Tiger Hoping 30s are Prime Time

By Associated PressDecember 7, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Target World ChallengeThe moment was a reminder that Tiger Woods isn't getting any younger.
 
He was walking toward his bag on the practice range at Sherwood Country Club and noticed a small crowd gathered around his mother, who was standing in her socks, hitting balls with his 5-wood.
 
'Mom, I haven't seen you hit a ball in 10 years,' he told her.
 
Then, Kultida Woods sat in a chair behind her son and watched him work, just as she did when he was a boy.
 
His swing is nothing like it was when Woods turned pro in August 1996, certainly not the stinger shot with his driver that he began working on a month ago. The goatee is now a permanent fixture. The skinny kid from Stanford is now chiseled. He is a married man, who wants children sooner rather than later.
 
Woods turns 30 at the end of the month, making the Target World Challenge the final tournament in his 20s.
 
'Pretty impressive decade,' David Toms said, shaking his head.
 
Woods won 46 times on the PGA Tour in his 20s; only six men have won more in their careers. His 10 majors trail only Jack Nicklaus (18) and Walter Hagen (11).
 
And considering most golfers blossom in their 30s, Woods might just be getting started.
 
'If you look at most of the guys' careers, it looks like their peak years are in their 30s,' Woods said. 'Hopefully, that will be the case for me. Hopefully, my 30s will be better than my 20s. Obviously, there is a lot deeper competition, a lot more work I need to do, work to accomplish those goals.
 
'But winning major championships is what I want to do for the rest of my career.'
 
The focus has always been on Nicklaus' record for most majors. Woods reached the halfway point by capturing the Masters in a playoff, and he reached double digits with a wire-to-wire victory at the British Open, where Nicklaus played a major for the final time.
 
If Nicklaus indeed is his gauge, Woods is on pace.
 
Nicklaus won 30 times in his 20s, although he didn't turn pro until he was 22. Seven of those were majors, including three green jackets (Woods now has four).
 
What does the next decade hold?
 
'If he keeps his desire the way it is, there are no limits for how good he can be,' Thomas Bjorn said Wednesday. 'He was dominant from the day he came out. We were well aware we had someone special on our hands.'
 
Arnold Palmer won 44 times and six majors in his 30s, the most PGA Tour victories by anyone at that age. Nicklaus won 38 times and eight majors in his 30s, and if Woods matches him, that would put him at 84 victories (breaking Sam Snead's record of 82 career wins) and 18 majors (tying Nicklaus).
 
And to think that his biggest goal when he turned pro was to avoid Q-school.
 
Woods still considers his rookie year -- or two months, in his case -- to be among his greatest achievements. He was trying to earn enough money to secure his card for the '97 season, and wound up qualifying for the Tour Championship with two victories in seven starts.
 
'I was praying not to go to Q-school,' he said. 'I had my application sent in, and because I had no status, I had to go to first stage. I was hoping that wouldn't happen, because anything can happen.'
 
Then came the '97 Masters, which he won with a record score (18-under 270) by a record margin (12 shots). Back then, winning a major came with a 10-year exemption on tour, and Woods figured he was set.
 
On Tuesday, Woods won the PGA Tour player of the year award for the seventh time, and this was the fifth time in nine full seasons that he has won player of the year, the money title and Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
 
'He's one of those special guys that doesn't come along very often,' Toms said. 'Watching his game, how he goes about his business, it's still very impressive. You can tell he's been able to do what he's done because he's different. He's more driven and more focused than any person I've ever been around in professional golf.'
 
It was only a year ago at this tournament that he no longer was No. 1 in the world, replaced by Vijay Singh, and players were whispering that his swing changes with Hank Haney were holding him back.
 
Woods was overly sensitive to the criticism last year, but now says he understands. He overhauled his swing with Butch Harmon after his record win at the Masters, and came back with one of the greatest stretches in golf, including four straight majors.
 
This change was partly about health.
 
'That's the reason why I made the changes, to relieve some stress on my body parts that were taking a pounding,' said Woods, who had surgery on his left knee at the end of 2002. 'The end result is I've relieved some stress there, which has been great. I've been more healthy and feeling better.'
 
U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell played with Woods in China and at the Grand Slam, and noticed a swing that looks less forced, more natural. Woods, who was starting to grasp Haney's changes about this time last year, said he is 10 times better and no longer needs to call Haney whenever something goes wrong.
 
Health likely will play a big role in his 30s. For, as much as Woods works out, he complained of a rib injury at the Presidents Cup and an ankle injury when he was in Asia.
 
Most players believe the bigger question is desire.
 
'I'll quit playing when I can't play any more, when my best isn't good enough,' Woods said. 'I've been to the top, where if I play my best, I know I can win. If my best isn't good enough, why am I out here? I'll go home.'
 
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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.