Van Pelt goes on birdie binge in Mexico

By Associated PressFebruary 26, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Mayakoba Golf ClassicPLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico ' Midway through his first round at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Bo Van Pelt was right where he started ' even par. And he was OK with that considering the wind had turned completely around from his lone practice round, making the course feel entirely new.
 
He sure figured things out quickly.
 
Van Pelt birdied seven of his last nine holes Thursday for a 7-under 63 and the first-round lead. He started the run with four straight birdies, then birdied three of the final four holes, including about a 2-foot putt to close the round in style.
 
I played pretty aggressive, Van Pelt said. No matter what I was hitting, it was going straight.
 
Chris Riley and Jarrod Lyle opened with 65s. Rookie Scott Piercy, who has three top-25 finishes in four starts this year, was in a group at 66.
 
Defending champion Brian Gay was tied for 20th at 68. David Toms ' the worlds 65th-ranked player, leaving him one spot from making the Match Play field ' shot a 70.
 
From the start, Van Pelt was accurate off the tee, which is a must to handle the tight fairways on the Greg Norman-designed course.
 
His putter was another story.
 
Although Van Pelt came out early to try getting the speed down on the practice green, he didnt find it until a par-saving putt on No. 18, his ninth hole.
 
That was pretty much the key, he said. After that, I just started making some.
 
Van Pelt birdied the par-5 first hole and the par-3 second, then faced a big test ' a 462-yard, par-4 that was the 22nd-toughest hole on the entire PGA Tour last year. He birdied that hole and the next, too.
 
After a par on No. 5, he bounced back with two more birdies. He parred No. 8, but theres no shame in that; it was 32nd-toughest on tour last year and yielded the fewest birdies over the brief history of this tournament.
 
On his final hole, Van Pelt smacked a drive right down the middle, only to find that it stopped in a divot.
 
I was just trying to hit a solid wedge shot ' and it came out just how I wanted, he said. Then came the bonus of watching someone else in his group putt along his same line, making a short putt even easier.
 
Van Pelt matched the lowest score of his career, although the other was an 8-under round, and grabbed a first-round lead the fourth time in his career. Hes hoping to parlay it into his first PGA Tour victory.
 
His best finish was a tie for second in Puerto Rico last year. Hes done pretty well this season, having tied for fifth at the Bob Hope Classic and tied for 30th last week at the Northern Trust Open, closing that tournament with a 65.
 
I feel like Ive been playing a little better than my scores, he said. Last week, I was frustrated because I wasnt making any putts, then finally on Sunday I did. I shot 6-under and didnt have any bogeys.
 
Van Pelts closing nine of 28 on Thursday was a tournament record for either nine. His 63 was two off the tournament record at the 6,923-yard, par-70 El Camaleon.
 
Van Pelt was part of the first group with an afternoon tee time, so there was a notion that the stiff wind morning starters complained about mightve calmed down. Apparently not because Lyle was the only other standout from the later groups.
 
Riley is among the players whove been here every all three years and he said the gusts Thursday were the strongest yet. That apparently suits him because it was his best score yet, too. He got a boost by holing a 130-yard wedge shot for an eagle.
 
I love to play in the wind because I hit the ball low, said Riley, who has tied for 18th and 22nd at this tournament. A low ball flight is pretty good here. You see the guys whove won here in the past ' Brian Gay and Fred Funk ' theyre pretty straight down the middle, theres no length or anything like that.
 
J.P. Hayes was among those at 66. He missed the cut at his only other event this year and admits the main reason hes here is because he could get into the field. He certainly looked as if he belonged with four birdies and no bogeys.
 
Also fitting in nicely in that pack at 66 was Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, last years European tour rookie of the year. He birdied his first two holes and four of the first seven, but was slowed by a pair of bogeys on the back nine. His success would certainly make proud tournament sponsor OHL, which is based in Spain.
 
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 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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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.