Notes Tiger Undergoes Second Round of LASIK
He realized this spring it was time to do it again.
``My vision started slipping,'' Woods said after THE PLAYERS Championship. ``I was getting headaches from squinting all the time.''
He said he had laser surgery for the second time the Monday after the Masters.
``Mine stayed the way it should for ... what is it, eight years now?'' Woods said. ``That's pretty good.''
Just as in 1999, Woods won his first tournament after eye surgery when he captured the Wachovia Championship by two shots. But that's where the similarity ends. His victory at Disney in 1999 was the second of six consecutive PGA TOUR victories. Woods tied for 37th last week, his worst finish since missing the cut at the U.S. Open last summer.
Joey Sindelar walked off the 18th green at THE PLAYERS Championship with a wistful feeling. He is doing that at a lot of tournaments these days, not because of his game, but his birth certificate.
Sindelar, a seven-time winner on the PGA TOUR, turns 50 in March.
``This is a very bizarre time for me,'' he said last week. ``I don't know when I walk off this green or Harbourtown or Wachovia ... is that the last time I did that? I don't know the answer. Very weird.''
He likely will join the Champions Tour instead of trying to play both as Jay Haas once did and Fred Funk does now. But he figures the competition will be strong, in part because guys his age have stayed competitive until they graduated to the Champions Tour. Hal Sutton, Mark O'Meara, John Cook, Bob Tway and Scott Hoch all turned pro from 1979 to 1981.
``The generation prior to us, what was there to stay on TOUR for?'' Sindelar said. ``What was 100th (on the money list) back then. Now 100th is worth staying around for in my world. We're the first generation that it was worth fighting, where you wouldn't say, 'I can stay home and make that much money.'''
The best part of turning 50?
``What thrills me is not living by the word 'cut' anymore,'' Sindelar said. ``My entire life has been consumed by that.''
Jose Coceres didn't even make it through Q-school last year and started the season with only past champion status, having won at Disney and Hilton Head in 2001.
But he sure made the most of his opportunities.
The Argentine lost in a playoff to Fred Funk in Mexico. That got him into the Honda Classic, where he lost in the four-man playoff won by Mark Wilson. That helped him move high enough up the FedExCup list to get a spot at THE PLAYERS Championship, where he finished fifth.
He already has earned nearly $1.2 million and is 32nd in the FedExCup. Not bad for a guy who had not finished higher than 106th on the money list over the last five years.
Geoff Ogilvy hasn't won on the PGA TOUR since his U.S. Open victory at Winged Foot last year, although he was a finalist at the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for third at Doral.
He was asked if he feels more pressure to succeed, or less pressure because he already has a major.
``More and less,'' Ogilvy said. ``Sometimes I think I probably put too much expectations on myself. At other times, I'm like, 'What do I care? I just won the U.S. Open.' It's a bit of both.''
CARD OF THE WEEK:
For those who say par is a good score at THE PLAYERS Championship, consider Justin Leonard.
He made 33 pars over the first two rounds.
Alas, those were the only two rounds he played, for the par machine also was the only player at Sawgrass who failed to make birdie. Even so, it was a cruel send-off for the '98 PLAYERS champion.
Leonard took double bogey when it took him four shots to hole out from behind the seventh green. His layup on the par-5 ninth was behind a tree, forcing him to pitch out and take bogey. And in the howling wind at the island-green 17th, he put one ball in the water and three-putted for triple bogey.
He finished his week with 19 consecutive pars, missing a 10-foot birdie on his 36th hole to make the cut.
Darren Clarke withdrew from the Irish Open because of a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the Wachovia Championship and THE PLAYERS Championship. He said doctors told him he could aggravate the injury if he tried to play. He hopes to return next week for the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour. ... Charlie Sifford, the first black player to win a PGA TOUR event, received an honorary degree last week from Lincoln University in Missouri. ... The new video scoreboards that debuted last week at THE PLAYERS Championship had only one noticeable glitch. It showed Anthony Kim's picture over Joey Sindelar's name. ... The World Golf Hall of Fame plans an exhibit featuring the life and career of Jack Nicklaus. It will open Nov. 12 in conjunction with the induction ceremony and be on display for one year.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Tiger Woods has not finished in the top 10 at THE PLAYERS Championship since winning in 2001.
``I've only played decent on one Pete Dye golf course and that's the one I won at in Quad Cities. And it didn't look anything like this.'' - David Toms, who has never finished better than 12th at THE PLAYERS Championship.
LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019
The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.
The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.
The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.
The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at Club de Golf de Panama.
Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins
An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.
It was too much “socializing.”
“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”
Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.
“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”
Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.
His plan for doing that?
“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”
McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018
Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.
So much for easing into the new year.
So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.
McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.
“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”
McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.
If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.
After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.
“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.
“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”
A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.
A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.
Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.
To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.
Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.
McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.
“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.
A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.
“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”
A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.
Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open
SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.
The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.
Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.
Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.
''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''
The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.
''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''
Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.
''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.
Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.
He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.
Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.
Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.
He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.
Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.