Notes Final Week to Avoid Open Qualifying

By Associated PressMay 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
Sean O'Hair made a bold bid to win THE PLAYERS Championship when he went after the flag on the island-green 17th at Sawgrass, went into the water and wound up making a quadruple-bogey 7. His tumble to 12th cost him $747,000 and perhaps a shot at the U.S. Open.
Had he finished second -- no one else had a chance to catch Phil Mickelson -- O'Hair would have moved up to No. 47 in the world and likely would have stayed in the top 50 to avoid U.S. Open qualifying. Instead, he is No. 79 and faces 36 holes of qualifying after the Memorial if he wants an Oakmont tee time.
Other players have a few more chances.
This week is a major cutoff for being exempt from qualifying. The U.S. Open will take the top 50 in the world ranking, along with the top 10 from the PGA TOUR money list and the top two in Europe.
A couple of PGA TOUR winners are on the bubble.
Sony Open champion Paul Goydos is No. 49 and can help himself immensely with a good week at Colonial. Right behind is Tim Clark (50) and Hilton Head winner Boo Weekley (52). Lucas Glover is No. 51, but he already is in the U.S. Open from finishing in the top 30 of last year's money list.
Angel Cabrera is No. 53 and playing the BMW Championship at Wentworth, where he won two years ago. The European Tour event has far more ranking points available than Colonial this week.
Tampa winner Mark Calcavecchia is No. 55 and playing Colonial, although he might have a better chance with money. He's only $78,358 out of the top 10, which he could make up with at least a top-20 finish.
To suggest Zach Johnson reached the next level with his victory in Atlanta might be a stretch considering it was the second-weakest field on the PGA TOUR this year behind New Orleans.
But he was solid down the stretch, making birdie twice on the 18th hole at Sugarloaf to beat Ryudi Imada in a playoff. And it never hurts for a player to back up his first major championship with another victory, especially one so soon.
'As far as validation, I don't know,' Johnson said. 'One lip-out here, one more bounce the other way there, I may not be sitting here. There's always some fortuitous breaks there. I just feel very honored.'
Johnson joined a short list of players since 1992 who won again within three starts of capturing their first major -- Davis Love III and David Toms each won in their third tournament, while Retief Goosen won the Scottish Open in his second start after winning the 2001 U.S. Open. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh each won their next start after their first major, although Woods took nearly a month off.
Val Skinner's annual golf charity for breast cancer research raised $500,000, bringing the total to more than $4 million.
Skinner's foundation created the event called 'LIFE' -- LPGA pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer -- eight years ago, and it continues to be one of golf's best-supported charity events. It was held Monday at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., and featured 29 players, including Lorena Ochoa, Beth Daniel, Julie Inkster, Nancy Lopez, Karrie Webb and Morgan Pressel.
'This year's event has been our strongest yet,' Skinner said. 'You could literally feel the powerful energy that is created when we all come together collectively with a passionate purpose.'
Among those honored was Pressel, the youngest player to win an LPGA major. Her mother died of breast cancer four years ago.
Olin Browne had to sit out the first four months of the season recovering from a partial ligament tear in his right hand, and his patience was rewarded last week in Atlanta. Browne closed with a bogey-free 66 to tie for ninth in only his second tournament since October.
'I did what the doctors told me. I waited until it could function a little bit,' Browne said.
He made his '07 debut the week before at THE PLAYERS Championship, and given his rust, Browne said it was 'like taking a knife to a gunfight.' He went 81-75 to miss the cut. But he was inspired by playing bogey-free in the first round on the TPC at Sugarloaf and only shooting 74 in a third round void of bogeys.
'I put it through the rigors and had three really nice rounds,' he said. 'I'm hoping to build on that.'
Morgan Pressel will appear at several Anheuser-Busch parks over the next year as a spokeswoman for the 'Champions' program, a campaign designed to inspire young women to excel in sports and studies. ... Hee-Won Han will not defend her title in the LPGA Corning Classic this week. Han is pregnant with her first child and has not played since the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the end of April. ... Augusta National has distributed $3.4 million to charities from the Masters, raising its total contribution to more than $32 million over the last 10 years.
The BMW Championship on the European Tour has five of the top 10 players in the world ranking. Colonial on the PGA TOUR has one of the top 10.
'I think I'm going to have to prove myself a little more before he considers me.' -- PGA TOUR rookie Stephen Marino, who played the first two rounds at the AT&T Classic with Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

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.

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.