Goosen Starts Strong In Title Defense

By Associated PressJune 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- While others stress about tough conditions, Retief Goosen just keeps playing. Thats why hes the defending U.S. Open champion. And thats why he finds himself near the lead once again.
 
Over a dry and breezy first round at Pinehurst No. 2, Goosen shot a 2-under-par 68 to finish one stroke off the lead Thursday'keeping himself well in position to capture his third U.S. Open title.
 
I only see them making it gradually tougher as the week goes on, Goosen said.
 
On Friday, though, play began under cooler conditions with slightly overcast skies. Joe Ogilvie and Tommy Armour were among those to hit the first tee shots, with John Daly not far behind. Goosen was scheduled for a 1:10 p.m. tee time.
 
Olin Browne
Olin Browne needed a 59 in sectional qualifying just to make the U.S. Open field.
The low-key South African came to North Carolina to defend his title, only to be more or less ignored in the lead-up to the tournament, something he conceded bothered him a bit earlier in the week.
 
Also barely mentioned were Rocco Mediate and Olin Browne, both of whom teed off in the morning, and wound up leading after the first round at 3-under 67. Tied with Goosen a stroke behind were Lee Westwood and Brandt Jobe. Only Jobe played in the afternoon, when the wind started blowing, making the difficult course brittle and much harder to predict than in 1999, the last time the Open was played here.
 
It plays more difficult in the afternoon, said Jobe, who said it took a staggering 90 minutes for him to grind through the last four holes. But Im happy. Its a good start, but theres a ton of golf to be played.
 
The crowded leaderboard included Phil Mickelson at 69, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh at 70 and Ernie Els, who shot 71 in the morning and thought conditions were quite difficult.
 
Its really unbelievable, Els said. Its the only course we play that you have to aim away from the holes.
 
That would be because of the humpbacked greens, which dried out as the day went on, making already unpredictable surfaces that much harder.
 
Mickelson spent much of the lead-up to the Open practicing at Pinehurst with short-game guru Dave Pelz. But some things you just cant prepare for, like the ball landing in a patch of sand just outside a greenside bunker, the way it did on No. 16, where Lefty chipped out weakly and two-putted for bogey.
 
I dont see how anybody will be under par in these conditions after 72 holes, Mickelson said.
 
As the day went on, tee shots hit down the middle bounced hard off the fairway and wound up in the rough. Soft, high approach shots went trickling off greens. That rough, meanwhile, just kept growing in the hot weather, turning club faces and snaring hosels.
 
En route to a bogey on No. 16, Woods hacked a low liner out of the thick stuff, then turned around and yelled at photographers who started snapping during his backswing. Wherever the blame lied for the shot, the result was predictable.
 
Once you miss these fairways, you have no chance of getting them on the green, Goosen said.
 
Given all that, Woods wasnt that upset with his par'a round that opened with a birdie after hitting his second shot off a cart path and ended with him looking exhausted as the temperatures climbed into the high 80s.
 
The golf course is not playing easy out there, he said.
 
The feel-good stories of the day belonged to Mediate and Browne.
 
Mediate was on the verge of irrelevance, his chronic back troubles turning him into an afterthought on the tour; his hopes to compete in this kind of grueling championship were thought to be minuscule.
 
I expected to play well, but I dont know if I expected to shoot that low of a score, but I knew it was in there, Mediate said.
 
Browne, meanwhile, almost withdrew from qualifying last week after shooting 73 in the opening round. He stayed in, though, shot a 59 to make the Open, and even though that stellar round wont go into the record books, his 67 in the opening round certainly will.
 
Theres absolutely no correlation between qualifying for the Open and playing in the Open, other than it gets you here, Browne said. I would rather shoot under par at the Open than 59 screwing around at home.
 
Also hanging around the leaderboard were Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Chris DiMarco at 71 and Adam Scott and David Toms at 70. Luke Donald, Steve Jones and K.J. Choi joined Mickelson at 69.
 
This is very tough, Choi said. It is not Korean style where the fairways are wider and the ball lands softer. I concentrate more and am very patient. Ive learned to have patience, patience, patience every hole and then relax.
 
Sounds like somebody else we know.
 
Goosens score would have been better had he not needed 32 putts. If the putting gets better, he will never have to worry about being ignored again. Goosen is trying to become just the sixth person with more than two titles in the 105-year history of the U.S. Open.
 
Obviously, the golf course is only going to get tougher as the week goes on, Goosen said. If I can keep striking the ball solid and keep it in play, we can try for Sunday.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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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.”