More Horse Than Course

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2004, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arnold Palmer owns the golf course.
Tiger Woods owns the tournament.
The Bay Hill Invitational has become a boon for Woods, who can make history this week by becoming the first player on any tour to win the same tournament five straight years.
From the time his streak began in 2000, Woods is 65 under par at Bay Hill and has won his four titles by a combined 20 strokes. A year ago, he had a vicious stomach virus that gave him the dry heaves throughout the final round, and he still doubled his lead and won 11 shots.
It would be easy to explain his success with one of golf's oldest adages: There are horses for courses.
Just don't overlook the horse.
'I've never bought into that,' Fred Couples said. 'Davis Love has won Hilton Head 100 times. Mark O'Meara has won Pebble Beach 100 times. Tiger has won Bay Hill 100 times. They're just really good players.'
Couples was a little off on the math, but his point is well-taken.
Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., winds through tree-lined fairways and has the smallest greens on the PGA Tour. It is hardly considered a power hitter's alley, yet Love has won there five times.
O'Meara has won five times at Pebble Beach, and he still holds the 72-hole scoring record of 20-under 268 in 1997, the year he held off Woods and David Duval.
Jose Maria Olazabal, whose driving is the worst part of his game, has won all four of his regular PGA Tour events on courses that would seem to favor good drivers -- Firestone (twice), revamped Torrey Pines and Castle Pines.
Jim Furyk, known for his accuracy with the driver and steady play, is a three-time winner at Las Vegas. Couples, a power player in his prime, won twice at Riviera and was runner-up two other times.
'What happens is that when players win a tournament, they have such a belief that on Sunday, whether their game is on or off, they believe, 'Hey, I can do this.' That mental aspect gives them an edge,' said O'Meara, who also won a California State Amateur at Pebble.
Still, it would be foolish to suggest the course is not a factor for Woods.
He had three-year winning streaks at two other tournaments, Memorial and the NEC Invitational at Firestone, both suited for guys who hit the ball long and high.
And he clearly has an advantage over the shorter hitters at Bay Hill, especially the last two years when the greens were rebuilt and became so hard that players wondered what blend of concrete Palmer mixed with the grass.
'If you can drive the ball down there and keep it in play, it just makes it so much easier going to the greens with shorter clubs,' Woods said. 'And if you look at most of the guys who have had a chance the four years I've won, most of the guys are longer hitters.'
Love finished four shots behind in 2000, and Phil Mickelson gave Woods the stiffest challenge a year later, losing by one shot when Woods birdied the 18th hole. Mickelson also came close to catching Woods in 2002, until he went for the green on the par-5 16th -- under the trees and over the water -- and came up short.
Last year it really didn't matter who finished second with Woods winning by 11.
But ask Woods why he has won Bay Hill four straight time, and he talks primarily about what he sees and feels.
'I'm sure Davis will say that the golf course (Harbour Town) sets up well to his eye. You hear that a lot,' Woods said. 'You'll hear Riviera with Freddie, the whole golf course sets up to his eye. That's why this golf course, I've had success on it. I don't feel uncomfortable on a lot of the shots. On top of that, I've won here five times.
'The more you win, the more it breeds confidence.'
Five times?
Woods wasn't looking ahead to Sunday, rather looking behind to the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur at Bay Hill, the start of another one of his amazing streaks. Woods is the only player to win three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs.
Not many would be surprised if he were to win Bay Hill again.
'I don't see anything stopping him from winning his fifth tournament,' O'Meara said. 'He's fired up. He wants it. But it's not going to be a pushover. These guys don't lie down for Tiger Woods.'
Love is coming off runner-up finishes in his last two tournaments, losing to Woods in the finals at the Match Play Championship and to Todd Hamilton's 8-iron into 4 feet last week at the Honda Classic.
Vijay Singh is coming off a two-week break and has the classic game for Bay Hill.
And if Bay Hill is only for power hitters, this should be right up Ernie Els' alley. The Big Easy won at Bay Hill in 1998 when he put 13 strokes between him and Woods over the final 36 holes played Sunday.
'I don't want to think about Tiger winning five,' Els said.
'But it's a hell of an achievement, especially in modern-day golf. He's set so many records already, and this will be another one that will stand -- if he does it -- for a very long time.
'You know, he's an amazing player.'
Indeed, Woods is quite a horse.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”