Notes Furyk on the Mend
Furyk is five weeks removed from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist. While it is too early to tell when he might return, he said rehab is going well.
He had a full range of motion 10 days after his surgery. He has been working with light weights, along with other exercises for his left wrist.
'I started out with 1-pound weights, and now I'm up to 3 whole pounds,' Furyk said Monday night. 'Every day, I'm a little stronger.'
Furyk already has missed The Players Championship and the Masters, and it would be surprising if he were ready to defend his U.S. Open title in June at Shinnecock Hills.
'I miss it,' he said. 'But more than anything, it was killing me when I didn't know what was wrong with my wrist. Now that I know, every day I'm working on my mobility, getting stronger and moving toward the goal.'
Furyk was at a friend's house recently and there was a golf club in the back yard. He picked it up and gripped it, although he resisted the temptation to take a swing.
He touched a club one other time in the last five weeks. Shortly after surgery, Furyk had a previous appointment for a photo shoot.
'I was supposed to be swinging a club,' he said. 'I had to do all the swinging with my right hand, and then I moved my left hand in to position. I think it turned out OK.'
STRANGE IN THE HALL
Curtis Strange was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame last weekend, two days after he came up short in voting for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The latter is puzzling.
Tom Kite received 69 percent of the vote and was a worthy selection with 19 victories, including a U.S. Open. He won the money title twice and was PGA player of the year in 1989.
Strange, who got 55 percent of the vote, was the dominant American when golf first went global in the 1980s with the arrival of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Nick Price.
His 17 victories include back-to-back U.S. Open titles (the first player to do that since Ben Hogan. Strange is the only player to finish three straight U.S. Opens under par, was the first player to crack the $1 million mark, won three money titles and was PGA player of the year in 1988.
Dudley Hart finished 144th on the PGA Tour money list last year while coping with a herniated disc in his back. He was granted a major medical extension, meaning he had seven tournaments this year to earn $105,760 - the difference between 144th and 125th on the money list.
Hart made only one cut in his first five events this year, then came up big in the Houston Open. He tied for fourth and made $220,000 - easily enough for him to keep full status the rest of the season.
HOCH, AS IN SPOKE
What was Scott Hoch doing in the Houston Open?
Hoch, who never lacks for an opinion, swore off the tournament last year when it left the TPC at The Woodlands for Redstone Golf Club. Just like his media boycott several years ago, he forgot to tell everyone.
'Last year was my silent protest, although nobody heard it,' Hoch said.
He said his wife noticed he was swinging well and persuaded him to play in the Houston Open. In hindsight, he should listen to her more often. Hoch threatened Vijay Singh in the final round and wound up second.
Hoch, who disdains any British Open links with a 'Saint' in the name (St. Andrews leads the list) and doesn't think much of Pebble Beach, did try to clarify some of the remarks he made - or didn't make - about Redstone.
'I got more quotes than I actually said,' Hoch said. 'I read some people got upset with some things that I said two years ago after finding out they were moving it, and I didn't say some of that. The worst stuff I didn't say because I wouldn't have said it. I wouldn't have used the terminology they used, so it wasn't me.
'I know one of the players got upset at me for saying it, but I'm telling you, I didn't say it.'
Jack Nicklaus had said been saying in the weeks leading to the Masters that Phil Mickelson was his pick to win the green jacket, although that's not why he was pleased to see Lefty in a green jacket.
Nicklaus was captain of the Presidents Cup team in South Africa that ended in a tie. Mickelson became the first American in team competition to lose all five of his matches.
After Mickelson won the Masters, Nicklaus said he wrote Mickelson a note telling him he was the MVP at the Presidents Cup for the way he supported his teammates.
'I felt that a guy who was so gracious in the way he handled himself in defeat, some good things were destined to happen to him,' Nicklaus said. 'I was so proud of the way he handled himself at the Presidents Cup, and I was so proud and pleased to see him win the Masters.'
Still no word on when David Duval might return to the PGA Tour, although he has filled out his entry form for the U.S. Open. ... The Golf Coaches Association of America have decided to honor Masters champion Phil Mickelson by putting his name on the trophy of the Freshman of the Year award. The Phil Mickelson Award will be given to the top freshman in all three divisions of the NCAA. ... The Franklin Templeton Shootout has raised its purse to $2.5 million. That's equivalent to the purse at The Players Championship in 1994, the largest paycheck of tournament host Greg Norman's career. ... Vijay Singh will play the Volvo PGA Championship in England the last week of May.
STAT OF THE WEEK
This was the fourth straight year the Houston Open was won by at least two strokes. The longest such streak on the PGA Tour belongs to the Memorial, where the last 10 tournaments have been decided by two strokes or more.
'A lot of times it drives you nuts because you can't remember your own name when you're out there trying to hit a shot. And you're thinking, 'Is it Carl or is it Bob?' So, I try not to get too involved in seeing everybody, but you say hello and hope they don't expect five minutes of a conversation.' - Fred Couples, on running into acquaintances at PGA Tour events.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters
DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.
David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.
Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.
Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.
''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.
''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''
Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.
But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.
''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.
The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.
Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.
Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.
In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.
Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.
The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.
“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”
Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.
“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.
ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.
“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”
ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.
“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”
J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand
CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.
A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.
''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.
Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.
''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.
Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.
''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.
Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.
Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.
The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.
Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.
Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.
The narrative wondrously started to turn here.
It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.
It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.
He is just four shots off the lead.
“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”
Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.
“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”
Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.
How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?
“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”
This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.
“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”
Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.
When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.
“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”
Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.
“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.
Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.
It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.
“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”
Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.
Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.
“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”
Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.
Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.
“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”
Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers. He got a standing ovation.
“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”
So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?
Woods seems in a hurry to find out.