Woods Returns to New Harding Park

By Associated PressOctober 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Harding Park was nothing like the public course Tiger Woods remembered as a kid.
Some of the differences were obvious, such as the cone-shaped corporate tents, the grandstands erected behind the greens and tee boxes, and large crowds that gathered along the shores of Lake Merced during practice rounds for the first PGA Tour event in San Francisco in 36 years.
The biggest change?
``It used to be basically a clover field out here,'' said Woods, who occasionally played Harding Park when he was in junior high school. ``It's just hard to believe what they've done here.''
Tiger Woods leads the 2005 PGA Tour money list with $8,613,023.
Harding Park is getting most of the attention in the days leading up to the American Express Championship, where even the best players in the world seem to be merely props.
It will be the first time a World Golf Championship is played on a municipal golf course. No one is quite sure what to expect, not surprising since most of these players weren't even born when Harding Park last hosted a PGA Tour event in 1969 at the San Francisco Open Invitational.
``It's impressive,'' Justin Leonard said after his first trip around the tree-lined course. ``I don't look at this course and say that it's easy. But then, maybe I'm not playing that well.''
Sean O'Hair, the 23-year-old rookie, was a few spots away on the practice range pounding tee shots into the blue horizon. But this isn't only about length. After a few minutes, O'Hair stuck his umbrella into the turf about five paces in front of him, then hit a series of fades and draws around it.
``Just working on shaping the ball,'' he said.
Woods says the greens are so pure that without any wind, the winning score could be around 20 under on a par-70 course that measures 7,086 yards. Then again, he wasn't at Harding Park on Monday afternoon, when Kenny Perry bundled up in a sweater as gusts approached 20 mph.
Some answers should be available Thursday when the American Express Championship gets under way with 71 players trying to capture the final WGC event of the year.
Among the missing are Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, ranked Nos. 4 and 5 in the world. Els is the defending champion, but he has been out since August after knee surgery. Goosen withdrew earlier this week with a sore groin.
A year ago, Els captured his first WGC event by outlasting Thomas Bjorn in a well-played duel at Mount Juliet in Ireland. Woods, who already has won this tournament three times, had back spasms most of the week and did well to tie for ninth. Then, he headed off to Barbados and got married.
Woods returns this week having recovered from a rib injury that caused pain in his lower back at the Presidents Cup. He worked with his trainer in Las Vegas last week and said he was fine.
The world's No. 1 player has only three tournaments left -- the American Express, the Funai Classic at Disney in two weeks, followed by the season-ending Tour Championship. Woods already has won five times this year and captured two more majors. He leads all the important categories (victories, money list, scoring average) and would seem to be a lock for the PGA Tour's player of the year.
Still, the American Express usually shapes the final month of the season, and this one is no different.
Vijay Singh has four victories and is just over $1 million behind Woods on the money list, a figure that doesn't seem to be out of reach considering that he likely will play one more tournament than Woods, and that two of those events pay more than $1 million to the winner.
Woods, meantime, has an outside chance to break the money record of $10.9 million that Singh set last year, although it won't be easy. He would have to win twice and finish in the top 10 in the other.
``I'd much rather keep having the highest total for wins,'' Woods said. ``If I keep doing that, things will be all right.''
PGA champion Phil Mickelson can't win the money title unless he plays every week the rest of the year and wins, which is unlikely. But he also has four victories, and another one this year would be the most for him in one season.
For Colin Montgomerie, it's another chance to earn his first PGA Tour victory. Montgomerie has renewed hope, having won the Dunhill Links Championship last week in Scotland, which sent him to No. 16 in the world and put him second behind U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell on the European tour money list.
Then again, Europeans don't seem to fare well at these World Golf Championships.
Darren Clarke ('00 Match Play, '03 NEC Invitational) is the only European to win an official WGC event, and Els joins him as the only European tour members to have captured one.
And while these events were designed to bring together the best in the world, there is always a collection of players no one recognizes without looking at the names on their bags. One of them is Euan Walters, who got his PGA Tour card at Q-school last year and has made only one cut in his rookie season. Walter qualified by finishing in the top 3 on the Australasian tour last winter.
The biggest unknown is Harding Park, and what kind of test it will provide.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-American Express Championship
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    Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

    Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

    Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

    At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd is loving it.

    Getty Images

    Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

    Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

    It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    “I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

    After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

    Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

    “It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

    Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 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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    Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

    In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

    Made Cut

    Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

    U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

    Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

    “What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

    Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

    #MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

    Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

    Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

    Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

    “I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

    The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

    During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

    “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

    The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

    Stay tuned.

    Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

    The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

    On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

    That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

    Missed Cut

    West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

    J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

    Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

    But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

    Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

    It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.