Notes Love Garcia Left to Wonder

By Associated PressJune 19, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Davis Love III was left thinking about what could have been. So was Sergio Garcia.
Both raced up the leaderboard Sunday with solid final rounds in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, with Love's 1-under 69 moving him into a tie for sixth. After a 77 on Thursday, he had scores of 70 and 70 before completing the championship with one of only four rounds under par.
'I've been thinking about it for three days,' Love said. 'I'm extremely disappointed with the first round. I put it out of my head and I played three good days after that, but you're just not going to win shooting 77.'
Garcia started a couple of shots closer to the lead than Love and finished with a 70, which was good for a tie for third.
'I really feel like I shot the highest score I could shoot today,' he said. 'I would not shoot any higher today. You've got to get breaks and you've got to make a couple of putts. If you do that, you're standing up here with the cup.'
For Love, the result was particularly disappointing, considering his experience at No. 2. He played the course often as a college student at the University of North Carolina, but all that had little effect on the weekend.
'I've played here probably more than anybody in the field,' he said. 'We never see it like this, but I played it a lot.'
The final round collapses of underdogs Olin Browne and Jason Gore weren't entirely unexpected. Retief Goosen? That's another thing.
Remarkably, none of the three players at the top of the leaderboard at the start of play Sunday managed to break 80, with Browne matching that figure to finish as 'low' man on the list. Goosen stumbled to an 81 that included a stretch of four bogeys in a row on the back nine, and Gore was even worse.
The burly crowd favorite came home playing bogey golf, completing his 84 with a nine-over 44 on the back.
'I fought all the way and just couldn't stop the bleeding,' Gore said.
Goosen's round was eerily similar to the effort of his pal Ernie Els in the 2004 Open, when he finished with an 80 in the final pairing as Goosen won his second title. On this day, the normally unflappable Goosen couldn't beat that score.
'It's just one of those rounds,' he said. 'I haven't putted this badly in a long time. We all have bad rounds. It's unfortunate it happened in this tournament.'
The 81 was the highest closing score by a third-round leader in the Open since Gil Morgan shot 81 in the wind at Pebble Beach in 1992.
Arron Oberholser's first trip to the Open resulted in a tie for ninth. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough to give him another first - a trip to the Masters.
The top eight and ties get exemptions to Augusta, leaving Mark Hensby as the only one making his inaugural trip.
At least Oberholser gets to come back to the Open as one of the top 15, a total that included Champions Tour player Peter Jacobsen. He got in this year after a victory in U.S. Senior Open but automatically will be invited back to Winged Foot in 2006.
Also getting a return ticket was Corey Pavin, whose 10-year exemption for his 1995 victory at Shinnecock Hills ran out this year. He tied for 11th.
John Daly shot a 2-under 68 the first time he played Pinehurst No. 2 six years ago. He hasn't broken par in a U.S. Open since then, and his return this week was not much help.
He didn't swat any moving balls with this putter as he did in the final round in 1999, but Daly had a triple bogey on the second hole and a double bogey on the par-5 10th to close with a 76 and finish at 19 over par.
'You were 1 under,' his caddie told him. 'Par is 20 over this week.'
That brought a smile from Daly, who was more perplexed than he was frustrated.
'I tried as hard as I could,' Daly said. 'I don't think anyone can shoot under par. It's just brutal, and that's what the U.S. Open is all about.'
Daly has played only two other times in the U.S. Open since 1999, withdrawing the next year at Pebble Beach after an 83 in the first round, and tying for 70th in 2002 at Bethpage Black.
Reality sets in quickly for University of Florida junior Matt Every, the low amateur in the Open. On Tuesday, he leaves for the Northeast Amateur, where his gallery likely will including his family and maybe his hosts for the week.
'Talk about a buzz kill,' Every said with a laugh. 'I'm not knocking the Northeast Am. It's an awesome amateur tournament, but it's not the U.S. Open.'
Every was solid throughout the tournament, finishing his 72 holes without a double bogey. On the 18th in the final round, he made a knee-knocker for par to complete an even-par 70, one of eight one-putt greens for the 21-year-old.
'Yeah, it's crazy,' he said. 'I moved the ball back in my stance a little bit. I don't know if that helped - it probably helped me mentally, just something to fool around with - but they rolled a little better, so it worked out.'
He hopes the improvement on that part of his game will continue before he turns pro.
'I think I can make a living out here, to tell you the truth,' Every said. 'But if I want to be great, or better than average, I definitely have to roll it a little better.'
Officially, Chris Nallen was the only player in the first group off the tee. But he had an unofficial partner.
Good friend Trip Kuehne, an amateur who didn't make the cut and the older brother of Tour player Hank Kuehne, paired with Nallen as a marker, trying to keep pace of play within reason. Still, they went around Pinehurst No. 2 in exactly three hours, with Nallen finishing with a 5-over 75.
'We played Walker Cup together and it was nice to have him out there, kind of just keeping me loose and playing,' said Nallen, who was in his first Open. 'He was gracious to me, courteous, and we had a good time. We talked the whole way around.'
Nallen's claim to fame in a brief career is becoming the first player in Nationwide Tour history to Monday qualify for his first start, then win it by leading wire-to-wire. In 1994, Kuehne lost to Tiger Woods in the U.S. Amateur final, but he never turned pro.
'We just went out and played,' Kuehne said. 'It was two friends playing golf, and I was trying to encourage Chris so he could shoot a low score, and we had a good time. We took our time. You obviously don't have to wait, so you just get up there, get a yardage and hit it, and go find it.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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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.”