Bae cards 7-under 63 to claim Sony Open lead

By Doug FergusonJanuary 10, 2014, 2:43 am

HONOLULU – Sang-Moon Bae got off to a great start in pristine conditions along the shores of Oahu. Chris Kirk had an ideal finish.

They were together all Thursday morning, playing in the same group at the Sony Open and taking the top two spots on the leaderboard. Bae played bogey-free for a 7-under 63. Kirk shot 29 on the back nine at Waialae, including an eagle on the last hole, for a 64.

They were among the early starters in the first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour, and they took advantage of a gorgeous day.



Their better-ball score was 56.

''He was off to a great start,'' Kirk said. ''At one point he was 4-under and I was still 2-over. It took some catching up for me on the back nine. But it's always nice to see putts falling.''

Kapalua winner Zach Johnson opened with two bogeys before he settled into a 68. Jordan Spieth, who finished one shot behind Johnson last week in the Tournament of Champions, reached 3-under through 10 holes until he was slowed by a three-putt bogey from 20 feet on No. 12. That was the start of three bogeys in four holes, and the 20-year-old Texan had to settle for a 70.

Retief Goosen, finally feeling better after missing another big chunk of the year with back problems, slept awkwardly on his neck and was sore during the pro-am. That apparently healed quickly. He was in the group at 66 with Harris English, Jimmy Walker and John Daly.

Daly and Hideto Tanihara of Japan were the only players at 66 or better from the morning group who were not at Kapalua last week for the Sony Open.

There are not two courses 100 miles apart in the same state on consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour any more different.

Kapalua was built on the side of a mountain, with severe grain in the greens and massive changes in elevation. Waialae is flat, tight and tree-lined with small greens.

''I think I played well last week, but really tough greens,'' Bae said. ''Very hard to read. I couldn't read any right-to-left putts – any putts – so I missed a lot of puts last week. But this course is more shorter than last week, so easy read, and I can make good speed, too.''

Bae opened with a 7-iron to 3 feet on the opening hole, made a 25-footer for birdie on No. 3 and didn't miss a green until the 13th hole. He hit wedge to 15 feet to save par, and picked up his seventh and final birdie on the next hole.

Kirk had reason to believe this wasn't going to be his day when his ball got stuck in a tree on the sixth hole and he had to scramble for bogey, already 2 over. But a shot into tap-in range on the eighth hole sent him on his way, and an eagle brought him within one shot of Bae.

Masters champion Adam Scott, with pro surfer Benji Weatherley filling in as his caddie, birdied his last two holes for a 67. It's not a bad start, but in these conditions, Scott realizes it needs to be better.

Daly can only hope this isn't just a false start. He had surgery on his elbow last summer, and hopes that his injuries are behind him. He made five birdies for a 66.

Bae, who won his first PGA Tour event last year at the Byron Nelson Championship, is coming up on three straight weeks in Hawaii. It was too cold in South Korea to practice, so he came to the islands on Dec. 20 to practice and relax on the beach for two weeks before the Tournament of Champions.

He played Waialae about three or four times, and feels like he knows the course better.

''I practiced a little bit and I had fun,'' he said. ''Go to beach, go swim, everything. I like it here.''


DIVOTS: Shawn Stefani was the first alternate but chose not to come across the ocean with no guarantee of getting in. Just his luck, Hideki Matsuyama withdrew with a wrist injury on Wednesday. He was replaced by Robert Streb. ... Daly said he expects to play with Kid Rock at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. ... Among the caddie changes this year are Greg Chalmers, who now has Dean Elliott on the bag. Still to be determined is whether Chalmers plays Pebble Beach. Elliott for years worked for Stephen Ames, who took that week off. It was not unusual for Elliott to caddie for an amateur at Pebble Beach, and it could be profitable. He worked one year for Harry You when the former Bearing Point CEO was paired with Mickelson and won the pro-am portion of the event.

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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 fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


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Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

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.

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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.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


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Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.