Woods closes chapter on California childhood

The only time Los Angeles area golf fans could watch Tiger Woods

up close was during the World Challenge, a holiday event that

attracts an 18-man field from the top 50 in the world.

This week’s tournament will be the last at Sherwood Country

Club. Woods is moving the event to Isleworth, his old home in

central Florida. Then, it could be headed to the Bahamas.

In effect, he’s closing a chapter on golf in the Southern

California area he always called home.

The Tiger Woods Learning Center, a superb complex that recently

received a Golden Bell Award for excellence in education, remains

his tie to Southern California. And the Tiger Woods Foundation

headquarters will stay in Irvine.

But he stopped playing Riviera in 2006 after he narrowly made

the cut. The only regular event in California that Woods still

plays is in Torrey Pines, a two-hour drive from his hometown of

Cypress in Orange County.

Woods leaves a trail of stories behind him. Here are five from

his time in Southern California.

TIGER VS. SLAMMIN’ SAMMY: Woods was just starting kindergarten

when he was invited to join Sam Snead at Calabasas Country Club

just north of LA. They played two holes, starting with a par 3.

Woods hit into a creek fronting the green, and Snead suggested he

just pick it up and drop it.

”That kind of ticked me off, so I decided to play it out of the

water,” Woods once recalled. ”I knocked it on the green and

two-putted for my 4.” Now, he is only four victories from breaking

Snead’s record for career U.S. PGA Tour victories.

THE DEBUT: Woods missed his first seven cuts on the tour,

starting with the 1992 Nissan Open in his debut at age 16. He

opened with a 72 and was in reasonable shape to make the cut until

what his father said was a growth spurt. Woods shot 75 the next day

and headed back to high school.

”I was hitting the ball good the first few days of the week,

but then I suddenly outgrew my club shaft,” Woods said a year

later.

His father said they didn’t figure out what happened until the

tournament was over.

”He was in a growth cycle, and those teenage muscles just grew

overnight,” Earl Woods said.

THE END OF RIVIERA: A beautiful afternoon off Sunset Boulevard

turned nasty without warning, and Woods was on his back nine at

Riviera without rain gear in 2006. He bogeyed two of his last three

holes for a 74 to presumably miss the cut – until three more

players dropped shots coming in and Woods made the cut on the

number.

He was to be paired on the Saturday with JB Holmes, a

big-hitting rookie who had just smashed his way to victory in

Phoenix. The next morning, Woods was a no-show. He withdrew because

of the flu, and he has not been back to Riviera since.

THE POWER MOVE: It was baking hot in August for the ”Showdown

at Sherwood” in 1999, a nationally televised exhibition against

David Duval, who had returned to No. 1 in the world. Because it was

not an official tour event, the caddies wore shorts.

A tour rules official ordered them to change into pants. Duval’s

caddie complied. Woods’ caddie, Steve Williams, did not. The rules

officials made it clear to Williams that if he did not change into

trousers, it would be the last time he caddied on the tour.

Woods, listening to this conversation, interrupted by saying,

”Guess I’ll be playing in Europe next year.”

Williams wore shorts. Woods won the match. And it wasn’t long

before shorts were approved for caddies on the tour.

THE WIN: Of the five wins at his World Challenge, none was more

meaningful than in 2011. One shot behind with two to play, Woods

birdied his last two holes to beat Zach Johnson. It was his first

win since his personal life came crashing down, a span of 26

official tournaments over 749 days.

”If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving

forward,” Jim Furyk said that day, ”he’s going to return and be

one of the best players in the game again.”

Woods won three times the following year, five times this year.

For his swansong at Sherwood, he is No. 1 in the world.