Notes Skins Game Finally Set to Get Funky

By Associated PressSeptember 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
Fred Funk already has enjoyed a dream career, considering where he started and what he's got.
 
He spent six years as the golf coach at Maryland, and for a guy who feels like Herbie on a road full of Corvettes, his short-but-straight tee ball has brought him seven PGA Tour victories, more than $17 million in earnings, two trips to the Presidents Cup and one to the Ryder Cup.
 
The latest example of his success: Funk is going to the Skins Game.
 
``They called and told me I was in the Skins Game and I said, 'Which Skins Game? The one over Thanksgiving?''' Funk, 49, said last week at the Presidents Cup. ``I said, 'How the hell did I qualify for that?'''
 
He got in by winning The Players Championship, making him the oldest winner in its 32-year history.
 
The foursome for the Merrill Lynch Skins Game, to be played Nov. 26-27 at Trilogy Golf Club in La Quinta, Calif., will be rounded out by some usual suspects -- defending champion Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam, who will be playing for the third straight year.
 
Funk, who ranked 192nd in driving distance last year, now faces some big pressure for the silly season. Along with trying to win skins, his big concern is not being the shortest hitter in the group.
 
``Tiger came up to me the other day and said Annika is the fourth,'' Funk said. ``He said, 'If she outdrives you once, you will never, ever, ever hear the end of it.'''
 
WGC AWAITS
Vaughn Taylor closed with a 67 to tie for 39th in the Texas Open, but it was just enough to get into his first World Golf Championship.
 
Taylor earned $14,700 to jump past Fred Couples and Brad Faxon and into 30th on the PGA Tour money list. Monday was the first deadline to qualify for the $7.5 million American Express Championship, to be played Oct. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco.
 
Faxon is recovering from knee surgery and couldn't play, anyway. Couples was at the Presidents Cup, but he already got in for being among the top 50 in the world ranking. There is still one more week to qualify, in part to give those at the Presidents Cup a chance to make money or improve their ranking.
 
Also getting into the Amex was Olin Browne, who started the year with conditional status on tour. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship to pick up $990,000, then finished second at the Texas Open and went to No. 22 on the money list.
 
It will be the second WGC event for Browne. He lost to Davis Love III in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship five years ago.
 
Browne took the news in stride.
 
``I'm not a goal setter, so this is all gravy for me,'' he said. ``If I set goals and I don't get to them, I'll be bouncing off the walls. And if I do get to them, then I'm not trying hard enough.''
 
PARTNERS
Tiger Woods was in the locker room at Firestone last year, a month before the Ryder Cup, when Jim Furyk's name came up in conversation.
 
``He's the toughest guy on this team,'' said Woods, who had beaten Furyk in a seven-hole playoff at the NEC Invitational three years earlier. ``I would love to play with him.''
 
The Presidents Cup was the eighth time they were on the same team, but the first time as partners. They went 2-0-1 against strong competition, and one can only suspect Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman was taking notes.
 
``Even though we have a different style of games, our personalities are very similar in how we approach the game of golf and how we compete,'' Woods said. ``So from that standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer.''
 
What took so long?
 
``It might just be the difference in length,'' Woods said. ``That sometimes can be something that deters captains from putting guys together.''
 
ALL IN THE EYES
As well as Michelle Wie swings the club, there is some concern about her putting. Her father thinks the solution is in her eyes.
 
``We discovered a vision problem with Michelle,'' B.J. Wie said. ``Somehow, the left eye it too dominant, and when she looks at an object, the right eye is not paying attention. She has a problem with depth perception.''
 
He said his daughter was doing exercises for her eyes to help improve her vision, and a doctor she saw said the problem could be corrected in a month.
 
``She has a good putting stroke,'' B.J. Wie said. ``But I noticed she cannot read putts well because of the eye vision problem. Whenever she has a caddie who can read putts, she improves her putting.''
 
CHANGING THE GAME
Tiger Woods was supposed to hit a golf shot in Central Park on Monday during a whirlwind visit to New York to promote his new EA Sports game, but his back was still bothering him.
 
He already did the heavy lifting for the game, though, deciding to wear a skintight suit with tiny nodes that allow his image to be transferred to the video game. Woods figured his swing has changed substantially since he first did the EA Sports game in 1999, and it was time to give the consumers what they see on TV.
 
``My swing has evolved and changed over the past year and a half, and we wanted to get something that was realistic to the gamers -- not something that was old -- and make it more up-to-date,'' Woods said in a conference call Monday for the Target World Challenge. ``If you look at my swing now versus when it first came out in 1999, you'll definitely see a dramatic difference.''
 
Woods said he would rest and lift light weights to get ready for the American Express Championship next week.
 
DIVOTS
In another example of how far Jason Gore has come this year, he now gets to play in the silly season. Gore has been added to the Franklin Templeton Shootout because Ian Poulter had to withdraw. He also will compete in the ADT Skills Challenge at Trump International in south Florida. Also in the ADT Skills field is 19-year-old Solheim Cup star Paula Creamer. ... Fresh off the Solheim Cup, Crooked Stick has been chosen to host the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur. ... A few months after Kiawah Island was awarded the 2012 PGA Championship, the golf resort on Tuesday named Roger Warren as its president. Warren is president of the PGA of America, and previously worked at Kiawah as its golf director.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Greg Turner in 1998 is the only captain's pick on the International team to produce a winning record in the Presidents Cup.
 
FINAL WORD
``(Nothing).'' -- The International team, which did not attend its news conference after losing the Presidents Cup.
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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

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.


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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.

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List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.


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Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


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Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.

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Woods doesn't mind 'fun' but brutal 17th hole

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods doesn’t mind the boisterous crowd that surrounds the par-3 17th hole at PGA National.

And why should he?

When the wind died down Friday afternoon, Woods played a “big ol’ cut” with a 5-iron that dropped 12 feet from the cup. He made the putt – one of just nine birdies on the day – and when he walked off the green, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

The scene is expected to be even more raucous Saturday at the Honda Classic, especially with Woods in contention.

There is a Goslings Bear Trap tent just to the right of the tee. The hole has become a hot topic in recent years, after a few players complained that the noise from the nearby crowd was distracting as they tried to play a wind-blown, 190-yard shot over water.


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Woods was asked his thoughts on the party setup after finishing his second-round 71.

“As long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, we’re fine,” he said. “They can be raucous. They are having a great time. It’s fun. They are having a blast, and hopefully we can execute golf shots, but as long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, everything’s cool.”

After the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, a few players told Woods that fans were trying to time their screams with the players’ downswings.

“There’s really no reason to do that,” Woods said. “I think that most of the people there at 17 are golfers, and they understand how hard a golf shot that is. So they are being respectful, but obviously libations are flowing.”

The 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course Friday, with a 3.74 scoring average and a combined score to par of 104 over. More than a quarter of the tee shots found the water.