Phils Thrill Tigers Defeat

By Brian HewittSeptember 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
And, to think, we are only halfway home.
 
The FedExCup Cup playoffs, criticized by just about everybody with an opinion or and agenda, has officially become a promoters dream.
 
Tiger and Phil. Stevie and Bones. Be sure to tune in again next week at Cog Hill near Chicago for Round Three of this four round duel to the golfing death. In pro wrestling they call this a cage match.
 
Fortunately golf is not pro wrestling. But its suddenly catching the attention of a lot of people who might otherwise be thinking football right now.
 
Yes, Phil Mickelson rubbed Tiger Woods nose in the dirt a little bit Monday near Boston. And, yes, there were a fair amount of TOUR players who privately took delight in seeing Tiger get his temporary comeuppance.
 
Mickelson fired a sizzling 66, needing just 23 putts to win the Deutsche Bank Championship at 16 under, two better than Woods, Arron Oberholser and Brett Wetterich. For 10 years Ive struggled against Tiger, Mickelson said, moments after his 33d Tour victory. This was a really fun day.
 
But there are two more weeks left to this thing they call the FedExCup and many unanswered questions. Woods, the No. 1 ranked player in the universe, may have been a little bit bloodied Monday near Boston where Mickelson took him down. But we now have a week to ponder whether or not he is unbowed. For his part, Mickelson said he might not even play near Chicago next week at the BMW Championship.
 
The newest FedExCup point standings have Mickelson at the top followed, in order, by Steve Stricker, Woods, K. J. Choi, Rory Sabbatini and Vijay Singh. Because the BMW field will be just 70 players, they will go off in twosomes next Thursday. That means Mickelson and Woods, it should be noted, will NOT be paired the first two days.
 
To be sure, one of the mostly unforeseen benefits of a FedExCup system most people havent gotten their hands around yet is the consistent likelihood of spectacular groupings.
 
After The Barclays and Week One of the playoffs, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the FedExCup point standings. That meant they would be playing in the same grouping in the first and second rounds. This trio had never played together, as a threesome, before on the PGA TOUR.
 
Strangely, the Big Three played horribly their first nine holes Friday, the first day of the event. Singh four-putted his first hole; Woods made a double bogey on the drivable par 4 fourth; and Mickelson butchered the ninth hole, making bad choices and a triple bogey.
 
Saturday all three bounced back with more elasticity than a bungee cord. Woods and Mickelson hung a pair of 7-under 64s on the board while Singh tagged along with a tidy 66. Suddenly people were talking about the FedExCup on radio shows and in grill rooms all over the country.
 
(I know this because my regular Saturday golf group peppered me with FedExCup questions after our round. I knew the answers to most, but not all, of their questions. Sunday morning I spent 45 minutes on the phone with a knowledgeable golf radio guy in Chicago, Phil Kosin. The subject was almost exclusively FedExCup. Kosin doesnt like the FedExCup. But the fact that we spent that much time dissecting it is good for the concept.)
 
Meanwhile, Mickelson and Woods, in the same group, rarely needs intrigue to spark interest. But intrigue is what it got early during Deutsche Bank week when Mickelson hinted broadly that his current swing instructor, the estimable Butch Harmon, had given him tips on how to deal with his former student, Tiger Woods.
 
Prior to Monday's final round Mickelson and Woods had played in the same group 18 times in official PGA TOUR events. Woods had shot the lower score nine times. Mickelson had shot the lower score five times. And they had shot the same score four times. Monday Woods' 67 was one shot worse than Phil's 66.
 
About the previous failures, Mickelson said this: In the past I havent played that well with Tiger. He (Harmon) told me a couple of things he (Woods) likes to do and I kinda was watching for it. And I chuckled throughout the round when Id pick up on it. Working with Butch has really helped me understand how to play my best golf when I play in the same group with Tiger and I hope I have a chance to do that on Monday.
 
He got that chance when Aaron Baddeley made a mess of the 18th hole in his third round. That set up the twosome of Woods and Mickelson playing in the second to last group behind Arron Oberholser and 54-hole leader Brett Wetterich.
 
So just what was Phil talking about here? Gamesmanship ploys? Intimidation tactics? Mickelson wasnt saying. He opened the door and left it up to us to try and figure out exactly how Harmon was helping him figure out Woods.
 
Early on Monday Mickelson played like a guy who knew something he hadnt previously known. He birdied three of the first six holes and seized the lead all to himself at 14-under. Woods was 1-under through the same stretch and trailed Mickelson by three. First week FedExCup points leader Steve Stricker, who had captured The Barclays, birdied four of his first seven and was within two of Mickelson.
 
The drama was building. And you couldnt help but have the sneaking suspicion that the TOUR had at least something to do with it. Its common knowledge that most fans prefer birdies to bogeys. The scoring at Deutsche Bank in the third round was the lowest (69.973) in the events history'for any round. Put it this way: There were more than a few friendly hole locations and/or tee box set-ups on the weekend.
 
And you know what?
 
Why not?
 
Anyway, Stricker cooled. Mickelson survived a double bogey on the 12th and Woods just couldnt get his putter to work its usual magic on the back nine.
 
So now the circus tent moves to Cog Hill. The FedExCup gains more traction by the moment.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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    List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

    He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

    Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

    So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

    ''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

    And he has plenty of company.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

    Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

    Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

    ''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

    The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

    Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

    ''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

    It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

    ''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

    List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

    ''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

    He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

    And there was another guy four shots behind.

    Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

    Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

    Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

    The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

    He went with the 5-iron.

    ''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

    It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

    Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

    ''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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    Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

    Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

    Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.