Altvater: Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson, Singh make January memorableWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
What a great start to the 2013 golf year! January turned out to be a month that golf fans will remember forever.
The first event of the year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, had its first four rounds blown away by high winds that prevented any official golf being played over the weekend.
Golfers were able to play 36 holes on Monday and a final 18 holes on Tuesday to make it an official 54-hole event with Dustin Johnson getting the win.
Tour rookie Russell Henley blitzed the field in the Sony Open in Honolulu. He made putts from everywhere and played with the calm and confidence of a seasoned veteran.
While the PGA Tour moved to the mainland for the Humana Challenge, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods opened their 2013 campaigns in Abu Dhabi.
Nike made the formal announcement of McIlroy’s switch to Nike with a laser light show that could only have been dreamed up by Disney.
McIlroy shot 75-75 with his new sticks and beat a hasty retreat out of Abu Dhabi. Nike executives were left wondering what went wrong.
Tiger Wooods played with McIlroy and Martin Kaymer over the first two rounds in Abu Dhabi. Woods shot 71 in the first round but he took an illegal drop during the second round. He was assessed a two-shot penalty and also missed the cut.
With neither Woods nor McIlroy making it to the weekend, officials in Abu Dhabi could not have been pleased. They had paid huge appearance fees to have both the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world in their event only to watch them fly out of town after just two rounds.
While Rory and Tiger were in the Middle East, Phil Mickelson started his year at the Humana Challenge. He didn’t play particularly well but made headlines with his comments on Sunday afternoon concerning California and Federal tax laws pertaining to higher income individuals. It seems Americans couldn’t feel Mickelson’s pain and he was forced to issue an apology the next day.
After his long weekend at home, Woods made his 2013 PGA Tour debut at the Farmer Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He had won six trophies from this event previously plus he won the 2008 U.S. Open played at Torrey Pines.
Marine layer fog delayed play on Saturday and forced a Monday finish. Woods, feeling very comfortable over the friendly confines of Torrey Pines, took a four-shot lead into the final 11 holes on Monday. He struggled over the last six holes, but was able to get the win.
It was yet another record for Woods as he becomes the first player to ever win eight PGA Tour events on the same golf course.
The tour next moved to Phoenix for the Waste Management. Even before a shot could be hit, Sports Illustrated broke a story naming World Golf Hall of Fame member Vijay Singh as admitting to using an illegal steroid.
The news set off a firestorm of media attention and Singh withdrew from the event. Will the PGA Tour be forced to suspend Singh from competition?
Singh certainly did not realize he was using a banned substance but according to PGA Tour drug policy rules the player is ultimately responsible for what medications he ingests.
To put an exclamation on the month, Mickelson shot a 60 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He needed a birdie at the last hole to post the elusive 59. His 25-foot putt was dead center but did a severe 360 degree lip-out that prevented the historic round.
What a start to 2013!
February and the rest of the season should offer more of the same. With Tiger Woods back as a factor to win every time he tees it up and Rory McIlroy ranked No. 1 in the world, their battles leading up to the Masters in April should be epic.
Phil Mickelson is showing signs of life and could be a nice addition to PGA Tour leader boards.
Young guns Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson are still waiting in the wings for their flashes of brilliance.
Hold on to your seats golf fans — it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!