Garcia leads Kuchar at Shell Houston Open

By Associated PressApril 5, 2014, 12:04 am

HUMBLE, Texas - Sergio Garcia has yet to finish lower than 16th in a PGA Tour event this season.

The Spaniard appears well on his way to keeping that streak intact this week after posting a 7-under par 65 and matching the course 36-hole record of 12 under overall after the second round of the Houston Open on Friday.

As well as Garcia played in taking a one-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, the focus afterward was a mix of this week - with a heavy dose of attention turned toward next week's Masters.

Garcia has eight PGA Tour wins in his career, but the 34-year-old world No. 8 - once thought to be Tiger Woods' challenger for the top spot in the world - is still in search of his first major championship.

He'd like nothing more than to end that quest next week, while taking full advantage of his prep time at the Golf Club of Houston's Augusta National-like conditions for the rest of this weekend.

''I mean, obviously I feel good, but every week is different,'' Garcia said. ''First of all, we got to finish this week, and hopefully next week I'll be feeling good (and) not too many things will be bothering me health-wise, and then just feel good on the course, hopefully play well and things happen.''


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Garcia, opening on the back nine, climbed the leaderboard with a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on his front nine. His eagle on the par-5 13th came after sticking his 282-yard second shot to 5 feet, giving him a 4-shot lead following his morning round.

Kuchar, who opened with a 6-under 66 on Thursday, briefly tied Garcia at 12 under late in his afternoon round before closing with a bogey from the fairway bunker on the 18th.

The two will be paired with Matt Jones on Saturday after tournament officials decided to send threesomes off both tees early in the morning in an attempt to beat expected rain in the afternoon.

''If we get some rain and it doesn't blow too hard, of course the course will soften up and the scores will go even lower,'' Kuchar said. ''No telling ... It could be really tough.''

The weather was the clearest it's been all week on Friday, with the sun shining brightly and the wind gusting throughout the day at the 7,441-yard Golf Club of Houston.

The windy conditions limited first-round co-leader Bill Haas to a 2-over 74. Charley Hoffman, the other first-round leader, fell to 3 under par overall after a 4-over 76.

While the early leaders struggled, Phil Mickelson shot a 2-under 70 and is 6 under overall, six shots back of Garcia in ninth.

After a bogey-free opening round on Thursday, Mickelson - still recovering from last week's muscle pull that forced his withdrawal from the Texas Open - overcame a pair of bogeys on Friday with four birdies.

The five-time major winner, who won the Houston Open in 2011, had back-to-back birdies to reach 6 under where he is one of 11 golfers within six shots of Garcia.

''It was a lot more difficult today with this wind than it was the first day,'' Mickelson said. ''But either way, I feel like I felt better than I have in a long time with my game.''

Garcia finished Friday two shots off the course record of 63 in just his second visit to the former Redstone Golf Club - which switched names following an ownership change. He needed only 25 putts and showed he's ready for the slick greens and tight fairways at next week's Masters.

He equaled the course's previous low 36 holes set by Johnson Wagner in 2008 and matched in 2012 by Jeff Maggert.

Garcia, who opened with a 5-under 67 on Thursday, began Friday's round on the back nine. His first birdie came on a 12-foot putt on No. 12, and he followed that with a spectacular eagle on the par-5 13th.

He started the 592-yard hole with a 307-yard tee shot, following that with a 282-yard 3-wood to 5 feet of the hole. The eagle putt sent him into the lead at 8 under, and he then birdied the par-3 14th before putting together three straight birdies on his back nine.

''It was nice to kind of get going because as windy as it was, I knew there were a lot of difficult holes out there and a lot of shots that were going to test you,'' Garcia said.

Jones, Cameron Tringale, Jimmy Walker and Shawn Stefani are tied for third at 8 under, while Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis are at 7 under. Walker, who leads the PGA Tour with three wins this season, matched Garcia's 7-under 65 on Friday.

Defending champion D.A. Points missed the cut after shooting a 2-over 74 on Friday and finishing 1 over overall.

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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.