Wetterich Leads Tiger Lefty Close

By Associated PressSeptember 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- Brett Wetterich emerged from the pack with a 15-foot eagle Sunday and held on for a 6-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead in the Deutsche Bank Championship but no room for error.
 
The second straight week of these PGA TOUR Playoffs delivered a surprising leader in Wetterich, who has not been in serious contention since March. And it looks as if it will be the second straight week of a final round up for grabs among an All-Star cast of contenders.
 
Wetterich was at 13-under 200 and will play in the final pairing on Labor Day with Arron Oberholser, who had to scramble for par after hitting into the hazard on the 18th to shoot 66.
 
But of all the errors on the closing holes, perhaps the most significant belonged to Aaron Baddeley. He went for the green out of the bunker and wound up with a bogey, a shot that enabled Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to be paired in the second-to-last group.
 
Woods and Mickelson played together the first two days, and Lefty needled him again by noting that Butch Harmon pointed out a few habits by the world's No. 1 player that made Mickelson chuckle.
 
Mickelson scrambled brilliantly throughout the sunny day, six times saving par with putts in the 6-foot range that kept his round together. He finished with a birdie on the 18th for a 68, putting him two shots behind at 202.
 
Another shot behind was Woods, the defending champion at Deutsche Bank who is making his first start in these playoffs. Woods was fuming as he left the 18th green with a 67, after three-putting the last two holes to spoil an otherwise solid day.
 
But with mistakes by Wetterich, Baddeley and Oberholser down the stretch, he wasn't as bad off as he thought. A year ago, Woods turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh.
 
This one doesn't figure to be a duel, not with a dozen players within five shots of Wetterich's lead.
 
The playoffs got off to a rousing start last week at The Barclays, which featured 10 players within three shots of the lead along the back nine of Westchester until Steve Stricker birdied the last three holes for the victory.
 
This could be more of the same.
 
U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera eagled the last hole for a 65 to reach 9-under 204, while Stricker made a 60-foot eagle on the 18th hole that swirled all the way around the cup and gave him a 69, putting him in the group at 205.
 
Wetterich, one of the most powerful players in golf, made the Ryder Cup last year as a rookie and turned heads recently when he earned a spot in the Skins Game. But he is capable of explosive stretches, and he showed that Sunday by twice giving himself eagle putts, one on the 298-yard fourth hole. He only made one, at the par-5 seventh, but it propelled him into the lead and he never gave it back.
 
'If I go out and shoot 5 under like I did today, it's going to be hard to beat me, unless someone really plays a good round of golf,' Wetterich said. 'I'm going to go out and try to make the best score that I can. And if someone catches me and beats me, then they did.'
 
His biggest shot might have been for a par.
 
Wetterich drove into the trees right of the fairway on No. 5 and had to drop a half-dozen times, from the hazard line, then the cart path, then a rubber mat covering some television cables. The ball finally back in play, he hit 5-iron from 220 yards to 5 feet and made the putt.
 
'I got myself out of a pretty big jam there,' he said. 'From there on, I got myself out of trouble and didn't get in any more trouble, and made a few birdie putts. And it resulted in a good score.'
 
There's a big jam behind him, however, and there's probably where the largest crowds will be.
 
Mickelson finished two shots better than Woods over the first two rounds, when Vijay Singh joined them based on playoff rankings. He later revealed that he found the secret to playing better against his longtime nemesis.
 
Lefty now works with Harmon -- Woods' first swing coach -- and says Harmon told him to look for nuances about Woods. Mickelson didn't say what they were, only that they made him laugh.
 
'He (Harmon) told me a couple things that he likes to do, and I was kind of watching for it, and I chuckled throughout the round when I'd pick up on it,' Mickelson said after the second round. 'I think that working with Butch has really helped me understand how to get my best golf when I play in the same group as Tiger. And I'm hoping I have a chance to do that on Monday.'
 
He gets that chance, even though both have chasing to do.
 
Woods was tied for the lead for about two minutes after jump-starting his round with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8, followed by two straight birdies from about 20 feet to reach 10 under. About that time, Wetterich reached the 600-yard seventh hole in two shots and made the 15-foot eagle to take command.
 
Woods added another birdie on the 12th, but his work was undone with a three-putt bogey from about 50 feet on the 17th, and having to settle for par after three-putting the 18th from the other side of the green.
 
'Instead of being two or three back, I'll be five or six back,' Woods said. 'I'm going to have to actually shoot a really low round tomorrow, and hopefully, it will be enough.'
 
A few mistakes by the guys behind him might have helped him out. But like everyone else, it figures to be a mad scramble on Monday.
 
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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.”