Nicklaus thinks Woods will play Masters

By Associated PressMarch 4, 2010, 6:01 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus is going to appear at next month’s Masters. He thinks Tiger Woods will, too.

Nicklaus said Wednesday that “it would surprise me” if Woods did not return to competitive golf in time for the Masters, a tournament the embattled world No. 1 has won four times in his career.

“I suspect he’ll play something before Augusta,” Nicklaus said behind the 18th green at PGA National, where the Honda Classic opens on Thursday. “Your guess is as good as mine. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t play something before Augusta.”

Tiger Woods on driving range at Isleworth

Nicklaus has been reluctant to comment much about Woods since the saga involving revelations of infidelity began late last year, saying more than once that someone else’s private life isn’t any of his business. He reiterated that belief again Wednesday after finishing his Pro-Am round at the South Florida course he redesigned.

A person with knowledge of Woods’ schedule told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Woods returned to his home near Orlando, over the weekend after a week of family counseling and resumed practicing for the first time in nearly four months.

Like many, Nicklaus seemed to take that as a sign that Woods could be back sooner than later. The Masters begins April 8.

“It would surprise me if he didn’t,” Nicklaus said. “I can’t imagine in 100 years he’s going to miss this. None of you guys do either. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve been very noncommittal about anything as it’s not my business. But as it relates to him playing golf, my guess is as a golfer he’s going to want to try to play Augusta if he’s got his other things in order.”

Earlier this year, Nicklaus said 2010 would be “a big year” for Woods if he wanted to get closer to Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. Three of this year’s majors will be on courses where Woods has been dominant before, Augusta National, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

Of Woods’ 14 majors, half have come on those three courses. Woods has never missed a Masters or a U.S. Open since 1995.

Nicklaus is going back to the Masters, a tournament he won six times, as an honorary starter this year. He agreed to take on the role last year, and will join Arnold Palmer for the opening shot of the tournament. In time, he expects Gary Player to join them.

The honorary start is something Nicklaus never saw as a player, and he spent several minutes Wednesday talking about that after finishing the round he played with Dan Marino, Drew Brees and saxophonist Kenny G. (For what it’s worth, Nicklaus said he broke 80, after closing birdie-birdie.)

Then the questions turned to Woods.

“I didn’t think I was going to have anything else,” Nicklaus said.

Woods was photographed hitting balls at Isleworth on Feb. 18. One day later, he ended nearly three months of silence by speaking to a small group of associates, a statement that got worldwide attention.

“I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be,” Woods said on Feb. 19. “I don’t rule out that it will be this year.”

Nicklaus was asked if Woods’ presence would make the Champions Dinner, a pre-Masters tradition, different.

The only man with more major championships than Woods didn’t hesitate to answer.

“No. It’s the Champions Dinner,” Nicklaus said. “His personal life is his personal life. As a golfer, he’s a sensational golfer. He’s a great athlete. He’ll figure out his own problems. But as a golfer, he’ll come back and get his game in shape and play. That’s what he does.”

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.