Tiger Woods just three back at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 26, 2009, 4:00 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. ' In their own way, Jason Gore and Tiger Woods changed their fortunes Thursday at Bay Hill.
 
Gore was not seeing any results from an overhaul to his swing until he ran off three birdies over the final four holes for a 5-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
 
Woods was in the water, in the trees and in a foul mood until he had eight consecutive one-putts ' including four straight birdies ' that put him in a good frame of mind with a 68 on a course where he has won five times as a pro.
 
I was not hitting it well, and I had to scramble and grind it out and manage to score, Woods said. He managed just fine, taking only 24 putts in the first round after ranking 74th in putting out of 79 players at Doral two weeks ago.
 
Tim Herron, who won Bay Hill in a playoff 10 years ago, and Jeff Overton had a 66, while the group at 67 included the ever-present Nick Watney and Mark Wilson, who had reason to feel outclassed on the first tee but more than held his own.
 
Wilson was in the same group as Woods and Padraig Harrington, who have won five of the last six majors. Wilson has his own history with Woods, having lost a late lead in 1992 when Woods rallied to win his second U.S. Junior Amateur.
 
But Wilson had the best day of the threesome. Harrington saved par from the water on the 18th for a 70.
 
Scored best of the tree, Wilson said, a slight distinction. I had a good time out there. I love playing with Tiger. The electricity and the energy on that first tee is something else with him.
 
Imagine the surge on the opening hole, when Woods had a difficult flop shot from about 30 yards that had to carry a bunker. Wilson wondered if Woods might begin his title defense at Bay Hill with a double bogey. Then he watched Woods shot pitch about 6 feet from the hole and roll like a putt into the cup for birdie.
 
Woods hit a tee shot into the water at No. 6 for double bogey, was lucky to escape with pars at the turn and made four birdies on the back nine to get off to a good start.
 
The only other player at Bay Hill with such charisma is Palmer, the tournament host.
 
Gore can attest to that.
 
He was 11 when his family went to Pittsburgh one summer and Gore had his mother drive him to Latrobe Country Club. They walked into the pro shop and asked if the King was around, and before long Palmer drove up in a cart that looked like a tractor.
 
He took a picture with us, signed a scorecard and he said, Son, Im going to go hit balls. Would like to come watch? Gore said. I sat right on the little slope right behind the first tee and watched Mr. Palmer hit balls for about 45 minutes. And from that point on, I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer.
 
Gore is a PGA Tour winner, but the golf hasnt gone so well lately.
 
He lost his PGA Tour card last year, then decided after Q-school to work with Mike Abbott and redo his swing. Gore wouldnt ordinarily make it to an event like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he received an exemption.
 
That was no accident.
 
Gore told Palmer last year at a corporate outing how much he had influenced his life. When he saw him earlier this month at Seminole, he thanked Palmer for the exemption. Palmer winked at him and replied, I never forgot that story.
 
The littlest things he does for a punk dressed in surf clothes who was trespassing on his property changes lives, Gore said. Hes got that power, and thats what makes him the King. And thats why hes the greatest person to this game.
 
Woods is the greatest player of his generation, slowly building his way back into shape with the Masters around the corner. This is his third tournament since an eight-month layoff from knee surgery.
 
He hit the ball well at Doral and couldnt make a putt. On Thursday, it was a good thing he could make a few putts. Woods showed flashes of his notorious temper that had been missing the last two events.
 
I didnt have it because I was hitting it so well, he said. Today, I was not hitting it well.
 
But he saved par on three straight holes, began his birdie streak on the 11th and missed a pair of putts on the last two holes inside 12 feet scratch out a 68.
 
Not everyone was that fortunate.
 
Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan, hit two balls in the water on the par-5 sixth and made a 9 on his way to a 76. Jim Furyk, who tumbled down the leaderboard in Tampa after the first round, opened with a 78. Fred Couples had an 80. Jason Day didnt finish, feeling so sick at the turn that he was driven off the course at the turn.
 
DIVOTS
Davis Love III had a 73 and was around the cut line going into the second round. Love is No. 47 in the world and likely will have to make the cut to hold his position in the top 50 and qualify for the Masters. Right behind him in the ranking is Louis Oosthuizen, who had a triple bogey and a double bogey in a span of four holes but rallied for a 72. Bay Hill is the 10-year anniversary of when Steve Williams began caddying for Tiger Woods.
 

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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.”