Notes Cold Wet Conditions Could Favor Europe

By Associated PressSeptember 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Solheim CupHALMSTAD, Sweden -- With U.S. Open length and British Open weather, the Solheim Cup could turn into a haven for big hitters.
 
That's supposed to favor the Europeans.
 
Or at least that's the way the Europeans see it.
 
'Well, obviously it's a little strategy,' European captain Helen Alfredsson said of the course setup.
 
Most players braved only nine holes of practice at wind-swept Halmstad Golf Club on Wednesday. Temperatures were in the low 60s. A steady westerly wind was blowing in from the Kattegat -- the bay that separates Denmark from southern Sweden.
 
And this could be as nice as it gets. The weather is forecast to deteriorate over the weekend, bringing rain and heavier winds.
 
The course measures 6,615 yards, which is only 29 yards shorter than Pine Needles was for the U.S. Open earlier this year. That was the longest women's championship course at sea level.
 
Unlike the Ryder Cup, captains of the home team don't have the final say in course setup. Still, the Europeans picked the venue, and certainly weather and the stout size of the course -- to say nothing of the fact that four of their players are from Sweden -- played a factor in the choice.
 
Alfredsson, also a Swede, made it sound as though she had a hand in the placement of the tee boxes, at least on the practice day. In practice Wednesday, some groups hit from more than one tee box.
 
'I made it long because you can't put it longer, but you can always make it shorter,' Alfredsson said. 'My team is pretty comfortable out there. They think the course is playing well, and that's all I really care about, to be honest.'
 
Europeans Suzann Pettersen, Sophie Gustafson, Laura Davies and Maria Hjorth are all in the top 10 in driving distance on the LPGA Tour. Brittany Lincicome is the only American in the top 10.
 
American captain Betsy King doesn't look at the length of the course as a total disadvantage. For instance, she says, the No. 1 handicap hole, the par-5 fifth, plays 583 yards -- so long that nobody figures to be able to reach it in two.
 
'There's two sides to that story,' King said. 'Obviously, there are some longer European players, but then, we may be hitting first into some of the greens. And in match play, if you hit a good shot up there, that kind of puts the pressure back on the other side.'
 
CAPTAIN GOOFBALL:
Becoming a team captain in this prestigious event has not changed Helen Alfredsson.
 
She still has trouble taking herself too seriously and figures that rubs off on her team.
 
'It's very hard to say anything to them because they think I'm a total goofball,' she said. 'When I'm trying to be serious, they just go, `Oh yeah, right.' It's been hard with that but overall it's been fun because we've been friends for a long time.'
 
At 42, Alfredsson is actually younger than Laura Davies and not too much older than Annika Sorenstam. She's still on the LPGA Tour, though she has struggled the last few years and hasn't won there since 2003.
 
She was named captain of the team two years ago and gets to run the show in her home country.
 
Not that she's running too tight a ship.
 
'I would say Helen's different than the other captains we've had,' Sorenstam said, drawing laughs. 'She just has a very different approach. She's very easygoing. She appears to be less organized, but I know she's not. She knows what's going on. She just has more of a laid-back attitude.'
 
DIVOTS:
The Europeans wrapped up a 14-10 victory in the Junior Solheim Cup on Wednesday, played south of Halmstad in Bastad. Spain's Carlota Ciganda, Britain's Florentyna Parker and Germany's Nicola Rossler all went 3-0. The United States and Europe have now each won the junior event twice. ... Morgan Pressel just missed out on becoming the youngest woman to play in a Solheim Cup. She'll be 19 years, 3 months, 22 days on Friday. In 2005, Paula Creamer was 19 years, 1 months, 4 days when she made her Solheim debut. ... Creamer's cartwheel in front of the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews during British Open practice made for one of the best sports photos of the year. And now, one of her not-so-athletic moments has been documented, too: a picture from Solheim Cup practice of her on her backside after falling when she reached down to brush something off her pants.
 
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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.''


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    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.


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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.”


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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.