Scott Hangs on for Win in Houston

By Associated PressApril 1, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 Shell Houston OpenHUMBLE, Texas -- Adam Scott came to the Houston Open starving for the stress of competition to prepare him for the Masters.
 
He got what he needed from fellow Australian Stuart Appleby.
 
Scott held off Appleby with a 6-under 66 on Sunday, saving par with a 50-foot putt on the 72nd hole after hitting his tee shot into the water.
 
Scott finished at 17 under, three strokes ahead of Appleby, the defending champion, and third-round leader Bubba Watson.
 
Scott said before the tournament that he was rusty after taking a month off earlier this year. He tied for 61st at Doral and was pleasantly surprised how well his game held up under pressure this week heading into the Masters.
 
'It was good for me to play in the heat of the battle again,' Scott said. 'Just to know how to control your nerves will be good for me.'
 
Playing together, Scott led Appleby by one stroke as they stood on the 18th tee, but Scott pulled his tee shot into the pond that lines the left side of the 488-yard hole, the course's most difficult.
 
Scott immediately had a flashback to the 2004 Players Championship, when he had a two-shot lead on the final day and pulled a 6-iron into the water on the 72nd hole.
 
'I don't know. Water on the left,' Scott said. 'It's not ideal for me, obviously.'
 
He salvaged a winning bogey at Sawgrass and got away with it again Sunday.
 
Appleby drove into the fairway bunker, then immediately gave Scott a reprieve by hitting his approach into the water near the green.
 
'I knew what I had to do,' Appleby said. 'It's just a matter of you've got to do it. And I didn't get to do it.'
 
Scott took his drop, hit his approach safely away from the water, then holed the par-saving putt. He pumped his fist, Tiger Woods-style, after the ball disappeared and the crowd roared.
 
'It was relief, along with elation,' said Scott, who earned his first win since last year's Tour Championship. 'I was pretty happy for it to be all over with, because it was looking a bit messy.'
 
Appleby took a double bogey to finish with a 69. But it was easily his best finish of the year and filled him with confidence heading to Augusta.
 
'I like the way I hit the ball,' he said. 'I want to get there (to Augusta) and get set for that. I'm ready to go.'
 
Watson, searching for his first win, birdied the last hole for a 72.
 
Scott became the sixth Australian to win the Houston Open, joining Appleby, Bruce Devlin, Bruce Crampton, David Graham and Robert Allenby. Appleby and Crampton have won it twice and the eight victories by Australians are the most in any U.S. tour event. Only the British Open (9) has had more champions from Down Under.
 
Appleby joked that it eased the sting of losing to know that another Aussie won.
 
'Marginally,' Appleby said.
 
The 26-year-old Scott spent four weeks in Europe before returning at Doral. He shot a final-round 80 -- including a 10 on one hole -- and wasn't optimistic before the Houston Open started.
 
But his swing held up all week and his putting improved with each round, even when his nerves started to fray.
 
'I really needed to be in contention this week and take something out of it,' Scott said. 'I can feed off that for next week now.'
 
Appleby and Scott started the day three shots behind Watson, but caught him with birdies on three of their first five holes. The Aussies matched each other shot for shot from there until Appleby bogeyed the par-3 14th and lost the lead for good.
 
Scott hit two mammoth 3-woods to reach the 608-yard 15th hole and he two-putted to move to 17 under. Appleby bogeyed the 16th, then birdied the 17th to set up the tense finish.
 
'It's funny what happens coming down the stretch,' Scott said. 'We were solid all day and all of a sudden, you know, a couple of funny shots happened.'
 
Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway for the second straight day after a morning thunderstorm dumped a half-inch of rain.
 
Storms Saturday morning postponed the start of the third round for six hours and Watson was one of 27 players who came back Sunday morning to finish.
 
Watson bogeyed two of the three holes he played as the sun came up, but still shot an 8-under 64, which tied the course record set on Saturday by Johnson Wagner.
 
Wagner, a 27-year-old tour rookie, started the final round in a five-way tie at 11 under, along with Scott, Appleby, Houston resident Jeff Maggert and Paul Stankowski.
 
DIVOTS
Robert Garrigus birdied four of the last five holes, capped by a 60-foot putt on the 18th hole, to shoot 65 and finish 12 under. ... Tommy Armour III, who got into the tournament through a local qualifier last Monday, shot a final-round 66 and finished 13 under. The 47-year-old Armour earned his biggest paycheck ($264,000) since tying for second at the 2004 Chrysler Championship. ... David Toms, who helped design the course with Rees Jones, finished 6 under.
 
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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.”