Notes Caseys Collapse Oberholser Out

By Associated PressApril 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Steve Flesch was doing just what he needed to do in brutal conditions. Plod along, make a bunch of pars and hope it would be enough to win.
Then he got to Amen Corner. After dunking his ball in Raes Creek, Flesch didnt have a prayer.
The left-hander took a double-bogey 5 at the picturesque 12th hole, where he knocked his tee shot into the water. Flesch went from just two strokes out of the lead to four, and it all fell apart from there. He played the last seven holes at 6 over, ruining any shot at his first major.
Flesch finished in a tie for fifth after closing with a 78, leaving him six strokes behind winner Trevor Immelman.
I was playing all right, Flesch said. The wind just got really tricky on the back nine and we just pulled the wrong club on the 12th hole and it went straight up and went in the water.
It didnt get much better from there. After making par at the par-5 13th' one of the best shots at birdie on the course'he made four bogeys in a row.
I was just kind of trying to make some putts, trying to make some birdies, trying to be aggressive, and got a little too aggressive on a couple shots, he said. Its a little disheartening and very disappointing, but thats all right. Its still my best finish in a major, and hopefully if I get in the situation again, itll turn out differently.
Flesch went with an 8-iron at the pivotal 12th, believing it would be enough to clear the water on a 154-yard hole thats tucked away in a far corner of the course.
He was wrong.
When I was over it, there wasnt much wind at all and I was aiming it left of the bunker and I hit it solid, Flesch said. But halfway through the flight, it just stood straight up into the wind and I could tell halfway there that it wasnt going to make it.
After taking a drop and a one-shot penalty, Flesch pitched his ball over the water. But he missed a short bogey putt and walked off knowing his chances of winning were probably gone. In the pressure-packed environment of a Sunday at Augusta, his putter deserted him.
As good as I putted the first three days, I just didnt putt very well on the back nine, he said. And thats just how it goes. The back nine on Sunday out here, they get a little more difficult.
While everyone else was getting blown around Augusta National, Miguel Angel Jimenezs day was a breeze.
The Spaniard shot a 4-under 68 Sunday, the best score of the day and only one of four below par. Not bad for a guy who was so close to the cut line he was playing with a marker Saturday.
That was the goal, no? Just to make the cut on Friday and then hope to jump up as much as possible, said Jimenez, who shot a 77 on Thursday but rebounded with a 70 on Friday to make the cut on the number. After starting Sunday in a tie for 35th, Jimenez moved all the way up to a tie for eighth.
Jimenez holed a 7-iron on the par-4 No. 7 for an eagle, but even more impressive were his three birdies on the back nine when the wind was really beginning to blow. He finished with a flourish, chipping in for a final birdie on 18.
Make no mistake, though. Despite his red numbers, this round was far from easy.
It was a tough day today there. And with under par, I believe its going to be tough to do, Jimenez said. You have to take care of too many things that are going on on the golf course to play with the wind, no? But I was hitting the ball very solid.
A gust of wind blew away Paul Caseys chances of contending for his first major title.
The Englishman, who started the final round four shots off the lead, was standing over a par putt at the sixth hole when his ball moved every so slightly. He called a one-stroke penalty on himself, then putted out for a bogey that should have been a par.
He followed with two more bogeys, made the turn with a 5-over 41 and was no longer a factor.
That took the wind out of my sails, because it was so difficult out there today, Casey said. That kind of threw me for a couple of holes and that was it. Going into the back nine, Im too far back, simple as that.
Casey finished with a 7-over 79, dropping him all the way back to even par for the tournament and into a tie for 11th.
As they say, what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, he said. I still had a great week. Its very disappointing today and Ill go away and think about this, but I have got to take the positives out of it as I always try to do. There was some very, very good golf that I played this week.
Casey wasnt the only one to impose a penalty on himself for the ball moving after it was addressed. Bernhard Langer took away a stroke in the first round, and amateur Michael Thompson called the same penalty on Friday. Both missed the cut.
Arron Oberholsers bogey on the 18th hole might be the last anyone sees of him for a while.
Oberholser has been struggling all year with hand and shoulder injuries, and had already said he will take at least the next two months off. He had talked at one point about playing a few events at the end of the season, but said Sunday hes not even sure about that.
Hes already received a medical exemption for next year.
I dont know that youll be hearing from me the rest of the year, he said. I might just scratch the whole thing and call it a mental health year because Im tired of it. Im sick of it. I didnt enjoy one shot out here today and I enjoyed very few shots this week. Im just burnt out.
Oberholser had surgery last October to correct a recurring problem in his left hand. But he thinks he might have come back too soon because the area' right where he grips the golf club'still hurts with every swing. He doesnt plan to even touch a club for two months, and hopes that will help because more surgery is not an option.
Ill quit golf before Ill have another surgery, he said. Ill quit competitive golf. Mark my words. Its not worth it to me.
Despite his struggles, Oberholser played solidly and began Sunday in good shape for a top-16 finish, which would have earned him an invitation back for next year. But he straggled home with a 5-over 77, including a double bogey on the par-5 15th.
He finished the tournament at 4-over 292, tying for 25th.
I dont care about the top 50 anymore. I dont care about coming back to the Masters. I dont care about making the majors. I just want to be healthy, Oberholser said. Ill take healthy and the Nationwide Tour vs. playing out here constantly hurt.
At least Zach Johnson gets to keep his spot in the champions locker room.
Any chance Johnson had of winning another green jacket ended early Sunday. After a birdie on No. 2, he finished the front nine with three bogeys in the last five holes. He finished with a 5-over 77, and wound up in a tie for 20th.
Johnson was there for the green jacket presentation, but only to give it to the newest winner, Trevor Immelman.
Having the green jacket on my back for a year has been fantastic, Johnson said. Its one of those things you dont want to give up. But, you know, thats why we play it every year.
Johnsons victory at last years Masters was considered by many to be little more than a fluke of the weather. The blustery cold prevented others from going low and allowed him to play it safe'he didnt go for a single par 5 all week' and his 1-over 289, tied for highest winning scorer in Masters history.
But he showed this week that he can play a little at Augusta National. After shooting a 76 on Friday, he came back with a 68 Saturday that tied for low round of the day. He finished the tournament at 3-over 291.
The more you play it the better off you become. Its just experience, Johnson said. You cant put a price on playing it year in and year out. Thats just, the more I play it, the better off Im going to become.
Tiger Woods finished second for a second straight year. The scoring average in cool, blustery conditions Sunday was 74.66, highest of the week. No one in the final 11 groups broke par Sunday. Trevor Immelman joins Gary Player as the only South Africans to win the Masters. Immelman is the first foreign champion since Canadas Mike Weir in 2003.
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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.”