2007 U.S. Am champ Knost leading RBC Heritage by two strokes

By Associated PressApril 13, 2012, 11:15 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Colt Knost believes he's finally ready to succeed on the PGA Tour, no matter how much work he's got ahead at the RBC Heritage.

Knost shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead over Carl Pettersson after the second round. Knost, tied for the first-round lead with Chad Campbell and Vaughn Taylor after a 67, had three birdies in a four-hole stretch midway through the round and finished at 9-under 133.

Pettersson had a 65, his best showing in 32 career rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links. Two-time RBC Heritage winner Boo Weekley (66) and Harris English (68) were another shot off the lead at 6 under in a week when Masters champion Bubba Watson and most of the world's best took a break following the year's first major.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, though, was among the few stars at Harbour Town. He needs a top-eight finish to retain the top spot over idle No. 2, Rory McIlroy, and bounced back from an opening 75 with a 69 to slide inside the cut line.

Campbell (70) and Robert Garrigus (66) were four shots behind. Defending champion Brandt Snedeker had five consecutive birdies on the way to a 67 and was tied with Michael Bradley (64), Kevin Na (68), Bob Estes (67) and Fredrik Jacobson (67) at 4 under.

The 26-year-old Knost was one of the fastest risers in golf a few years ago, winning the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Public Links championship and helping the American team win the Walker Cup in 2007. He won twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2008, his first season as a pro, and easily qualified for the big tour. Even more winning was ahead, right?

''I felt like I was ready for this level out here,'' Knost said. ''And apparently, I wasn't.''

Knost missed the cut in 13 of 24 Tour events that year and earned just $180,734 to lose his card after 2009. He regained playing privileges after another season on the Nationwide Tour and yet again struggled at the higher level, missing cuts in 15 of 26 events.

Knost held on to his Tour card in gut-wrenching experience at Q-School – he was in tears when he thought a double bogey on the 108th and final hole cost him the PGA Tour – and has since tried to rediscover the work habits and confidence that made him one of the decade's best amateurs.

''I don't know if I just didn't continue with the same work ethic or not or I didn't have the belief, but it was a struggle for a few years out here,'' Knost said. ''But now I feel like I'm starting to get my game back where I like it.''

Knost certainly liked his second-round performance.

Knost's round got going with a stretch of three birdies in four holes to give him the lead at 8 under. He made his final birdie on the par-5 fifth and finished off the bogey-free round that stoked his confidence.

''I felt so comfortable out there being around the lead, even though it's only Friday,'' he said. ''I think I'm also going to feel great this weekend.''

Pettersson won't feel too bad, either. He posted his career-low score in 32 rounds over Harbour Town highlighted by a run of three straight birdies on the second, third and fourth holes.

''My game is good,'' said Pettersson, whose last of four Tour wins came at the 2010 Canadian Open. ''In golf, you still have two days, which is a long way to go.''

Weekley's only two PGA Tour wins came at the RBC Heritage in 2007 and 2008 and turned him into golf's true life ''Happy Gilmore,'' complete with a ''pony ride'' with his driver off the tee during Ryder Cup matches in 2008 to the delight of U.S. fans. Things weren't much fun for Weekley after that as his performance dropped off dramatically. He missed 10 cuts in 2010 and 11 the next season as he struggled to overcome a torn labrum and a cyst in his left shoulder from 2009 that was ''like a big pocket of junk,'' Weekley said.

He's got a new instructor in Scott Hamilton and a new caddie in John Connelly who ''reads the greens good where I struggle a lot,'' Weekley said.

Now, healthy, Weekley wants to show he's the golfer who earned a spot on the Ryder Cup team with his play and not just for clowning around. He posted six birides and one bogey to shoot himself into contention. ''This golf course just suits me,'' he said.

Weekley's never all just about golf. He explained how his stomach gave him some ''reflux'' before the round he thought ''I was going to do a little yodeling out there.''

Weekley kept his gastrointestinal issues mostly to himself on the course as he posted his 14th career round in the 60s out of 22 played here.

Donald came out firing in the second round with birdies on the second, sixth and seventh holes. He needed par saves, though, on Harbour Town's three finishing holes, including a testy 4-footer on No. 18, to reach the weekend.

He said staying No. 1 is a motivator. ''But the goal obviously is to get in contention and win,'' Donald said. ''You can't control the other stuff.''

Not everyone was as fortunate as Donald.

Those missing the cut here included No. 18 in the world and last year's FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas and a pair of three-time major champions in Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington. Els, who missed the Masters last week after 18 straight appearances, shot an 8-over 43 on his final nine holes, including a triple-bogey 7 on the 18th that kept him from playing the weekend.

Divots: Jim Furyk, the 2010 champion, was a stroke off the lead Thursday, but ballooned to a 75 on Friday to fall 10 shots off the pace ... Camilo Villegas and Alex Cejka withdrew because of injury. ... Bradley shot the tournament's low round of 64 in the second round. ... Bob Estes had the second hole-in-one of the tournament, hitting a 6-iron into the cup on the 183-yard fourth hole. Billy Mayfair had an ace on the seventh hole Thursday. It's the fourth time in the past five tournaments there have been two holes-in-one during competition. ... John Daly following his first-round 70 with a 74, good enough to make his sixth straight cut at Harbour Town. ... The Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft did a low flyover of Harbour Town's 18th hole. Boeing is the tournament's presenting sponsor.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


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Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


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Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.

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Woods (70) better in every way on Day 1 at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 8:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Consider it a sign of the times that Tiger Woods was ecstatic about an even-par score Thursday at the Honda Classic.

It was by far his most impressive round in this nascent comeback.

Playing in a steady 20-mph wind, Woods was better in all facets of the game Thursday at PGA National. Better off the tee. Better with his irons. And better on and around the “scratchy” greens.

He hung tough to shoot 70 – four shots better than his playing partner, Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the current FedExCup leader – and afterward Woods said that it was a “very positive” day and that he was “very solid.”

It’s a small sample size, of course – seven rounds – but Woods didn’t hesitate in declaring this “easily” his best ball-striking round of the year.

And indeed it was, even if the stats don’t jump off the page.

Officially, he hit only seven of 14 fairways and just 10 greens, but some of those misses off the tee were a few paces into the rough, and some of those iron shots finished just off the edge of the green.

The more telling stat was this: His proximity to the hole (28 feet) was more than an 11-foot improvement over his first two starts this year. And also this: He was 11th among the early starters in strokes gained-tee to green, which measures a player’s all-around ball-striking. Last week, at Riviera, he ranked 121st.

“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I felt like I hit the ball really well, and it was tough out there. I had to hit a lot of knockdown shots. I had to work the golf ball both ways, and occasionally downwind, straight up in the air.

“I was able to do all that today, so that was very pleasing.”

The Champion Course here at PGA National is the kind of course that magnifies misses and exposes a player if he’s slightly off with his game. There is water on 15 of the 18 holes, and there are countless bunkers, and it’s almost always – as it was Thursday – played in a one- or two-club wind. Even though it’s played a half hour from Woods’ compound in Hobe Sound, the Honda wasn’t thought to be an ideal tune-up for Woods’ rebuilt game.

But maybe this was just what he needed. He had to hit every conceivable shot Thursday, to shape it both ways, high and low, and he executed nearly every one of them.

The only hole he butchered was the par-5 third. With 165 yards for his third shot, he tried to draw a 6-iron into a stiff wind. He turned it over a touch too much, and it dropped into the bunker. He hit what he thought was a perfect bunker shot, but it got caught in the overseeded rye grass around the green and stayed short. He chipped to 3 feet and then was blown off-balance by a wind gust. Double.


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But what pleased Woods most was what he did next. Steaming from those unforced errors, he was between a 2- and 3-iron off the tee. He wanted to leave himself a 60-degree wedge for his approach into the short fourth hole, but a full 2-iron would have put him too close to the green.

So he took a little off and “threw it up in the air” – 292 yards.

“That felt really good,” Woods said, smiling. And so did the 6-footer that dropped for a bounce-back birdie.

"I feel like I'm really not that far away," he said. 

To illustrate just how much Woods’ game has evolved in seven rounds, consider this perspective from Brandt Snedeker.

They played together at Torrey Pines, where Woods somehow made the cut despite driving it all over the map. In the third round, Woods scraped together a 70 while Snedeker turned in a 74, and afterward Snedeker said that Woods’ short game was “probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.”

A month later, Snedeker saw significant changes. Woods’ short game is still tidy, but he said that his iron play is vastly improved, and it needed to be, given the challenging conditions in the first round.

“He controlled his ball flight really well and hit a bunch of really good shots that he wasn’t able to hit at Torrey, because he was rusty,” said Snedeker, who shot 74. “So it was cool to see him flight the ball and hit some little cut shots and some little three-quarter shots and do stuff I’m accustomed to see him doing.”

Conditions are expected to only get more difficult, more wind-whipped and more burned out, which is why the winning score here has been single-digits under par four of the past five years.

But Woods checked an important box Thursday, hitting the shots that were required in the most difficult conditions he has faced so far.

Said Snedeker: “I expect to see this as his baseline, and it’ll only get better from here.”