Players Concerned Over Honda Course

By Associated PressMarch 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The Honda Classic moves around almost as much as major championships, with the Sunrise Course at Mirasol the fifth location in the last 10 years.
And only at majors do players fret so much about a golf course before the tournament even starts.
'I think at the end of the week, you're going to see a lot more guys spent than guys having fun,' Fred Couples said Wednesday.
During a practice round, defending champion Justin Leonard hit his tee shot about 10 feet to the right of the flag. It landed safely, trickled to the right, then disappeared. A few seconds later, and about 15 yards away, the ball emerged from behind a mound and continued rolling.
Jeff Sluman hit a 4-iron from 183 yards into the wind to a front pin on the par-3 eighth. It landed 20 feet to the right, even with the pin, but not for long. It went down a steep slope into the rough. He hit what he thought was a good chip, only to see the ball roll slowly past the hole and keep going, some 30 feet off the green.
'It's hard,' Couples said. 'I wouldn't know where to start. It's in fantastic shape. It's just very, very hard. It doesn't matter what the wind does. It's hard to put any spin on a ball when you've got to hit it in one certain area, and if you don't, it just rolls ... am I saying anything different than anyone else?'
Most guys aren't saying anything at all, perhaps not wanting to find a letter from the PGA Tour in their locker informing them of a fine for disparaging comments.
'Are we off the record?' was a popular refrain leading up to Thursday's opening round at Mirasol.
Leonard was among the more diplomatic about the Tom Fazio design when he said that 'a couple of the greens are a little severe, but everybody is going to have to get through those holes.'
What did he mean by severe?
'Well, I think (No.) 3 is pretty severe for a 245-yard par 3,' he said. 'The right side of the green just goes up and down. It looks like something I skied down a couple of months ago.'
Still, everyone will be playing the same 7,468-yard course. And everyone will be chasing the $900,000 prize.
'It will be interesting to see the comments over the course of the week,' Davis Love III said. 'I think the lower your score, the better your comments will be, as usual.'
The Honda Classic, which gets under way on Thursday, has had trouble finding a permanent home in recent years.
It was played on the TPC at Eagle Trace near Fort Lauderdale in 1996 for the ninth and final time. That location was notable for the year Kenny Knox shot 80 in the third round and still won the tournament.
With so many water hazards, and so much wind in south Florida this time of the year, Greg Norman once referred to Eagle Trace as 'carnival golf.'
It switched to the TPC at Heron Bay for the next six years, and the course was so bland the players couldn't remember the holes.
The tournament moved to Mirasol last year and was played on the adjacent Sunset course, which was deemed too easy for a PGA Tour event.
Leonard won at 24 under par, and the next dozen guys behind him were at 20 under or better.
The next stop is the Sunrise course, for at least the next three years (with an option through 2010).
The intrigue about this Honda Classic is that no one has every played the Sunrise course in tournament conditions, and yet everyone seems to know what to expect.
'I watched last year and they were in the 20-unders,' Couples said. 'This would be one way of stopping that, to build a course like this. I think 75, if they put the pins in spots, is going to be a mediocre score.'
Because of the shaved slopes around the greens that spill into deep collection areas, there have been some comparisons to Pinehurst No. 2.
The grass is so tightly mown beyond the green that it's difficult to hit a flop shot with a sand wedge up the mounds. Instead, several players were using fairway metals to putt, or chipping with a 6- or 7-iron.
'It looks like someone tried to make it look like Pinehurst, and overdid it,' Brad Faxon said.
Pinehurst, where the late Payne Stewart won the '99 U.S. Open, was a Donald Ross creation with his vintage turtleback greens. The greens at Mirasol look like the back of a humpback whale.
The ninth green is the most peculiar, stretching some 50 yards diagonally, with large slopes front and back. The green has so many contours it looks like the fairways at Royal St. Georges.
'If we went and played Pinehurst next week, it would be a piece of cake,' Couples said.
The Honda Classic might resemble a major in one other aspect -- it's going to require a lot of patience when bad things happen to good shots.
'I kind of like this,' Faxon said. 'Because it's going to get a lot of guys (upset). And it's a $5 million purse.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - The Honda Classic
  • Full Coverage - The Honda Classic
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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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    Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

    PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

    While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

    But then . . .

    “Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

    In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

    She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

    With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

    At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

    Park’s back with a hot putter.

    That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

    “The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

    Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

    “But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

    Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

    Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

    They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

    Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

    “I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

    “She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

    Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

    “I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

    Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

    “When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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    Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

    By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

    PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

    It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

    “This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

    Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

    “First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

    Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.