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Lexi looks to increase CME Globe lead in Japan

By Associated PressNovember 2, 2017, 12:17 pm

Eight of the top 10 players in the world, including top-ranked So Yeon Ryu of South Korea and No. 3 Lexi Thompson of the United States, will be among the select field this week at the LPGA tour's Toto Japan Classic.

The tournament is a three-day, 54-hole, no-cut event that begins competition on Friday at Taiheyo Club's Minori Course in Ibaraki, Japan.

The Toto Japan Classic, in its 44th year, is one of just three tournaments remaining in the LPGA's 2017 schedule and the penultimate stop in the tour's six-week run in Asia. This event marks the 31st tournament of the LPGA season, which has seen two first-time winners among its 22 different event champions.

The roster of 78 players, 43 of which compete regularly on the LPGA and 35 from the LPGA-J (Japan) circuit, will try to tame the par-72, 6,646-yard course. The players are vying for a total purse of $1.5 million, with $225,000 and 500 crucial Race to the CME Globe points going to the winner.


Full-field scores from the Toto Japan Classic


World No. 4 and defending champion Shanshan Feng of China is also in the field and one of the favorites this week. In 2016, Feng defeated Ha Na Jang of South Korea by one shot for what was then Feng's sixth career win (she now has seven). The Toto Japan Classic marks Feng's 12th start since her victory at the 2017 LPGA Volvik Championship in May in Michigan.

This event also has drawn fifth-ranked In Gee Chun of South Korea among the 13 winners from this year's LPGA season, a list that includes Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, Haru Nomura of Japan, Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, Brooke Henderson of Canada and Americans Danielle Kang and Michelle Wie, who is playing this event for only the second time.

Henderson has fared well on the tour's six-event Asia swing. She won the McKayson New Zealand Open on Oct. 1 to start the swing and will take a rare event off next week in China after playing in Japan.

"This stretch has been really good to me, and starting off with a win was awesome for me," Henderson said. "It gave me a lot of confidence, and to get my second win of the season really meant a lot to me. Now I'm just trying to climb leaderboards and get some Top-10 finishes, which hopefully that will happen this week."

Seven former champions of this tournament are in the field this week including former world No. 1 Jiyai Shin and Mi Hyang Lee of South Korea and American Stacy Lewis. Throughout the years, several of the LPGA's best have captured victories in Japan, including Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden.

Ryu, who has held the top spot in the world for 19 straight weeks (since June 26), has had a strong season on tour with two wins and 12 top-10 finishes.

Thompson returns to action after taking a week off during the Malaysia event. She also has a pair of wins and nine top-10 finishes in a very calculated 19 starts and has a 237-point lead in the Race to the CME Globe standings over South Korean rookie Sung Hyun Park, who is taking this week off.

Sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are both competing this week in Japan as seven-figure earners this year. They are the first sisters in the history of the LPGA to earn over $1 million in the same season. Moriya ($1,070,466) currently ranks 12th on the LPGA money list while Ariya (last season's Player of the Year) ranks 14th ($1,018,699).

Two tournaments are all that separates LPGA players and fans from the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla. The top 12 at the Tour Championship have a mathematical chance to win the $1 million top prize.

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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.''


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


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.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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.