Notes Harried OHair Opens in 73

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Playing golf has always been the easiest part for Sean O'Hair. His first round in the British Open was no exception. After the travails he went through to get to St. Andrews, O'Hair seemed at home on the Old Course with a 1-over 73 that started out looking even better.
The 23-year-old rookie qualified for the Open four days ago when he won the John Deere Classic. The only problem was he didn't have a passport.
Sponsors of the John Deere went out of their way to fly O'Hair back home to Philadelphia, then pulled some connections with the White House to expedite a passport process that usually takes weeks.
O'Hair got in one practice round Wednesday, then was 2 under on the front before making three bogeys over his final seven holes.
'I had three three-putts on the back nine and that really killed me,' O'Hair said. 'So I am pleased with 1 over, but I think I could always do better than that. My goal tomorrow is to get it back in the red, and I think I know the golf course well enough by now to do that.'
Caddie Chuck Mohr walked briskly up nearly empty streets Thursday morning toward the Old Course. It was 5:45 a.m., and he and his boss, Bob Estes, were in for a long day.
Estes was the first alternate at the British Open. He had to be at there for the first tee time at 6:30 a.m., and couldn't leave until the last group went off nearly 10 hours later. Cleaning out his locker soon after, Estes had an empty feeling, especially after flying in from Texas on Monday with no guarantee of playing.
'The only thing that would have bothered me is if they called my name and I wasn't there,' Estes said.
He didn't get a tee time, but Estes got plenty of respect for going the extra mile -- about 6,000 in this case -- for a fleeting chance to play in golf's oldest major.
'I pretty much didn't think I'd get in, but I had to be ready,' said Estes, known for meticulous work habits. 'We got up really early. We were on the practice ground at 6 a.m. and doing a warm-up just in case, barring anyone getting sick or hurt. The next possibility would be somebody oversleeping and missing the morning tee time.
'The rest of the time,' he added, 'I've just been here in the clubhouse or eating a meal.'

Estes flew over and went through 36-hole qualifying in 1990, the year he missed the cut. He finished three shots out of the playoff won by John Daly in 1995. He tied for 20th in 2000.
'It was expensive coming here, but it was worth it,' Estes said. 'I've played three Opens at St. Andrews. A lot of people would kill for just one. This is the world championship of golf. I know there are four majors, but this is the top of the list.'
At least Estes got in one round at the Old Course on Wednesday. And he wasn't about to come all the way to Scotland without playing some more. Estes said he would watch the rest of the first round from his hotel room, have dinner at his favorite Italian spot, then look for a game Friday.
'I'm thinking of going over to Kingsbarn,' he said. 'That's supposed to be nice.'
Once happy-go-lucky, Chris Riley never looked so subdued after such a good round. He made a rare birdie on the Road Hole for a 68 that left him two shots out of the lead.
Then again, Riley has not been himself all year. Some suspect a fallout from the Ryder Cup, when he was lampooned for telling U.S. captain Hal Sutton he was too tired to play another match after teaming with longtime friend Tiger Woods in a rare American victory.
But Riley attributes his lackluster play to adjusting to life at home. His wife gave birth to their first child just before the Ryder Cup.
'I haven't been having the best of years, but I've been spending a lot of time at home with the baby,' Riley said. 'My game has suffered a bit, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's a great time in my life, but the adjustment has been tough. I just worry too much on the road about the kid.'
Riley acknowledges he's lost his hunger, but expects it to return next year, when he's no longer is guaranteed a playing card. He is exempt on the PGA Tour for one more season because he was on the last Ryder Cup team.
'Fatherhood has definitely changed me,' Riley said. 'I'm trying to find the hungriness I once had, but I'm enjoying life.'
Englishman Steve Webster was the only player besides Tiger Woods to reach 6 under on Thursday.
Unfortunately, that was after nine holes.
After finding six bunkers on the back nine, he wound up at 1-under 71.
'It's one of those courses,' Webster said. 'If you hit the fairway, you've got a chance to make birdie. If you don't, you're just coming out of the bunker sideways.'
Webster made eagle on Nos. 5 and 9, and added two birdies on the front nine to reach the turn in 30.
'The crowd was beginning to gather and the TV cameras were coming,' Webster joked. 'I obviously saw my name up there on the leaderboard and I was playing well. I should have got a quick picture of it.'
The Road Hole provided plenty of entertainment, as usual. Duffy Waldorf was 1 under for his round when he made triple bogey on the 17th. Zach Johnson was even par until taking a 9 and shooting 77.
But not all the shots were bad.
The most spectacular moment came when Nick O'Hern and Steven Webster each hit into the bunker in front of the green. O'Hern went first and blasted out to about 2 inches. Not to be outdone, Webster hit his bunker shot to 4 inches.
Even so, the par-4 17th played as the toughest hole with an average score of about 4.6.
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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.