Woods Again Setting St Andrews Pace

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- From behind the seventh green at St. Andrews, all anyone could see was Tiger Woods' head bobbing up and down from the deep bottom of Shell bunker.
 
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus started his final appearance at the Open Championship with a 3-over-par 75.
This was foreign soil for Woods, who famously stayed out of the sand all four rounds when he won the British Open five years ago. He leaped twice to find his way out. Then came a puff of sand, followed by his ball skirting up to the green and stopping 4 feet away for a birdie.
 
By the end of his round Thursday, Woods was in a familiar spot at St. Andrews.
 
He made seven birdies in a nine-hole stretch, then ventured twice more into bunkers and settled for a 6-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead over Mark Hensby in the first round of the British Open.
 
``I still feel very comfortable out there,'' Woods said after his best start in a major championship since he opened with a 66 in the 2000 PGA Championship. ``Even though I had it going, finishing at 6 (under) is a great start to the tournament. I'm very pleased with the way I played all day.''
 
Jack Nicklaus could hardly say the same.
 
Playing his 164th and final major championship at the home of golf, Nicklaus stirred his legion of fans ever so briefly with a 7-iron that just cleared the Swilcan Burn for a 4-foot birdie on the opening hole, and a nifty chip over Shell bunker into 5 feet for a birdie at the seventh.
 
Three-putt bogeys on three straight holes, however, sent him to a 75 and put him in a precarious position for making the cut, his goal.
 
``Obviously, I'm going to have to play well tomorrow,'' he said. ``I doubt if par will make the cut. We'll just have to see.''
 
The Old Course was in a far more favorable mood, with only light breezes blowing across the links toward St. Andrews Bay. Provided players avoided the bunkers, they could score.
 
Hensby had a chance to join Woods atop the leaderboard until a 12-foot birdie on the 16th and another 12-footer on the final hole just missed, giving him a 67 and another impressive round in a major.
 
The 10 players at 68 included Fred Couples, who birdied his last two holes; Luke Donald of England, who thrived while playing with Nicklaus and Tom Watson; and Jose Maria Olazabal, who somehow made it around St. Andrews without a bogey.
 
Woods finished off his round with a 3-wood just left of the 18th green, then a 70-foot putt that dipped in and out of the hollow called ``Valley of Sin'' and stopped some 4 feet away for birdie.
 
But it was a burst of birdies in the middle of his round that got everyone's attention.
 
Colin Montgomerie overcame an opening tee shot into the Swilcan Burn for a 71 and was quite pleased until he saw how far behind he already trailed the world's No. 1 player.
 
``It's ominous who's on top of the board. Ominous,'' Montgomerie said. ``If there's a course built for him, it's this one. He won by eight shots last time here, and who says he won't do the same again?''
 
Told that Woods opened with a 66 -- one shot better than his start in 2000, when he won by eight -- Nicklaus hardly seemed surprised.
 
``That's not fast for him. That's just a normal start,'' Nicklaus said.
 
Hensby also is becoming a regular fixture at the majors. He tied for fifth in the Masters and tied for third at the U.S. Open, joining Woods and Vijay Singh as the only players with top-10 performances in both majors this year.
 
Yet even Hensby issued a warning about the possibility of Woods holding the claret jug.
 
``People are scared to say it but it's true,'' Hensby said. ``If he's playing well, we're all playing for second.''
 
Woods, however, is no longer the sure thing.
 
Remember, he had a two-shot lead with two holes to play in the Masters and had to go extra holes with Chris DiMarco. And just when he was making a charge at Pinehurst No. 2 last month in the U.S. Open, he made two straight bogeys at critical moments and finished two shots behind Michael Campbell.
 
Then again, he has been playing well since missing the cut in Dallas for the first time in seven years, finishing no worse than third in his last three events. And his power is still a big advantage at St. Andrews. He had nothing more than a wedge into six holes, and twice was putting from just off a par 4.
 
One of those came at the ninth, when his tee shot stopped just short of the green. That was the start of four straight birdies, capped off by another monstrous drive that left him a short chip on the 12th.
 
But he found another bunker -- the Coffins -- on the 13th with a 2-iron slightly pulled to the left, and he was barely able to get back into the fairway. And a 5-iron from the 16th fairway turned just slightly and wound up in Wig bunker short of the green. Woods had to play away from the flag, and had to two-putt from 60 feet for bogey.
 
``If you catch those bunkers around here, you know a shot is going to be gone,'' said Olazabal, who played with Woods and Robert Allenby. ``And that's what happened to him.''
 
There was plenty worse that happened to others.
 
Vijay Singh had to play a shot lefthanded away from the lip of a bunker on the 16th hole and was fortunate to walk off with bogey. He still managed a 69, joining a large group that included Campbell.
 
Phil Mickelson got lost in the rough on his way to a triple bogey on the 15th and shot 74. Ernie Els, who thrives on the Old Course, couldn't hole any putts and made three straight bogeys on the back nine, also shooting 74.
 
Defending champion Todd Hamilton struggled with his putter and was at 74, too. He was hardly surprised to see Woods leading, and not just because of what happened five years ago.
 
``I expect him to do well in every tournament, but especially in the majors, where it takes a guy that not only has a good golf game, but understands how to play a difficult golf course,'' Hamilton said. ``And this is a difficult golf course.''
 
Along with two bogeys from the bunkers, Woods let two other birdies get away.
 
One followed a somber two minutes at noon, when St. Andrews joined the rest of the country in observing two minutes of silence to honor victims of the terrorist attacks in London last week. Woods later revealed his mother was in London the day of the bombings.
 
``I'm very thankful that my mom is still here,'' he said.
 
He resumed his quest for the Open with a chip on the par-5 14th that went past the hole and into the swale, costing him a good look at birdie. And he missed a 6-footer for birdie on the 15th.
 
Still, he was right where he wanted to be -- in the lead, and in control of the Old Course.
 
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    Copycat: Honda's 17th teeters on edge of good taste

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 12:37 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Honda Classic won’t pack as many fans around its party hole this week as the Phoenix Open does, but there is something more intensely intimate about PGA National’s stadium setup.

    Players feel like the spectators in the bleachers at the tee box at Honda’s 17th hole are right on top of them.

    “If the wind’s wrong at the 17th tee, you can get a vodka cranberry splashed on you,” Graeme McDowell cracked. “They are that close.”

    Plus, the 17th at the Champion Course is a more difficult shot than the one players face at Scottsdale's 16th.

    It’s a 162-yard tee shot at the Phoenix Open with no water in sight.

    It’s a 190-yard tee shot at the Honda Classic, to a small, kidney-shaped green, with water guarding the front and right side of the green and a bunker strategically pinched into the back-center. Plus, it’s a shot that typically must be played through South Florida’s brisk winter winds.

    “I’ve hit 3- and 4-irons in there,” McDowell said. “It’s a proper golf hole.”

    It’s a shot that can decide who wins late on a Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line.

    Factor in the intensely intimate nature of that hole, with fans partaking in libations at the Gosling Bear Trap pavilion behind the 17th tee and the Cobra Puma Village behind the 17th green, and the degree of difficulty there makes it one of the most difficult par 3s on the PGA Tour. It ranked as the 21st most difficult par 3 on the PGA Tour last year with a 3.20 scoring average. Scottsdale's 16th ranked 160th at 2.98.

    That’s a fairly large reason why pros teeing it up at the Honda Classic don’t want to see the Phoenix-like lunacy spill over here the way it threatened to last year.

    That possibility concerns players increasingly agitated by the growing unruliness at tour events outside Phoenix. Rory McIlroy said the craziness that followed his pairing with Tiger Woods in Los Angeles last week left him wanting a “couple Advil.” Justin Thomas, also in that grouping, said it “got a little out of hand.”


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    So players will be on alert arriving at the Honda Classic’s 17th hole this week.

    A year ago, Billy Horschel complained to PGA Tour officials about the heckling Sergio Garcia and other players received there.

    Horschel told GolfChannel.com last year that he worried the Honda Classic might lose some of its appeal to players if unruly fan behavior grew worse at the party hole, but he said beefed up security helped on the weekend. Horschel is back this year, and so is Garcia, good signs for Honda as it walks the fine line between promoting a good party and a good golf tournament.

    “I embrace any good sporting atmosphere as long as it stays respectful,” Ian Poulter said. “At times, the line has been crossed out here on Tour. People just need to be sensible. I am not cool with being abused.

    “Whenever you mix alcohol with a group of fans all day, then Dutch courage kicks in at some stage.”

    Bottom line, Poulter likes the extra excitement fans can create, not the insults some can hurl.

    “I am all up for loud crowds,” he said. “A bit of jeering and fun is great, but just keep it respectful. It’s a shame it goes over the line sometimes. It needs to be managed.”

    Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly oversees that tough job. In 12 years leading the event, he has built the tournament into something special. The attendance has boomed from an estimated 65,000 his first year at the helm to more than 200,000 last year.

    With Tiger Woods committed to play this year, Kennerly is hopeful the tournament sets an attendance record. The arrival of Woods, however, heightens the challenges.

    Woods is going off with the late pairings on Friday, meaning he will arrive at Honda’s party hole late in the day, when the party’s fully percolating.

    Kennerly is expecting 17,000 fans to pack that stadium-like atmosphere on the event’s busiest days.

    Kennerly is also expecting the best from South Florida fans.

    “We have a zero tolerance policy,” Kennerly said. “We have more police officers there, security and more marshals.

    “We don’t want to be nasty and throw people out, but we want them to be respectful to players. We also want it to continue to be a fun place for people to hang out, because we aren’t getting 200,000 people here just to watch golf.”

    Kennerly said unruly fans will be ejected.

    “But we think people will be respectful, and I expect when Tiger and the superstars come through there, they aren’t going to have an issue,” Kennerly said.

    McDowell believes Kennerly has the right balance working, and he expects to see that again this week.

    “They’ve really taken this event up a couple notches the last five or 10 years with the job they’ve done, especially with what they’ve done at the 16th and 17th holes,” McDowell said. “I’ve been here a lot, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the Phoenix level yet.”

    The real test of that may come Friday when Woods makes his way through there at the end of the day.

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    Door officially open for Woods to be playing vice captain

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 11:50 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, when Jim Furyk was named the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, one of the biggest questions was what would happen if Furyk were to play his way onto his own team.

    It wasn’t that unrealistic. 

    At the time, Furyk was 46 and coming off a season in which he tied for second at the U.S. Open and shot 58 in a PGA Tour event. If anything, accepting the Ryder Cup captaincy seemed premature.

    And now?

    Now, he’s slowly recovering from shoulder surgery that knocked him out of action for six months. He’s ranked 230th in the world. He’s planning to play an 18-event schedule, on past champion status, mostly to be visible and available to prospective team members.

    A playing captain? Furyk chuckled at the thought.

    “Wow,” he said here at PGA of America headquarters, “that would be crazy-difficult.”

    That’s important to remember when assessing Tiger Woods’ chances of becoming a playing vice captain.

    On Tuesday, Woods was named an assistant for the matches at Le Golf National, signing up for months of group texts and a week in which he'd sport an earpiece, scribble potential pairings on a sheet of paper and fetch anything Team USA needs.

    It’s become an increasingly familiar role for Woods, except this appointment isn’t anything like his vice captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016 or last year’s Presidents Cup.

    Unlike the past few years, when his competitive future was in doubt because of debilitating back pain, there’s at least a chance now that Woods can qualify for the team on his own, or deserve consideration as a captain’s pick. 

    There’s a long way to go, of course. He’s 104th in the points standings. He’s made only two official starts since August 2015. His driving needs a lot of work. He hasn’t threatened serious contention, and he might not for a while. But, again: Come September, it’s possible.

    And so here was Woods’ taped message Tuesday: “My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the cup.”

    That follows what Woods told reporters last week at Riviera, when he expressed a desire to be a playing vice captain.

    “Why can’t I have both?” he said. “I like both.”

    Furyk, eventually, will have five assistants in Paris, and he could have waited to see how Woods fared this year before assigning him an official role.

    He opted against that. Woods is too valuable of an asset.

    “I want him on-board right now,” Furyk said.

    Arnold Palmer was the last to serve as both player and captain for a Ryder Cup – in 1963. Nothing about the Ryder Cup bears any resemblance to those matches, other than there’s still a winner and a loser. There is more responsibility now. More planning. More strategy. More pressure.

    For the past two team competitions, the Americans have split into four-man pods that practiced together under the supervision of one of the assistants. That assistant then relayed any pertinent information to the captain, who made the final decision.

    The assistants are relied upon even more once the matches begin. Furyk will need to be on the first tee for at least the first hour of the matches, welcoming all of the participants and doing interviews for the event’s many TV partners, and he needs an assistant with each of the matches out on the course. They’re the captain’s eyes and ears.

    Furyk would need to weigh whether Woods’ potential impact as a vice captain – by all accounts he’s the best Xs-and-Os specialist – is worth more than the few points he could earn on the course. Could he adequately handle both tasks? Would dividing his attention actually be detrimental to the team?

    “That would be a bridge we cross when we got there,” Furyk said.

    If Woods plays well enough, then it’s hard to imagine him being left off the roster, even with all of the attendant challenges of the dual role.

    “It’s possible,” Furyk said, “but whether that’s the best thing for the team, we’ll see.”

    It’s only February, and this comeback is still new. As Furyk himself knows, a lot can change over the course of a year.

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    Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

    By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

    U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

    Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

    The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

    This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

    "This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

    Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

    "I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

    The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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    Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

    By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

    The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

    But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

    "Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

    Hard to argue with the result.