Challenge Awaits Tiger Upon Return

By Associated PressFebruary 11, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Buick InvitationalLA JOLLA, Calif. -- Tiger Woods couldn't help but stop and soak up the view on the 13th tee at Torrey Pines, a blue panorama of clear skies and the Pacific Ocean as far as he could see.
'It wasn't like this last year,' Woods said, recalling rain and a soupy fog that greeted his return to the PGA Tour at the Buick Invitational.
That isn't the only difference.
A year ago, Woods wasn't sure how his left knee was going to respond to surgery that kept him away from competitive golf for two months. Ernie Els had won three tournaments, Davis Love III was coming off a victory at Pebble Beach and Mike Weir was already showing signs of being a Masters champion.
Now, his chief challenge is as clear as the skies over Torrey Pines - Vijay Singh, owner of the longest top-10 streak in 27 years, a man in full command of his golf game.
Woods sees him as only the latest rival.
David Duval in 1999. Phil Mickelson the next two years. Ernie Els in 2002.
'He's definitely up there,' Woods said of Singh, whose victory last week at Pebble Beach was his third in nine tour events, and 12th consecutive finish in the top 10. 'Everyone has their own little run where we all play well. I think it's a fun time in golf right now because there are a lot of different challengers out there.'
The fun really gets started Thursday at the Buick Invitational on two courses at Torrey Pines (South and North), a tournament that tends to favor the big hitters.
Woods is the defending champion - yes, the knee held up just fine as he won by four shots.
Mickelson, coming off his worst season, opened the year with a victory in the Bob Hope Classic, a tie for seventh in Phoenix and third place last week at Pebble Beach. He is a three-time winner at Torrey Pines, and will be among the favorites this week.
Still, much of the focus is on Singh.
'I already feel like I'm going to play well,' Singh said. 'I guess that's the momentum carrying me through.'
The Fijian actually has bad memories of this place. It was last year when he tucked a tiny sponge ball under his left armpit as part of a drill during a five-hour session on the practice range.
He felt pain, but figured it would go away. When he finished his marathon session, it hurt even worse. He withdrew from the tournament, discovered he had a cracked rib and missed the next five weeks.
He returns to Torrey Pines only two top 10s away from the record Jack Nicklaus strung together in 1977, and closer to Woods in the world ranking than anyone has been in nearly five years.
'It catches your attention,' Singh said.
Everything else, however, is business as usual. Players stop him wherever he goes to congratulate him on his success. Singh even sees them studying the way he practices, realizing there might be something to the long hours he puts in.
The streak is merely a byproduct of his work, as is his goal of replacing Woods at No. 1.
'I'm not thinking about the streak,' he said. 'I wasn't even aware of it until guys started talking about it. I'm sure it's going to end one day. I'm just going to try to play the best I can.'
Mickelson played the first three rounds of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with Singh, and said it was easy to see the biggest difference in his game.
'Putting,' Mickelson said. 'He's always driven it straight. He's always hit pretty good irons, pretty good short game. But he's making everything.'
Singh took mild exception to that assessment.
'I putted good with Phil. Maybe that's why he thought I was putting well,' Singh said with a laugh. 'I hit the ball pretty good, too.'
It's difficult to assess how Woods is playing because he hasn't been around.
Woods tied for fourth in the season-opening Mercedes Championships, then took the next four weeks off.
Then again, Woods tends to play his best after long layoffs.
He won two of his first three starts last year, including a dominant victory at the Match Play Championship. While Singh is always itching to play, Woods is careful not to overload tournament golf into his schedule.
'I could not do what Vijay does - hit that many golf balls after every tournament round, play as many tournaments as he does,' Woods said. 'He's able to maintain that high for a long period of time. If I did that, I would break down, because I would start losing my focus.'
Woods doesn't have to adjust his eyes to see who's coming at him. Singh is at the top of the list, although Mickelson and Els - the usual cast of characters - are all right there.
How he handles it will unfold over the rest of the California swing.
'With regards to Tiger, he'll come out and keep doing what he's doing,' Darren Clarke said. 'I don't think it will affect him in the slightest.'
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    Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 9:20 pm

    Tiger Woods was in almost total control of his game for the majority of his third round Saturday at PGA National. And although he was once again bit by the Bear Trap, the 14-time major winner tapped in for birdie at the par-5 18th to post a round of 1-under 69 and fight his way back to even par for the week.

    Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

    Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

    The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

    One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

    Unfortunately, the Bear Trap would ensnare Tiger for the second day in a row. Woods, whose iron play had looked as crisp as it had in years, sailed approaches long and left at both the par-3 15th and par-3 17th, leading to bogeys which erased the two birdies he worked so hard to secure.

    But just like on Friday, Woods rallied back with a late birdie, this one at the home hole, to steal back a shot.

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    O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

    DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

    The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

    David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

    Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

    Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    ''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

    ''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

    Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

    But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

    ''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

    The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 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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    Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

    Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

    In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

    Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

    The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

    “It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

    Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

    “Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

    ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

    “There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

    ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

    “It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”