Three Tied Tiger One Back

By Associated PressMarch 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Bay Hill InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Soft greens and benign conditions must have made players wonder if they were really at the Bay Hill Invitational on Thursday. All it took was Tiger Woods near the lead to remind them.
Trying to become the first player on any tour to win the same tournament five straight times, Woods got off to a solid start by missing only one fairway in a round of 5-under 67 that left him one shot out of the lead.
'I haven't won yet,' Woods said when asked again what would it mean to win five years in a row. 'Hopefully, I have a chance this year. I've set myself up. I have three more rounds -- a long way to go.'
And there are so many talented players around him.
Chad Campbell and Darren Clarke each navigated Bay Hill without a bogey in their rounds of 66, while Shigeki Maruyama joined them late in the afternoon when the greens became slightly firmer.
John Daly also joined the chase, returning from a freak hand accident to shoot 68.
'This course has not been kind to me in the past,' said Daly, whose adventures at Bay Hill include an 18 on the par-5 sixth hole in 1998 and an 87 in the final round in 2000. 'It's just good to play at Arnie's tournament, and to play well for a change.'
Tournament host Arnold Palmer received ovations at every turn, despite an 88, his highest score ever. His legion of fans had some good golf to cheer, as Campbell played with the King for the first time.
'Showing off, trying to impress him,' Campbell joked. 'I was real excited about coming out to play today. It's a pretty memorable experience. We owe him so much.'
Campbell, who ended last year by winning the Tour Championship, was efficient as ever. He chipped in from 45 feet on the tough par-3 second hole, and closed out his round with good iron shots into 12 feet on Nos. 7 and 8.
'I didn't give myself any trouble,' he said.
Clarke had to scramble a couple of times. He holed a 20-foot par putt on No. 6 after a poor chip from behind the green, and got away with a chunked approach on No. 18 by chipping to 5 feet for another good save.
Maruyama had seven birdies, narrowly avoiding trouble on the 18th hole when his 8-iron just cleared the water.
'Almost water,' he said, wiping his brow. 'Scary.'
Nationwide Tour player of the year Zach Johnson, Mercedes Championships winner Stuart Appleby and Jerry Kelly joined Woods at 67. The best round of that group probably belonged to Kelly, who not only played in the afternoon, but spent Wednesday night in the hospital with food poisoning.
Daly was in a large group at 68 that included Vijay Singh, Brad Faxon, Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott, while Mark O'Meara, Davis Love III and British Open champion Ben Curtis were among those at 69.
Still, most of the attention was on Woods.
Maruyama used a translator for most of his interview until he got to the question about Woods trying to win Bay Hill for the fifth year in a row.
'Possible,' he said, breaking into a wide grin. 'Very possible.'
Woods overpowered the par 5s, as usual. He made birdie on all four of them, and had eagle putts twice. But what set this round apart was his driving, which continues to be strong after a bad year off the tee.
He never hit into the rough in the first round, although the one fairway Woods missed came at No. 3 when he pulled his 3-wood into the water and made bogey.
Woods followed with a 320-yard drive that set up an easy birdie, and he had the outright lead most of the morning with a flop shot from deep rough on the par-5 12th that cleared the bunker and caught the right edge of the cup.
'You just expect it,' Baddeley said of Woods' name being on the leaderboard at Bay Hill. 'That's unusual if you don't see his name on the board. All I can do is worry about my little golf ball, and whoever shoots the lowest score is going to win.'
The last four years, that's been Woods.
The 67 was his best start since he opened the Funai Classic at Disney in October with a 66.
Still, no one is saying that the tournament is over, as Colin Montgomerie once suggested when Woods opened with a 69 four years ago (and eventually won by four).
Heavy rains earlier in the week allowed for softer conditions on the normally brick-hard greens, and more than 70 players were at par or better. The forecast is for continued sunshine the rest of the week, so Bay Hill figures to get even more difficult with each round.
Divots: Ernie Els, in his first PGA Tour event since winning the Sony Open, shot 73. ... Maybe it was more than just a coincidence that Daly, Craig Parry and Todd Hamilton were grouped together the first two rounds. All three won this year with incredible shots on the final hole -- Daly hitting a 100-foot bunker shot to within 4 inches at Torrey Pines; Parry holing a 6-iron for eagle in playoff at Doral; and Hamilton an 8-iron to 4 feet to win last week in the Honda Classic. ... Curtis appears to have settled on Jupiter, Fla., as his second home. Curtis, who lives outside Columbus, Ohio, had been leaning toward the Naples area, but he and his wife are good friends with Fredrik Jacobson, one of many Swedes living in Jupiter.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Bay Hill Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Bay Hill Invitational
  • Getty Images

    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

    Getty Images

    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

    Getty Images

    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

    Getty Images

    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.