Els Rallies to Win Honda Classic

By Associated PressMarch 2, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Ernie Els was part of another final-round blunder. Only this time, he was the beneficiary.
 
Ending nearly a four-year drought between PGA TOUR victories, Els shot a 3-under 67 Sunday to win The Honda Classic. He finished at 6 under, one shot better than Luke Donald (71) and two ahead of Nathan Green (67).
 
But this final round will probably be best remembered for Mark Calcavecchias chip that wouldnt stop, because that ultimately was the break Els needed to finally hoist a winners trophy once again.
 
It has to feel even sweeter, you know, losing so many tournaments and one now going my way, said Els, who snapped an 0-for-47 streak in PGA TOUR events, dating to the 2004 American Express Championship in Ireland.
 
Els and Calcavecchia were tied for the lead as the sun began setting on PGA National. Calcavecchia hit into a greenside bunker at the par-3 15th and his shot from the sand looked fine when it hit the green.
 
Somehow, it never stopped rolling.
 
The ball came to rest on a rock ledge across the green. Calcavecchia walked over, tossed the ball into the water and made a double bogey to give Els the outright lead.
 
It just didnt grab and just kept rolling and rolling and rolling, said Calcavecchia, a two-time Honda winner. And that was it.
 
Els made a cool par on the par-5 finishing hole, then waited to see if anyone would match his score. Donald made a 35-foot birdie at the 16th to get within one, but got no closer, although his birdie chip on the last hole stopped just shy of the cup.
 
With that, Els stopping hitting balls and slipped on his watch, basking in a winning feeling again.
 
To win over here, its been really my goal, Els said. So its a great feeling.
 
Els got $990,000 for his 16th career PGA TOUR victory, along with the huge shot of confidence that hes sought for so long. Plus, hell jump a spot to third in the world rankings, passing Steve Stricker.
 
No, this isnt enough for him to catch Tiger Woods.
 
But hes at least a step closer in his three-year plan to challenge the worlds No. 1 player.
 
Thats as good as I probably could have played in the final round, Els said. So it was very satisfying.
 
Calcavecchia (73), Robert Allenby (70) and Matt Jones (73) tied for fourth, three shots back. Brian Davis, who was at 10 under earlier in the week and led at the midway mark, shot his second straight 73 and finished in a five-way tie for seventh, four shots off the winning score.
 
Didnt go my way, Calcavecchia said. Wasnt my time.
 
Els wasted a four-shot, final-round lead in a European tour event in Dubai earlier this year, when Woods roared past him for a victory. Els made a colossal mistake on the 18th hole that day, splashing his approach into the water after trying to pull off a spectacular finish.
 
At Hilton Head last year, he was denied when Boo Weekley chipped in twice in the final holes. And last year in his native South Africa, Els made a triple-bogey 8 on the finishing hole to blow what seemed like another cinch victory.
 
But this time, a smooth, steady finish'a Big Easy finish, if you will' got it done.
 
I think hes one of the best golfers Ive ever played with, Donald said. Its surprising that he hasnt won for so many years on this tour. You know, maybe this win will open up the floodgates a little bit.
 
There were 14 changes atop the leaderboard Sunday, and the winning score couldnt have been much of a surprise; Mark Wilson won a four-man playoff at PGA National last year after finishing four rounds at 5 under, and this years Honda provided a similar cluster.
 
Even after a quadruple bogey Friday, Donald wound up as the last contender standing.
 
I take absolute positives from this week, said Donald, the 2006 Honda winner who was third this year at the Northern Trust Open. Its not a disappointing week by any means.
 
Calcavecchia never recovered from 15, and Jones hit his tee ball into the water at the par-3 17th to end whatever chance the rookie had of snaring his first tour win.
 
Els was alone on the lead and the only player to have a bogey-free round, until he got to the 17th, the end of the famed Bear Trap at PGA National. He knocked his tee shot into a bunker, and his shot from there ran nearly 10 feet past the cup. The par putt missed, moving Calcavecchia and Jones both back into a share of the lead at 6 under.
 

They couldnt stay there, and Els did.
 
Jones was tied for the lead entering the final round once last year on the Nationwide Tour. But the South Georgia Classic, this is not.
 
Still, the Australian hardly embarrassed himself. His finish at PGA National was the fifth top-30 in six starts, and the $227,333 check from the Honda vaulted him to 38th on the money list.
 
I can take from the week that I can compete with guys out here, which is good, Jones said.
 
Oddly enough, Els left the Honda thinking the same thing.
 
You know, this has been a really wonderful week, Els said.
 
Notes
 
Els last win on U.S. soil was the Memorial in June 2004. Weekley, who missed a 3-footer on the final hole of regulation play last year to cost himself the Honda title, shot an 80 Sunday and finished 12 over. He did, however, finish with a putt from nearly the same spot where he missed last year, and thrust his arms in the air in mock celebration. South Koreas Y.E. Yang, best known for beating Woods to win the 2006 HSBC Championship, played his final round in 1 hour, 53 minutes and shot a 71.
 
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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.