Americans Build Commanding Lead

By Associated PressSeptember 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
MONTREAL -- Phil Mickelson showed Woody Austin how to stay dry, and the Americans blew the International team out of the water Saturday in the Presidents Cup to build the largest lead in seven years.
 
The United States pitched a shutout in five alternate-shot matches in the crisp morning, then turned back an International rally with one of its own to split the afternoon fourballs and build a 14 1/2 -7 1/2 lead going into the 12 singles matches Sunday.
 
Mickelson and Austin combined to birdie their last two holes to steal a half-point, Tiger Woods recorded two blowouts with different partners, and Stewart Cink made all the clutch putts to turn a loss into another point that filled the scoreboard with American red numbers.
 
It now appears that for the second time in three weeks, the Sunday chase for a cup will be anticlimactic. Woods essentially wrapped up the FedEx Cup at East Lake before the weekend arrived, and only the greatest comeback in Presidents Cup history will keep this event from turning into a snoozer at Royal Montreal.
 
'It's not over,' International captain Gary Player said. 'But things don't look too good. The egg is not sunny-side up.'
 
Indeed, the International squad looked fried.
 
Mike Weir and Ernie Els had the only easy time in the afternoon for their team, and the deflating day ended with Vijay Singh curling in a 4-foot par putt that kept another International team from a collapse.
 
The only drama Sunday could come from Woods playing Weir in the fourth match, Canada's biggest golf star against a global icon.
 
'Mike Weir has nothing to lose,' Player said. 'It would be a phenomenal day in his career if he can beat Tiger.'
 
U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus nodded his head and clapped his hands with each point moving the Americans closer to their first outright victory on the road in the Presidents Cup, and their first in any cup since winning the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1993.
 
Mickelson provided the most entertaining moment when his ball caromed off the hill and into a shallow spot in the water left of the 15th green. Austin, his partner in the fourball match, walked over to look at the situation and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'Your turn to give it a try.' A day earlier, Austin lost his balance trying such a shot and wound up face-first in the water.
 
Mickelson borrowed the size-14 sneaker from his caddie to put on his left foot and go into the water. The ball tumbled back into the hazard, but at least Lefty didn't take the fall, even though they fell 1 down.
 
'I don't know if he thought he was going to lose the tag of Aquaman,' Mickelson said. 'I don't think that's going to do it.'
 
They went dormie on the next hole when Retief Goosen holed out from a deep bunker as he and Adam Scott went 2 up, but Austin made a 10-foot birdie on the 17th, and Mickelson halved the match with a 20-foot birdie on the final hole.
 
'We want to finish it off,' Mickelson said.
 
Player took Weir as a captain's pick, mostly because these matches came to Canada for the first time, and it was a good move. Weir ran off three straight birdies at the turn to give his team a commanding lead, and they closed out Charles Howell III and Lucas Glover, 4 and 2.
 
But now, those cheers are only a consolation prize.
 
'It's mixed emotions,' Weir said. 'I'm glad that I'm playing well, but disappointed that the score isn't closer.'
 
Weir had said winning a Presidents Cup in Canada might rival his 2003 victory in the Masters. But he isn't getting much help from the rest of the International team, which looks a lot like the United States in the Ryder Cup.
 
The other team is always making the key putt, as Jim Furyk did on the 13th hole in his fourball match. The momentum always seems to be on the Americans' side, even when they are trailing early in the matches.
 
Nicklaus is showing no mercy.
 
After the 5-0 blitz in the morning, Nicklaus was asked if he'd like to see the score closer.
 
'Uh-uh,' he said through pursed lips.
 
'Why would you ever say to one of your guys, 'I hope you lose so it's close,'' Nicklaus said. 'Would I like to see the matches played well? Absolutely. Would I like to see it close? Absolutely. But as captain, I put them out to win every match.'
 
That they did -- or close to it.
 
Coming off his worst loss in a team match, Woods and Furyk built a quick lead and poured it on in the closing holes for a 5-and-4 victory over Scott and Els. Woods played with David Toms -- his 14th partner in cup competitions -- in a fourball match and again never trailed, easily beating Geoff Ogilvy and Nick O'Hern.
 
Woods went 3-1 in the team matches, his best record in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
 
Mickelson had not won a full point in the cups in eight matches until he and Austin were essentially handed victory by Goosen and Stuart Appleby, who failed to make a birdie and were 6 over when the match ended on the 14th hole.
 
The tougher test came in the afternoon against Goosen and Scott, who had not led in any match all week. But the 27-year-old Australian squared the match with a birdie on the 12th, and took his first lead with a par on the 15th, with all eyes on Mickelson and the lake.
 
Even with the gallery chanting his name, Mickelson wanted no part of this.
 
'Woody, I know you want to see me play this shot,' Mickelson said after asking him to putt his 5-footer for par. Austin missed, and Lefty had no choice but to put on his rain pants, then ask caddie Jim Mackay for his left shoe.
 
'Size 14, extra wide,' Mackay said later. 'I think it will be about a 12 in the morning with shrinkage.'
 
Singh holed a nervy 4-footer at the end to salvage a point, joining Weir with the most points (2 1/2 ) going into the singles. Six Americans have at least that many points, led by Toms at 3 1/2 . Scott Verplank, who rested in the afternoon, is the only player undefeated this week.
 

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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


    Getty Images

    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.