Aquaman Ready to Defend in Memphis

By Associated PressJune 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
Stanford St. Jude ChampionshipMEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Woody Austin is back and ready to defend his Stanford St. Jude Championship title at the course that jump-started a stunning 2007 season.
 
Now, if he can just get his golf game into shape as he did here a year ago hell have a chance.
 
Im not playing really bad, Austin said Wednesday after a practice round. But when I play well, I score terrible. When I play bad, I score worse. Its really just a matter of scoring. I think the best way to describe it is every bad swing is magnified and every good swing is unrewarded.
 
This year hasnt been that bad for Austin, not compared to how he came into this tournament at the TPC at Southwind course in 2007. A year ago, he had missed five cuts with his best finish a tie for 18th in New Orleans. This year, he has two Top 10s, tied for fourth in New Orleans and has missed only three cuts.
 
But there hasnt been a moment that stands out like finishing second to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship by two strokes or falling face first into the water hitting a shot for the Americans at the Presidents Cup to help halve a match.
 
Asked to pin down his biggest problem, Austin said its been a combination of things.
 
As my caddie puts it, Im one foot on the wrong side of the ledger right now. Everything is one foot off the wrong way, Austin said.
 
Making that adjustment here in this U.S. Open warmup wont be easy.
 
Kenny Perry is here looking to string together consecutive wins for the first time since 2005 in his push make sure he doesnt miss playing for the United States in the Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky. He won at Memorial last week for his first win since 2005, when he won back-to-back, but this will be his seventh straight tournament.
 
My dad always said youve got to ride the train when its going, and he told me to run it to the ground until Im just mentally zapped and I feel the game going, Perry said. Even though Im mentally tired, I think I can go out there this week and play well.
 
The field features four others in the top 13 on this years money list, including Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Boo Weekly. Padraig Harrington, the 2007 British Open champ, is here along with David Toms, a two-time winner here, Retief Goosen, Masters champ Trevor Immelman and local favorite John Daly, whos enjoying a sponsor exemption.
 
This tournament moved to the week before the Open last year with a bigger payday thanks to new sponsor Stanford Financial Group and celebrates its 20th year at the TPC at Southwind by starting a new tradition. The winner will receive a new seersucker jacket with the $1.08 million check as this event joins six other other events in awarding jackets to their champions.
 
This course, redesigned after the 2004 event, is much tougher. The 2007 scoring average in 2007 was 2-over 72 with the par-4 No. 5 (44th) and par-3 No. 14 (30th) among the tours 50 toughest holes. No rain and winds gusting up to 35 mph have dried up the course, and its expected to stay windy, hot (90s) and dry through Sunday'a perfect mix for firm and fast greens.
 
But the rough, featuring Bermuda, isnt near as high as last week at Memorial.
 
You play well, you score well, Austin said. If you dont, its going to get you.
 
Austin found what he needed in 2007 on the final day, shooting a 62 that was the lowest finish of the year by a winner and the fifth-lowest finish by a winner since 1970.
 
If only it were that simple.
 
The hole you cant hit left will be the hole I hit it left, and the hole you cant hit it right will be the hole Ill hit it right. Im not getting away with nothing. Theres no in-between. Absolutely no in-between, Austin said. I have to either hit it just flawless or make everything I look at, and Im not doing either one.
 
Harrington is here trying to tune up his game and end what has become his traditional slump in May and early June. He missed the cut at this event last year in his first trip to this course and followed up by missing the cut a week later at the U.S. Open.
 
He knows hes a bit of a perfectionist but isnt quite sure why he has struggled at this point every year for about 20 years. But being on the course in a tournament is the best way he knows to try and snap out of any problems.
 
I find it gets my focus right so when I turn up at a major, Im ready to go. Im not trying to find anything that week, Harrington said.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”