Tiger Out of the Gate Quick at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Another streak ended for Tiger Woods on Thursday, this one worth celebrating.
 
He finally broke 70 at Bay Hill.
 
Ending a peculiar drought at a tournament he won four straight times, Woods shot 6-under 64 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first sub-70 round in three years to share the lead with Vaughn Taylor and Paul Casey.
 
Woods played his best golf in nearly six months, giving himself a birdie opportunity on all but one hole. He opened with four birdies in the first six holes, missing putts of 10 and 12 feet on the other two.
 
'It's definitely the best round of the year,' Woods said, pausing for effect. 'I haven't played that many rounds.'
 
Even so, he could not remember the last time he hit 17 greens in regulation, especially on a Bay Hill course with ankle-deep rough framing the tight fairways.
 
And while Palmer changed the scorecard to a par 70, it didn't stop Woods or anyone else.
 
The 64 was the lowest opening round at Bay Hill since Woods shot 64 in 1998. Taylor played bogey-free, picking up birdies on two of the toughest holes, including a 5-iron over the water to 8 feet on the eighth hole.
 
Casey's only previous trip to Arnie's course was in 2004, when he shot 77 in the first round and withdrew. He also played without a bogey, joining the leaders with an approach into 7 feet for birdie on the 18th.
 
'Having it played it twice now, I can honestly say I enjoy the golf course,' Casey said.
 
The record for most rounds in the 60s on any day at Bay Hill was 41 in the second round of the 2000 tournament. With 11 players unable to finish Thursday because afternoon stroms moved into the area, there already were 42 scores in the 60s.
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson didn't have one of them. He hit into the water on No. 8 to take double bogey and followed birdies with bogeys on his way to a 72.
 
'I scored terribly,' Mickelson said. 'I scored 2 over on a course with soft greens that wasn't playing very hard.'
 
Woods won every year from 2000 through 2003, but after opening with a 67 the follow year, he failed to break 70 his next 11 rounds and was rarely in contention. He fixed that situation quickly Thursday morning, even as a strong gust kicked up early in his round.
 
'I thought it was important for me to shoot at least under par on that front nine, and that was all I was concerned about,' Woods said.
 
The only green he missed was his only bogey.
 
After a 3-wood on the 18th -- his ninth of the round -- he was between a 9-iron and a wedge over the water. The ball took aim at the pin, hit about 6 feet short, then spun enough to trickle off the green against the rocks framing the water. Woods said he could have hit the next shot if it were a practice round or his pro-am, but didn't want to risk a big number.
 
He took a penalty drop, chipped within a foot and took his lumps. He picked up three more birdies on the back nine, finishing with an approach into 6 feet on the ninth hole.
 
'I may have left one or two shots out there,' he said. 'Well, 64 around here is not too bad.'
 
It wasn't that unusual, either.
 
Sergio Garcia, Trevor Immelman and Sean O'Hair were in the group at 66, while Tampa winner Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Verplank and former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman were among those at 67. Ernie Els put his tee shot into the water on the par-5 sixth and made double bogey, but steadied himself for a 69.
 
About the only thing Palmer can do now is pour concrete on the greens.
 
'The greens were very receptive,' Casey said when asked about the good scoring in breezy conditions. 'That was key. If you were in the fairway and had the right club in your hand, you could really attack the flag.'
 
One of the par 5s converted to a par 4 was No. 4, which played even shorter from a forward tee at 463 yards. Woods and Garcia wound up hitting 5-wood off the tee and a short iron (8-iron for Woods, 7-iron for Garcia) into the green.
 
The 16th played into the wind, but most players kept the ball in the short grass and kept big numbers off their cards. That was the key for getting it around Bay Hill, for Garcia narrowly missed the fairway at the par-5 sixth and could only chop it out with a 6-iron.
 
Most everyone at Bay Hill is in the Masters or trying to get there, and each round feels like building blocks.
 
'The whole idea is just to keep improving, keep fine-tuning and have everything together the first week in April,' Woods said, who appeared headed in that direction.
 
DIVOTS
John Senden withdrew before the first round because he was ill, and it was costly. At No. 52 in the world, Senden will not be eligible for the World Golf Championship at Doral next week, and will not have a chance to qualify for the Masters. ... Tiger Woods won the Mark H. McCormack for the ninth straight year. It is given to the player to holds the No. 1 ranking for the most weeks during the calendar year. ... Dean Wilson used a 4-iron to make an ace on the 221-yard second hole. ... Tour officials set the first afternoon tee time for noon, leaving players a little more than two hours to complete the first nine holes. They had to push afternoon tee times back 30 minutes.
 
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.