Tiger Woods' best putter back in the bag, away from his son
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NASSAU, Bahamas — Like any father, Tiger Woods has a list of what his two children can and cannot touch in the house, even when it comes to his golf clubs.
Two of them, in particular.
One of them is the black Scotty Cameron Teryllium Newport putter that he used in his record-setting victory at the 1997 Masters. Two years later, he began using a silver Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter that he used in his other 13 majors before switching to a Nike putter.
Now the Newport 2 is back in the bag for the Hero World Challenge.
It had been residing in the putting studio at his Florida home, and the challenge has been keeping 7-year-old Charlie away from it.
"Charlie knows there are two putters he can't touch," Woods said. "They sit next to each other. Touch any putter, do anything you want with any other putter. These putters are off limits. These two ... only Daddy."
That doesn't keep the son from trying.
"Of course. He's a kid," Woods said. "He wants to always mess with me in some way."
MASTERS WATCH: Marc Leishman faces a big week at the Australian PGA Championship if he wants to assure a return to the Masters next year.
Golf is wrapping up another long year around the world, and the final world ranking looms. The top 50 in the final world ranking are invited to the Masters, and Leishman is sitting at No. 54.
The Australian PGA is his last event of the year.
Based on this week's ranking, 12 players from the top 50 are not exempt into Augusta National. Most of them are safe, starting with Alex Noren of Sweden (No. 9) and Tyrrell Hatton of England (No. 23), who will be playing the Masters for the first time.
The final world ranking mostly helps international players who are not playing a full PGA Tour schedule. Louis Oosthuizen (No. 26) and Bill Haas (No. 40) are the only players on that list who played a full PGA Tour schedule this year.
On the bubble at No. 50 is Thomas Pieters, who is done for the year.
Behind him at No. 52 is Thongchai Jaidee, who is scheduled to play the Hong Kong Open next week. Scott Hend is No. 60 and playing the next two weeks.
That won't be the end of their Masters' chances. Augusta National takes the top 50 from the ranking published a full week before the start of the Masters. And for those on the PGA Tour, all it takes is a victory at every event in early 2017 except the Puerto Rico Open.
NO REST FOR BIG EASY: Ernie Els finished his 30th event of the year at the RSM Classic, and the Big Easy is not done yet. He still has a Skins Game in Colombia with Camilo Villegas before heading home for the South African Open.
"I'm trying to find something," Els said.
For a 47-year-old with 57 victories worldwide, four majors and a spot in the Hall of Fame, there would seem to be no reason to grind. It's an example that even for a guy who has endured equal doses of aggravation and glory, sheer love of the game and competition keep pushing him.
"I have enough of everything. I can go do some other stuff, but I still feel I can play decent golf. And I love it," Els said.
Els said it was important to set small goals at this stage in his career, and his is simple. His 19th victory on the PGA Tour was the British Open in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He wants to get to 20.
"And," he said with a smile, "maybe have another go at a major here and there."
BUBBA'S LESSON: Bubba Watson took a lot out of the Ryder Cup without even hitting a shot. Overlooked as a pick, he was an assistant captain at Hazeltine, and he said he learned how to become a better player.
Watson has played on three Ryder Cup teams and two Presidents Cup teams. He has had only four partners — Jeff Overton, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes. For two straight years (2011 Presidents Cup and 2012 Ryder Cup) he played only with Simpson.
What he learned at Hazeltine was that he should have spent more time leading up to the matches getting to learn other players, their games and their golf balls. Instead, he felt he was too one-dimensional for a captain.
"When you give the captain one person, like Webb Simpson or J.B. Holmes, when you do things like that, it limits what you can do," he said. "Those are the things that I learned seeing it from the other side, and those are things that I didn't think about because all you're thinking about is yourself. We're so used to thinking about ourselves and not the other stuff.
"So I learned a lot about me as a person and I learned about how I could do better," he said. "If I do make another team event or if I'm vice-captain again or if I was ever captain, I've learned a lot from seeing it from the other side."
TIGER'S FIELD: Tiger Woods is the host of the Hero World Challenge, and that include a little meet-and-greet.
He doesn't know two players in the 18-man field, Russell Knox of Scotland and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, both among the top 25 in the world. Knox actually made a passing comment to Woods when they bumped into each other in the restroom at the Quicken Loans National one year.
Woods doesn't remember that.
"My short career will never be over until I play with Tiger Woods," Knox said at the HSBC Champions last month. "That would be the cherry on top of the cake."
Woods can't be faulted. Not only has he been out of golf for 15 months, new players are arriving faster than ever.
"The turnover rate is so much now and so young that a third of the field, sometimes I've never heard of these guys before," Woods said.
DIVOTS: The final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying starts Wednesday in Daytona Beach, Florida. Among those in the field is Aditi Ashok of India, who has won her last two events on the Ladies European Tour. Her caddie this week is Terry McNamara, the longtime caddie for Annika Sorenstam. ... The Philippine Masters will join the European Tour and Asian Tour schedules in 2018 in a three-year deal. ... Bubba Watson has been testing equipment during the last month, which includes new Ping irons in the bag this week. He also has been testing a hybrid. ... Jeunghun Wang has won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award on the European Tour. He is the second straight South Korean player to win the award. The previous two years, the award went to Americans (Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein).
STAT OF THE WEEK: In the 15 months since Tiger Woods last played, only two players older than him have won on the PGA Tour — Greg Chalmers (43) and Rod Pampling (47). Woods turns 41 on Dec. 30.
FINAL WORD: "He's human. I wish people would seem a little bit that way." Jim Furyk on Tiger Woods.