Goosen shoots 64 to lead Pebble Beach Pro-Am

By Associated PressFebruary 13, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. ' Retief Goosen is sporting a new look at a tournament he has never played. After an 8-under 64 in the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, hes hopeful of seeing some old results.
 
Goosen hit a 3-iron to 8 feet for an eagle on the second hole at Pebble Beach, then picked up even more momentum by holing a 70-foot chip on the par-3 fifth green for birdie.
 
Dustin Johnson at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Dustin Johnson held a three-shot lead before finishing two back. (Getty Images)
With short birdies on two of the last four holes, he was at 12-under 132 and had a two-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.
 
Goosen is wearing prescription sunglasses for the first time in his career, and the belly putter he tried out last week in San Diego is starting to take hold. Now if he can only get the results that made him part of the Big Four in golf as recently as four years ago.
 
Id like to turn my game around and play better, said Goosen, who has fallen to No. 42 in the world and not won on the PGA Tour since the now-defunct International in Colorado four years ago.
 
Johnson built an early lead playing Spyglass Hill, with four birdies on his first six holes to reach 11 under. But he pulled his tee shot into the trees on the 325-yard 17th, hit a tree trying to chip out and took double bogey. He had to settle for a 69, leaving him at 10-under 134 as he heads to Poppy Hills and its five par 5s on Saturday.
 
Mike Weir and Mark Calcavecchia each had a 69 at Pebble Beach and were among those at 8-under 136. Calcavecchia is playing for the first time in 2004, a strange decision that seems to be paying off.
 
My theory was the weather was dead perfect at the Hope and Phoenix and I missed the cut in both of them, he said. So I thought I would come up here and freeze my butt off ' cold, wind and rain ' and see how I did. It seems to be working out.
 
The highest-ranked players continue to occupy the bottom part of the leaderboard.
 
British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington had a 73 at Pebble Beach as the breeze strengthened but the skies remained surprisingly clear, leaving him at 3-over 147 and in serious jeopardy of missing the cut. Also at 3 over was Vijay Singh, who had a 75 at Pebble Beach.
 
Phil Mickelson, a two-time champion at Pebble Beach who is off to a slow start this year, got up-and-down from a greenside bunker on his final hole at Poppy Hills for a 71, leaving him 11 shots out of the lead.
 
Goosen reached as high as No. 3 in the world in 2006, and had a share of the lead during the final round of the 2007 Masters. But it has been a steady spiral downward since then, mainly because of his putting.
 
Before beginning a four-week swing in California and Arizona, he went to the belly putter.
 
The last couple of years, Ive just putted bad, Goosen said. When I had a week off back in London, I was just fooling around in the garage there for putters and tried a few long putters. And then I thought I would sort of give it a try. It cant get any worse, so I might as well try it. If you can get some sort of confidence going again, just seeing yourself making some putts, it helps.
 
Goosen one-putted six consecutive greens on the back nine to surge into the lead.
 
Hes been making everything he looks at, said Craig Jamison, president and CEO of the San Jose Sharks, said behind the 17th green as he watched the star member of his foursome. That birdie putt touched the edge of the cup, a rare miss.
 
The South African polished off his 64 with a wedge into 3 feet, a putt and the typical reaction of golfs coolest customer.
 
Goosen celebrated his 40th birthday last week, if thats how it is to be described. It was a quiet dinner with his coach and caddie, and while he jokingly said it was a depressing occasion, he knows Singh played his best after turning 40.
 
And thats where Goosen is trying to get.
 
He made an effort to get fit last year after not liking what he saw in the mirror, and figures he has lost 16 pounds and gained immeasurable strength. And then there are the glasses, a light lens shade from bygone eras.
 
Especially with the cold weather, it helps my eyesight a fraction, he said. This week is the first time Ive played with them. I can see the greens a little better. Its just a little sharper.
 
About the only part of his game that is not particularly sharp is his driving, although Goosen atones for that with his putting, as he did on the back nine at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 when he won his second U.S. Open.
 
Even so, no one in the field at Pebble Beach has won more than Goosen over the last few months, even if few have heard of the tournaments. He won the Iskandar Johor Open on the Asian Tour late last year, then added the Africa Open on the Sunshine Tour.
 
I would like to somehow turn my game around a little bit and just start playing a bit better, he said. When youve struggling, you dont really feel like going out there anymore. So I needed to try and turn everything around and get a bit more motivated.
 
Listening in the back of the room was Johnson, who is a fan of the Goose.
 
I like his action, Johnson said. Hes very relaxed. He never gets too up, too down.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”