Trio Lead at Memorial Tiger Five Back

By Associated PressMay 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods was waiting on the edge of the 10th green Thursday when an approach shot from Charley Hoffman whizzed by his head and missed him by about a yard. Woods was about the only one who dodged illness or injury at the Memorial.
 
Phil Mickelson withdrew after 11 holes because of an injury to his left wrist, which he suspects happened at Oakmont earlier this week as he practiced chipping out of the deep rough while preparing for the U.S. Open.
 
'I couldn't grab the club and I couldn't swing,' Mickelson said.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson had to stop after 15 holes with strep throat so severe he turned down his first interview.
 
'Sorry guys, I can't talk,' he hoarsely whispered.
 
The scoring at Muirfield Village couldn't have been better with pure greens, stifling heat and calm conditions. Leading the way was Sean O'Hair, who played great golf for the second straight tournament except for a blemish on the 17th, of all holes. He still managed a 7-under 65 and was tied with the Australian duo of Rod Pampling and Nick O'Hern.
 
Ernie Els was among those at 66, a guy who felt so sick about his putting that he went to the cross-handed style and had few complaints, other than it felt weird to ditch the conventional style that carried him to three majors.
 
Even so, the theme of the first round seemed to be about survival -- especially those who didn't.
 
For those who anticipated a duel between Mickelson and Woods, that ended before the world's No. 1 player even got to the practice range. Mickelson felt the first sting after a wedge on the second hole, and he had a message therapist holding and rubbing his hand on the back nine until he hit another wedge out of divot on the 11th.
 
'I'll take a couple days off, see if I can ice it and get it ready for the Open,' he said. 'I'll go have somebody take a look at it.'
 
Woods' biggest rival turned out to be par on a day in which nearly half the field broke par. He was headed in that direction after a beautiful shot from a fairway bunker and over the pond to 10 feet for birdie on the sixth hole, his third in four holes, to reach 3 under.
 
But he made bogey with a wedge in his hand on the next hole, added a few other sloppy mistakes and needed a late birdie for 70.
 
'Today was the day to really shoot some good numbers,' Woods said. 'Look at the field -- they pretty much did. If you didn't shoot under par, you're going to get run over out there today.'
 
He also got knocked down by Hoffman, whose hit a tee shot on No. 10 hit a cart path and bounced out-of-bounds. He went back to the tee as Woods and Bart Bryant played on, and Woods was seemingly out of the way on the front right corner of the green when a small Titleist missile missed him by 3 feet.
 
'If you can't beat him, take him out,' Hoffman joked after a remarkable round. He made double bogey at No. 10 to go to 6 over par, then ran off five straight birdies and closed with a six to finish at 72.
 
O'Hair had a great birdie streak of his own, with four straight on the front nine. The difference was he didn't have any hiccups along the way until a good bogey on the 17th.
 
He played with Charles Howell III (69) and Ted Purdy (68), and there was only one bogey from that group all day.
 
'I apologized to those guys for making that bogey, because that would have been pretty cool -- no bogeys,' O'Hair said. 'I've never heard of that in my life.
 
That is lone bogey came on the 17th was only fitting.
 
This is the first tournament for O'Hair since The Players Championship, when he was two shots behind Mickelson and was his only challenger at Sawgrass until putting two balls into the water on the island-green 17th and taking a quadruple-bogey 7.
 
'They expect the 17th to be a negative,' he said, speaking of Sawgrass. 'It was two weeks ago. I'm playing today. I'm playing in the Memorial this week. So I'm going to try and win the Memorial.'
 
His immediate competition was Pampling, who birdied his half his holes, and O'Hern, who had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine and could have taken the outright lead until missing a 12-foot birdie on the final hole.
 
That put a lefty among the leaders, even if it wasn't the guy anyone was expecting.
 
'I heard Phil had to pull out,' O'Hern said. 'It's a big loss for the tournament. Hopefully, he'll be fit for Oakmont.'
 
Els ran off five straight birdies for his 66, a score he shared with Tim Herron, Ryan Moore, Bubba Watson and Aaron Baddeley. It was another small step for Els, who has not won on U.S. soil since the Memorial in 2004. He injured his left knee a year later, and has quite been the same since then, first physically, and then with his confidence.
 
'I'd like to get back to where I'm playing consistently, and I haven't quite done that,' Els said.
 
It wasn't a perfect round of golf, and Els did hole a bunker shot on the 13th and chip in for par on the 17th. The toughest part of his day was deciding to go cross-handed with the putter.
 
He used that style the final nine holes at Wentworth last week on the European tour, tinkered with it again in the pro-am but called it a 'big challenge' to go 18 holes of the first round with it.
 
'I've been conventional my whole life,' Els said. 'But I made some big ones today.'
 
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.


    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner


    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray


    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard


    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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    Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

    LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

    “I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

    By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

    Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

    “I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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    Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

    LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

    It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

    Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

    He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

    “I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

    What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

    In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

    For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

    From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

    There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

    “It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

    A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

    That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

    Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

    “[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

    It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

    Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

    “He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

    It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

    That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

    “I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

    Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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    Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

    By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

    Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

    Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

    Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

    Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

    “For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”