Aussie Exchange Pampling Overtakes Scott

By Associated PressJune 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Rod Pampling had reason to look concerned as his tee shot sailed toward trouble on the right side of the 18th fairway. Given how the rest of his third round had gone Saturday at the Memorial, Pampling had no worries.
Instead of hanging up in thick grass on the side of the hill, it tumbled into a flat lie on the bunker.
Tiger Woods
Three-time winner Tiger Woods is 11 strokes back. (WireImage)
It wasn't all sheer luck for the 37-year-old Australian. For every good break came a great shot, including his 9-iron from the bunker that stopped 3 feet away for a birdie that changed everything Saturday.
A sterling back nine gave Pampling a 4-under 68. His final birdie, coupled with a bogey for Adam Scott, gave him a three-shot lead over Scott (72) and Sean O'Hair (69).
Next up could be a rare double: Only six other players have won tournaments hosted by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Pampling's last PGA TOUR victory came a year ago at Bay Hill.
'That would be nice,' Pampling said. 'Hopefully, the good fortune will keep going tomorrow.'
Scott was in the lead most of the day until watching Pampling make an unlikely birdie on the 14th from 40 feet. Scott kept in range with three straight one-putt greens down the stretch, his luck running out on the final hole.
The 26-year-old Aussie hit his tee shot on about the same line as Pampling, only his ball was nestled in thick grass next to a steep slope, and he couldn't reach the green. Scott chipped to 8 feet and missed the par putt.
With storms in the forecast, tee times will be moved up Sunday and the final round will be threesomes. Pampling was at 15-under 201, and in the last group with Scott and O'Hair.
'I'm still playing with Rod,' Scott said. 'And I'll know what's going on, so I can put pressure on, hopefully.'
O'Hair stumbled out of contention until he holed a bunker shot from behind the seventh green for eagle, then rallied with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine. It's a good opportunity for O'Hair in his first tournament since THE PLAYERS Championship, where he lost a duel to Phil Mickelson while putting two balls in the water on the island-green 17th.
'A great day of patience, so that was huge for me,' O'Hair said.
Will MacKenzie and Stewart Cink each shot 65, the low rounds of the day, and were at 205 with Aaron Baddeley (71). The group at 206 included U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy (67) and K.J. Choi (67).
Tiger Woods sputtered again, making birdie on only one of the par 5s in his round of 70 that left him 11 shots behind.
'I just haven't made anything,' Woods said.
Bubba Watson couldn't blame his meltdown on bad luck, just bad choices. He was tied for the lead in the middle of the round and still very much in the hunt until he wound up six shots behind in a span of four holes.
His troubles came on the 15th when his drive went left into the trees and deep rough. Instead of taking a drop, he tried to play out into the fairway, hit a tree and then had to take a penalty shot for an unplayable lie. He hit his fourth shot into the right rough, his fifth shot over the green and he failed to get up-and-down for an 8.
'I screwed up,' Watson said. 'My caddie told me to take a drop on 15. But I was going to be a hero and chip the ball back to the fairway. Afterward, he laughed and said, 'Next time, let's just take the drop.''
Pampling's good fortune began on No. 2 when he pushed his tee shot to the right, toward the creek. It caught a finger of land, and he hit a beautiful approach to the front of the green for a two-putt par.
He also avoided a big number. Pampling hit 3-wood that came up short of the par-5 fifth green and into the water, and after taking a drop, his slid off the front of the green and was headed back into the water until the rough held it up. He escaped with bogey, the last mistake he made the rest of a gloomy afternoon.
'Once I made that bogey, things totally changed,' Pampling said. 'I said to my caddie, 'Why am I being so conservative out here? Let's me more aggressive.''
Scott had his chances. He had a number of birdie putts inside 15 feet that grazed the lip, and he wasted a chance to build a two-shot cushion after a beautiful approach over the bunkers to 35 feet on the seventh. But he three-putted for par, missing from 3 feet, and a daring approach from the right rough on No. 9 clipped a branch, taking enough off the ball to send it into the water.
'I didn't really ever get it going today,' Scott said. 'I struggled with the pace on the greens. I just didn't get any momentum going.'
After a birdie on No. 10 to join Watson at 12 under, Scott had four straight birdie putts inside 15 feet and didn't make any, the most discouraging an 8-footer after an aggressive shot left of the pin on the 13th.
For all his birdies, what might have saved Pampling was a slick, 6-foot putt to save par from a bunker on the 10th. Then came another save from the bunker for birdie on No. 11, just as Nicklaus and his grandson pulled up in a cart to watch.
He took the lead for the first time with the 40-foot birdie on the 14th, and even that required a small piece of luck. He pulled his hybrid off the tee, and was begging for it to stop rolling, which it did with about two paces to spare before going into the creek.
The final break, of course, came at the 18th, especially considering where Scott wound up.
'I had a nice, flat lie in the bunker, and Adam had a pretty gnarly lie there,' Pampling said. 'That's just the breaks. Thankfully, it went my way and I hit a great shot.'
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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.”