Bugs Drown Out Tiger Vijay Buzz at Memorial
It isn't about tournament host Jack Nicklaus, winding down his incomparable career. Not even the U.S. Open looming two weeks away can generated this much attention.
This is a real buzz - a swarm of cicadas that has returned to Muirfield Village for the first time in 17 years, as big as Texas grasshoppers and almost loud enough to drown out the Ohio State marching band during opening ceremonies Wednesday.
'I thought we had some big bugs in Africa, but these things ...' Ernie Els said.
Kenny Perry was playing a pro-am round Tuesday when a cicada flew under his arm during his backswing and zoomed past his face.
'I kind of flinched and I hit it way left,' he said. 'They could actually play a role in this tournament.'
Jay Haas is one of the few players in the field who were here in 1987 when the cicadas showed up. He was reminded of them during a practice round, when he looked across from the fifth tee and saw Singh on the third tee.
'He let go of the club because one hit him in the face on his down swing,' Haas said.
These are called 17-year cicadas because that's how long they have been in the ground. They crawl out to mate and lay eggs in tree branches. That constant screeching sound is the mating call made by the males 24 hours a day. Along the tree-lined fairways of Muirfield Village, the noise sounds like a police sirens in the distance.
'We don't have bugs in Ireland,' Padraig Harrington said. 'It was interesting the very first day to hear the noise. We weren't quite sure what they were. I read about it in the paper, so I was kind of expecting it. I actually wanted to see my first one. Once I've seen a few, I've seen them all. That's enough.'
The cicadas won't be all the rage once the tournament starts.
The Memorial, which Nicklaus founded in 1976, remains one of the best stops on the PGA Tour because of the course that Nicklaus is constantly tweaking, and a tournament he tries to run like his beloved Masters.
The only significant change this year is three additional bunkers down the right side of the 18th fairway to punish big hitters who try to cut the corner, and cutting down about 500 trees to allow more sunlight for the grass and more wind tunnels to create havoc on certain approach shots.
The field includes nine of the top 12 players - Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir and the injured Jim Furyk are missing. Perry is the defending champion, winning by two shots last year despite closing with three straight bogeys.
But all eyes - even those spooky orange eyes of the cicadas - figure to be on the Woods and Singh the first two rounds at Muirfield Village.
They will be joined by the ever-popular Joey Sindelar, who might want to change his name to Joey Switzerland. While the respect between Woods and Singh is mutual, their relationship is cool at best.
Singh all but predicted more than a year ago that Woods' dominance would not last forever, and he might be right. The 41-year-old Fijian has already won three times this year, and has closed the gap on No. 1 to a mere 1.89 points.
Woods remains the center of attention, not because of his brilliant play, but because everyone is curious - Woods included - where his tee shots might go. Despite spraying the ball off the tee his last two tournaments, Woods still managed to finish one shot out of a playoff at Quail Hollow and the Byron Nelson.
'I'm close with everything,' Woods said. 'It's not just my driver, it's my entire game. You've got to keep working on it and keep staying patient, and hopefully things will fall into place.'
Later, however, he conceded that 'you go through periods where you just don't play well.'
Woods and Singh last played together in the first round of the Tour Championship in Houston. The more famous encounter was the last round of the American Express Championship, where Woods held off Singh to win by two shots, a victory that carried him to his fifth straight PGA Tour player of the year award.
The conversation was nothing like the 'round-the-clock noise from the cicadas. It went something like, 'Titleist 2. You're away. Here's your card,' over 18 holes.
'When Vijay and I play, we just play our games,' Woods said. 'We're trying to win a golf tournament. It's going to be an enjoyable but competitive environment, and we're going to out there and play.'
It could be quite a show, especially if they wind up together on the back nine Sunday with the tournament on the line. Even the cicadas might shut up and watch.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern
Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.
But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.
Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.
That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.
A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.
“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.
“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.
“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.
“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”
McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds
After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.
McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westage Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1 leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.
Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:
8/1: Tiger Woods
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas
14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose
16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm
18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman
50/1: Alex Noren
60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters
80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay
100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner
NBC Sports' Final Round Coverage of Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard Scores Highest-Rated Overnight at Event in Six Years
Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship Post Two Highest-Rated Final Round PGA TOUR Telecasts (Non-Majors) on Any Broadcast Network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship
ORLANDO, Fla., March 19, 2018 – Record viewership of the PGA TOUR continued this weekend for NBC Sports Group at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC (2-6:45 p.m. ET) delivered a 3.6 overnight rating, +136% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated final round at this event in six years. Combined with last week’s final round viewership at the Valspar Championship (5.1 overnight rating) these rank as the two highest-rated final round PGA TOUR telecasts (non-majors) on any broadcast network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Golf Channel’s Sunday final-round lead-in coverage earned a .97 overnight rating, the highest at this event in five years. Across NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage, more than 12 million minutes were streamed, +683% vs. 2017.
ADDITIONAL SUNDAY NOTES
- Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC peaked to a 4.89 from 5:15-5:30 p.m. ET.
- Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage peaked to a 1.24 from 1:30-2 p.m. ET.
Saturday’s third round coverage earned a 2.29 overnight rating on NBC (2:30-6 p.m. ET), +92% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated at this event in five years. Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage (Noon-2:30 p.m. ET) earned a .95 overnight rating, +126% vs. 2017. Nearly 5.3 million minutes were streamed, +511% vs. 2017.
Friday’s second-round coverage on Golf Channel generated a .81 overnight rating, +153% vs. 2017 and the second highest-rated early round at this event on Golf Channel (2007-2018), just slightly behind the 2012 second round (.84). More the 4.2 million minutes were streamed on Golf Channel Digital, +682% vs. 2017.
Final numbers from Golf Channel’s opening round coverage on Thursday: .42 U.S. HH rating and 593,000 viewers, +56% vs. 2017 and the most-watched opening round at this event since 2011. More than 1.4 million minutes were streamed, +163% vs. 2017.
NEXT UP FOR NBC SPORTS GROUP: WGC-DELL TECHNOLOGIES MATCH PLAY
Four of the top-20 players in the world, Jon Rahm (No. 3), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 11), Tyrrell Hatton (No. 16) and Pat Perez (No. 19) are scheduled to join the live World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket Special tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The 90-minute live primetime special will originate from Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas, and feature golf’s own version of a March bracket-style tournament selection format under the guidance of PGA TOUR competition officials.
LIVE TOURNAMENT COVERAGE: WEDNESDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 21-25
NBC Sports Group will feature nearly 35 live hours of tournament coverage from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Golf Channel will carry live coverage of round robin matches Wednesday-Friday, March 21-23. On Saturday, March 24, Golf Channel will provide coverage of the Round of 16, followed by the Quarterfinals matches airing on NBC. On Sunday, March 25, Golf Channel will showcase the Semifinals matches, followed by the Championship and Consolation matches airing on NBC.
-NBC Sports Group-
Love to play first Champions major at U.S. Senior Open
Davis Love III turned 50 in 2014, but he’s been a part-time participant on the PGA Tour Champions.
Since turning 50, Love – who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last fall – has played 73 tournaments on the PGA Tour, but just nine on the over-50 circuit.
Although his competitive dance card might not be changing any time soon, Love is expanding his schedule, adding the U.S. Senior Open to his line up this year.
The U.S. Senior Open will be played June 28-July 1 at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The championship will be Love’s first senior major, and his third event this year on the Champions circuit; but he’s not prepared to leave the regular tour behind just yet.
“The Senior PGA is against Colonial [Fort Worth Invitational], again. I want to play Colonial. I love Colonial, I’d like to play there another time or two,” Love said. “But the timing for the Senior Open worked out and it’s at the Broadmoor, which is really nice.”