winners of the Florida Swing were members of the 2018 European Ryder Cup Team that dominated in Paris.
First, Italian Ryder Cup hero Francisco Molinari added the Arnold Palmer Invitational to his list of accomplishments. Next, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland took home the hardware at the PGA Tour’s pride and joy, the Players Championship. And last week, Englishman Paul Casey made the history books as he became the first player to successfully defend his title at the Valspar Championship.
With only two tournament weeks to go until we go to Augusta, it’s likely that this week will be the final week of preparation for the Masters for many of the top players, Tiger included. Even though he does have four green jackets in his locker, he will definitely be trying his best to win his fifth. I always find it difficult to believe that it’s been over 20 years since Tiger won his first Green Jacket back in 1997, but perhaps a more amazing statistic is that Tiger’s last Master’s victory took place in 2005.
Tiger’s ultimate goal: To surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship titles and to do that, he has to get past the next one, which will be his 15 .