Notes Tiger Oh-So-Close

By Associated PressMarch 27, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The ball made a terrible thud, ricocheting off the grandstand and into the hands of a lucky fan watching the action on the 18th hole.
 
That was part of a bogey-bogey finish in The Players Championship that turned what could have been a great round into one that was just good by Tiger Woods standards. Woods shot a 4-under 68 to finish at 4 under through three rounds, six strokes behind leader Adam Scott.
 
I had a not-so-good finish, but overall I played really well today, Woods said. All the hard work was starting to pay off.
 
Woods pulled as close as three shots early in his round ' quite a feat considering he shot 3 over on Thursday and was in danger of missing the cut.
 
On Saturday, he looked every bit like the worlds best player at times, especially on 9, where he chipped in from the rough for birdie, and offered up a little fist pump, the likes of which havent been seen in a while.
 
He went out in 32 and stayed hot early on the back nine. On No. 12, he knocked an approach shot to 2 feet for birdie, and on the par-3 13th, he hit his tee shot to 6 feet, then converted the putt and pumped his fist again.
 
But on No. 17, Woods teed off into the rough on the edge of the island. And on 18, he felt a gust of wind in his backswing and didnt hit the approach shot the way he should have.
 
I should have just backed off the shot, Woods said.
 
He didnt, and now his climb on Sunday will be that much harder.
 
Popeye
 
Before the leaders had even made it to the course, Craig Parry was out there becoming one of them.
 
Helped by two eagles, Parry shot an 8-under-par 64, one stroke off the course record. He finished his round at 10:45 AM, and stood at 6 under, just three strokes out of the lead at the time. When the day was over, more than seven hours later, Parry was just four off the lead, tied for ninth.
 
Two eagles in one round, its amazing, Parry said. Normally, I get two eagles in one year, and Ive had three already.
 
The third eagle he spoke of could go down as the shot of the year; it was the 176-yard fairway shot he holed out in sudden death three weeks ago to win the Ford Championship at Doral.
 
By those standards, Parrys latest eagles were routine. Taking advantage of calm conditions in his morning round, he hit his second shot to 5 feet on the par-5 11th and made the putt. On the par-5 16th, he hit his approach to 18 feet and converted there, too.
 
The course record of 63 is held by Fred Couples (1992) and Greg Norman (1994). The Sharks four-round score of 264 was so low, it caused the tour to make big changes and toughen up the Stadium Course.
 
Darn Rules!
 
Second-round co-leader Kevin Sutherland fell victim to a difficult ruling on the 16th hole.
 
His second shot landed in front of a divot that had been filled past the top with sand. Concerned that he would improve his lie by grounding the club behind the ball, and in the sand, Sutherland asked for a ruling.
 
Rules officials told him not to ground the club. He didnt and wound up hitting a bad shot that didnt make the green. He made bogey on the third-easiest hole on the course, and wound up two strokes off the lead.
 
But according to rule 13.2, Sutherland could have lightly grounded the club, so long as he didnt improve his lie. If he had improved his lie, it would have been a two-stroke penalty, PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell said.
 
I didnt know that rule, Sutherland said. Obviously, they didnt know it either. It would have been nice to know at the time.
 
Russell conceded Sutherland was never told he could lightly ground the club. Asked if Sutherland had a legitimate beef with the ruling, Russell said: A small one. He does. But what were trying to do there is protect him. Theres a fine line there of what you can do without being penalized.
 
NOONAN!
 
Heckling returned to the PGA Tour when a fan shouted as Jerry Kelly was at the top of his swing on the 18th tee.
 
He yelled, Noonan! from Caddyshack. It was right in his swing, said Kevin Sutherland, paired with Kelly in the final group of the third round. We dont know who it was, but its inappropriate.
 
Last month, a fan kept saying, No Love, as Davis Love III stepped to his ball during the final round of the Match Play Championship. Love refused to continue the match until the fan was removed.
 
Kelly, who has one of the most fiery personalities on tour, glared at the direction of the voice and let his caddie try to find the heckler. Kelly then took his ball off the tee, put his driver back in the bag and started his process over.
 
He wound up hitting a good drive and making par for a 74, leaving him three shots off the lead.
 
You can say anything you want after were done, Sutherland said. But you do it in someones swing, thats against the etiquette of the game.
 
Easy Does It
 
How tough is the Stadium Course? So tough that even swashbuckling Phil Mickelson feels hes forced to play it conservatively.
 
Mickelson said the thing he was proudest about during his round of 2-under 70 was his decision to take bogeys in bad situations and not try to make a hero shot to save par.
 
There were three or four times where I made bogey, I accepted it and moved on, he said of the round that included four bogeys, four birdies and an eagle.
 
But golf fans, take heart. Mickelson said this is not the start of an evolution toward a more conservative game.
 
Id love to try to save pars, but I dont have the shots to get close under these conditions, he said. I cant stand accepting bogeys. Its something I hate to do, but its better than the alternative.
 
Divots
 
Only four balls went into the water surrounding No. 17 on Saturday. It would have been five had Matt Gogel not gotten the bounce of the day, when his tee shot hit smack on top of a railroad tie that surrounds the island and bounced onto the green. Gogel made par. ...John Dalys shot at the Masters is no longer in his hands. Daly needed to finish 19th or better to qualify, but shot 76 to fall into a tie for 66th place. He can still get in the Masters by finishing in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list (hes No. 9), but nine of the top 11 players on the leaderboard would move ahead of him with a victory; and four of those can jump ahead by finishing second. ...Also hurting his chances at qualifying for the Masters was Loren Roberts, who shot a 43 on the back and stood at 222, in second-to-last place.
 
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    O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


    ''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.

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    Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

    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.”

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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    ''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.

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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.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    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.