Majors are Supposed to be Hard Even the Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods called it the hardest Masters he had ever seen, and the numbers back him up.
 
There were twice as many bogeys as birdies, and that doesn't account for the 230 double bogeys or worse. There were only 34 rounds under par all week. Perhaps the most surreal sight at Augusta National was the large leaderboard behind the 18th hole awash in green numbers, which represent over par.
 
Zach Johnson finished at 289, matching the Masters record for the highest winning score.
 
And we're only getting started.
 
Johnson's score was the highest to win a major since Paul Lawrie shot 290 and won a playoff in the '99 British Open at Carnoustie, long considered the toughest links in the world, known in British tabloids as 'Car-nasty.'
 
That's where these guys are headed this summer.
 
In between is a trip to Oakmont. The last time the U.S. Open went there, Ernie Els shot 74 in a playoff and still won.
 
By the time they get to the PGA Championship, Southern Hills might seem like Indian Wells.
 
Majors are supposed to be hard.
 
And yes, that includes Augusta National.
 
Along with being the highest-scoring Masters in more than 50 years, it also was one of the most quiet Masters in recent memory.
 
The sound at Augusta National is as inherent as the sights. It was muted for much of the week as the world's best players hung on for dear life on a bone-dry course, in swirling wind, in weather more suited for a Green Bay Packers game in late October and on greens so firm it was difficult to get the ball close for birdie, much less par.
 
The degree of difficulty was indicative not only by the scores, but by the starting times Sunday. The last group teed off at 2:15 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual because it was taking so long to putt out.
 
Does all this mean the Masters was a disaster?
 
Hardly.
 
Augusta National is known for its explosive nature, particularly on the back nine on Sunday. It was a double eagle by Gene Sarazen on the 15th hole in 1935 that put this tournament on the map. It was a 30 on the back nine by Jack Nicklaus in 1986 that for many remains the most famous Sunday in Masters history. Phil Mickelson won his first Masters with five birdies over the final seven holes.
 
Sometimes, conditions don't allow for such fireworks.
 
That alone doesn't make the Masters any less memorable.
 
An hour before the final round, Jim Nantz and CBS Sports showed a colorized broadcast of the 1960 Masters won by Arnold Palmer. The winning score was 282. Palmer didn't birdie either of the par 5s on the back nine, but rallied to win with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie on the 18th.
 
What makes the Masters so special among the four majors is returning year after year to Augusta National. It might be longer. Sometimes it's sloppy after a week of rain. Sometimes the dogwoods and azaleas blaze a little brighter.
 
It's still the Masters.
 
Golf fans know every hole on the back nine at Augusta National, and since TV coverage was expanded in 2002, they are starting to know every hole on the front. Some years it will be easier to make birdie, some years it will be tough to make par.
 
This was the latter.
 
It would be easy to suggest that Augusta National ruined its major by adding nearly a quarter-mile of length since 2001, but that would be measuring the Masters based only on this year.
 
What happened was a perfect storm -- no measurable rain during the week, or even the weeks before the Masters; gusts up to 25 mph, swirling through the trees, as always; weather so cold on the weekend that the wind chill never got into the 50s on Saturday, and fans were kept outside the gates for an hour Sunday morning until the frost melted.
 
The last time no one broke par at the Masters was in 1966, when Nicklaus, Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer finished at even-par 288. Nicklaus won the next day in an 18-hole playoff, and he wrote about the conditions in his autobiography.
 
He said a cold, dry winter had left the fairways sparse. The club decided not to mow too short, which led to flier lies from the fairway. Compounding the problem was the rock-hard greens, which made it difficult to get any shots anywhere near the hole. And wind gusts were 30 mph.
 
'One thing was certain as we wound up practice,' Nicklaus wrote. 'There would be no record scores this year.'
 
Even with scoring so high, the Masters still had its share of flurries and failures, of eagles and double bogeys.
 
Rory Sabbatini's eagle putt on the eighth hole was from 75 feet, although it probably rolled closer to 100 feet by the time it traveled left onto the fringe, then veered right back to the hole. Woods hit 5-iron to the top shelf on the par-5 13th, then went from screaming, 'God, bite!' to slapping hands with his caddie when it stopped 3 feet from the pin.
 
Luke Donald holed a 30-yard pitch for eagle on the eighth, only to follow with a triple bogey when he chipped three times before keeping his ball on the ninth green. Padraig Harrington found water on the 15th in three of four rounds, and played the par-5 in 5 over for the week.
 
It became cliche during the week to say, 'I went to the Masters and the U.S. Open broke out.'
 
But it wasn't like that.
 
The Masters will return to Augusta National year after year. And there was one other sign that you knew this wasn't a U.S. Open.
 
Tough as it was, no one complained.
 
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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 fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

    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.

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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

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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.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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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.

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    McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

    McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

    “It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

    He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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    Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

    The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

    The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.