Big Easy Others Feel Carnousties Pain

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- With apologies to all weekend hackers, there are no mulligans in golf.
Too bad, Ernie Els.
He should have been right in the thick of things at the British Open after making six birdies Saturday. Instead, he could only grumble about what might have been, knowing he'll go to the final round needing to overcome a disheartening six-shot deficit to Sergio Garcia.
'I had a lot fun,' Els said, 'if not for one bad tee shot.'
One bad swing. That's all it took for Carnoustie to show its bite on a day when plenty of players had their way with the hallowed links. Els was among them, joining 26 others in breaking par with a 3-under 68.
Of course, the South African could easily envision signing for a 64 -- 65 at worst -- if only he had been allowed a do-over at the sixth hole, a privilege held dear by those who play the game for fun. That would have put him within striking distance of Garcia, close enough to put some real heat on an emotional young player still seeking his first major.
'You can play really well,' Els mused, 'and you can have a bad swing here and there and make a big number.'
This isn't baseball, where a batter can miss with his first two swings and still hit a grand slam. Every golf swing goes on the card, and the number goes even higher when you pull your tee shot out of bounds, as Els did at No. 6.
He wound up with a devastating triple bogey on the 578-yard, par-5 hole, known as 'Hogan's Alley' and rated the next-to-easiest hole on the course this week.
Most players, Els included, view Hogan's Alley as a convenient place to shave a stroke off the score, especially when it's playing downwind as it was in the third round. A par is acceptable. Make bogey and count on walking away disappointed.
Well, imagine how Els must have felt putting down 8 -- a snowman in golf parlance -- on his card. Of the 70 players who passed through Saturday, 27 made birdie, 29 took par and eight more settled for bogeys. Only Els and little-known Frenchman Gregory Bourdy scored worse than double bogey.
'I'll take 6 right now,' Els said, as if pleading for a second chance. 'But 8? It's hard to come back from there.'
Actually, Els made quite a comeback. He birdied five of the last 11 holes, leaving him with a 3-under 210 that at least provides a glimmer of hope. But he can't bear the prospect of sitting there Sunday night, watching Garcia take custody of the claret jug after holding off Els by two or three shots.
'It's kind of in his hands now,' Els conceded.
The course dubbed 'Car-Nasty' for the way it roughed up the world's best golfers back at the '99 Open is much tamer this time around, with wider fairways, thinner rough and softer greens.
The feared gusts off the North Sea have yet to rustle. It's been damp and chilly and gloomy most of the week, but that's to be expected in a Scottish summer.
But Carnoustie isn't considered the toughest links course in championship golf for nothing. It can still show its teeth when a player lets his mind wander. If the hands are a fraction off or the hands come through the swing a split-second quick, a hefty penalty will often be assessed.
Els wasn't the only contender who blew up on one hole. Miguel Angel Jimenez was 1 under for the round until he took a double-bogey 7 at the 14th. Boo Weekley took a double bogey at the par-3 eighth and faded from contention with a 75. Lee Westwood isn't likely to be a factor Sunday after doubling the 12th.
Ian Poulter got as low as 5 under on the day before Carnoustie's brutal finishing stretch showed its teeth.
Poulter drove into a gorse bush at No. 15 and wound up with a double bogey. He also hit into the Barry Burn, took two more bogeys coming in and signed for a 70 that could have been so much better.
'Two bad golf shots on a day that was pretty flawless,' Poulter said, sounding a lot like Els. 'I could have been 8-under par, 9-under par. It was flawless until I struggled with the tee shot off 15.'
Els had someone to commiserate with right in his group -- playing partner Paul Broadhurst also knocked one out of bounds at the sixth and made a double bogey. In other words, one twosome accumulated a total of 15 shots before moving on to the next hole.
'It made me feel a bit better when I saw Ernie Els go out of bounds as well,' Broadhurst quipped.
Like Els, the Englishman bounced back with a 31 on the back nine. He, too, is sitting on the fringe of contention at six shots back. He could have been much closer.
'Some seriously mixed emotions all the way round' is how Broadhurst described it when the day was done.
'I had a great start, a nightmare middle and dream finish,' he added. 'I've experienced everything today.'
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 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.

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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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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.