Donald Leads Singh Mickelson Close Behind

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2004, 5:00 pm
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Vijay Singh wasn't in the lead Friday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but it sure seemed that way.
 
For one thing, Singh got the most difficult course out of the way with a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill that left him only one stroke behind Luke Donald of England.
 
And no one knows what to make of the other guys atop the leaderboard.
 
Donald bogeyed the last hole at Pebble Beach but still shot a 65, putting him in contention for the first time since he won the Southern Farm Bureau Classic - the same week as the Tour Championship - at the end of the '02 season.
 
Among those one stroke behind were J.J. Henry (70) and Ken Duke, a 35-year-old who has played tours in Canada, South America and Asia and is competing for only the 10th time on the PGA Tour. Tom Pernice Jr. let a great round at Spyglass get away with bogeys on his last two holes for a 68, and was also in the group one shot behind.
 
The tournament has plenty of celebrities, but was lacking in star power.
 
Singh and Phil Mickelson emerged late in the afternoon, when sunshine gave way to cool, overcast skies on the Monterey Peninsula.
 
Singh, who hasn't finished out of the top 10 since the PGA Championship in August, was solid on the tough front nine at Spyglass to finish his round.
 
Mickelson, who won the Bob Hope Classic and has played in the final group in both his tournaments this year, played with Singh and also had a 68 that left him in the group two shots out of the lead.
 
Singh and Mickelson now head to Pebble Beach, where low scores are available.
 
'We're playing there tomorrow, so we'll get our chance,' Singh said. 'At Pebble with no wind, it will be an easier one to score.'
 
Donald proved that with an immaculate round that was only spoiled at the end. He was 12 feet away from a 63, but three putts later had to settle for a 65 and a one-shot lead as he heads to Poppy Hills.
 
'I obviously didn't finish the way I'd like to,' said Donald, who was at 10-under 134. 'I got a little bit ahead of myself, which you should never do.'
 
The bumpy greens weren't too much of a bother because he kept hitting it close, nearly making an ace on the par-3 seventh and coming within inches of a wedge on the par-5 14th. The only putt of any length was a 40-footer for birdie from just off the green at No. 17.
 
'The last two days have been perfect scoring conditions,' Donald said.
 
Not everyone took advantage.
 
Davis Love III was 3 under through his first three holes at Pebble Beach, but he was 3 over the rest of the way for a 72. Love was at 3 over par and in jeopardy of missing the cut. The last defending champion to miss the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was Love in 2002.
 
No one suffered quite like Tommy Tolles, who opened with a 66. Tolles was 5 over after his first four holes at Poppy Hills, and shot 40 on his first nine despite making two birdies. He wound up with a 77.
 
Singh is making the best of the bumpy green, showing a lot of patience for those that bounce off line.
 
Pernice felt like he threw away a good chance at Spyglass, the toughest of the three courses.
 
He birdied five of his first six holes and was 7 under on his first 11 holes, but he ended his round on a sour note by missing the fairway on Nos. 8 and 9 and finishing with two bogeys.
 
Still, he got out of Spyglass with a 68 and was in great shape on the leaderboard heading to Pebble Beach.
 
'I had it by the teeth and let it get away, which is disheartening,' Pernice said. 'I had a chance to shoot a low score at Spyglass, which you usually don't. Bogeying the last hole in any round leaves you a little unhappy.'
 
Donald had good credentials as an amateur - two Walker Cup teams for Great Britain & Ireland, and the NCAA title at Northwestern - but has only one victory on the PGA Tour, at a tournament missing the best players.
 
He never seriously contended last year, and sought help from a psychologist.
 
'I was one of the best college players for four years, and coming out and getting beaten every week by a lot of good players can destroy your self-confidence,' Donald said. 'I just needed someone to tell me that I really am as good as I can be.'
 
He can prove that himself over the next two days, first at Poppy Hills and then the final round at Pebble Beach.
 
But he can expect plenty of pressure from Singh and Mickelson.
 
Singh always plays Pebble well. Right now, it really doesn't matter what course he's on. Singh has 11 consecutive top 10s, and is closing in on the record of 14 straight by Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
 
Mickelson was bogey-free at Spyglass, and has made only one bogey through the first 36 holes.
 
Divots:@ John Cook withdrew because of a back injury. Cook, who had a shoulder injury that kept him out much of last year, opened with a 75. ... Brad Faxon did not play a practice round at Pebble Beach, so Friday was the first time he had seen the par-5 18th without the two trees in the middle of the fairway. 'I used to hit just left of the tree, or right at it,' he said. 'You lose a little depth perception.' Faxon wound up losing his ball when he pulled his tee shot into the ocean. ... Players are allowed to lift, clean and place their balls at Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill, which are the soggier of the three courses. They play it down at Pebble Beach.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

    Getty Images

    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.