Cejka opens the lead at Players

By Doug FergusonMay 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka began his surprising run to the lead Friday in The Players Championship with a 10-foot birdie putt in the stillness of a glorious morning.
A smattering of applause drowned out the chirping of birds.
There were 14 fans, 13 marshals.
It felt like a Monday afternoon practice round, Cejka said after a 5-under 67 gave him a two-shot lead over Ian Poulter.
That figures to change on the weekend full of possibilities.
2009 The Players
Ian Poulter, who's two shots back from the lead, feels his game is ripe for his first PGA Tour victory. (Getty Images)
The Players Championship is among the more unpredictable tournaments in golf. The TPC Sawgrass is so devilish that small mistakes can lead to big numbers. The field is so strong that even guys who started the week as an alternate have a chance to win. Jason Dufner is proof of that, among those in a tie for third.
Tiger Woods hit a rake and a spectator and almost the wrong fairway. From 45 yards away on a par 5, he tried to keep his chip short of the green, did just that, and made an important par. It added to a 69 that put him seven shots behind and left a smile on his face.
I got myself back in the ball game, Woods said.
Not many figured Cejka would be in the lead.
It was only two weeks ago when he couldnt feel his right arm, the product of a pinched nerve from surgery last year to replace a disk in his neck. He had an epidural last week, the numbness is almost gone, and Cejka nearly left the field in his wake.
He had six birdies in 11 holes and built a four-shot lead over the morning starters, a lead that held for most of the day until Poulter limited his mistakes and finished with a birdie for a 68.
If you play the golf course properly, with good play you can score very well, Poulter said.
Cejka was at 11-under 133 and will be playing in the final group going into the weekend for the first time in nearly five years.
Neither of the top two players have ever won on the PGA Tour, and only one player in the 35-year history of this event has ever made this his first PGA Tour victory. An eclectic group four shots behind include Masters champion Angel Cabrera (65), former PGA champion David Toms (70) and Dufner (70), an alternate when he showed up Monday who earned a tee time through someone elses misfortune.
Cejka didnt seem overly surprised to be leading, despite his recent health issues. He had surgery to replace a disk in his neck last year and everything was going well until he couldnt feel his arm two weeks ago. He had an epidural, regained some feeling in his arms, hands and fingers, then got right back to work.
In New Orleans, where I didnt feel anything at all, I really played from tee-to-green phenomenal, he said. I just had no feeling, and I couldnt make putts. The feeling is better, and I can see it on the greens. So well see what happens the next two days.
Phil Mickelson is thankful he gets to play for two more days. He struggled with his putting most of the round and shot 1-under 71, making birdie on the last hole to make the cut on the number.
You never want to give up here, because too many things can happen on this golf course, Mickelson said.
Born in Czechoslovakia, he was 9 when he fled communism and traveled through four countries before settling in Germany, not known as fertile soil for golf. But he took interest in the game, especially after watching Bernhard Langer win the Masters in 1985.
For me, it was a vacation, he said. Of course, probably my dad was nervous as hell just leaving everything behind, taking the son and a little backpack and just weaving through three of four countries into the west.
Poulter is well known in these parts, despite never winning. He has played on two Ryder Cup teams for Europe, a questionable captains pick last year until going 4-1-0 in a U.S. victory.
He loves the big stage, whether its the Ryder Cup or his runner-up finish at the British Open next year. As long as he can eliminate the mistakes and avoid rash decisions ' no small task at Sawgrass ' he feels his time is coming.
It would mean everything, he said.
Woods, meanwhile, is lurking. He hit a few wild tee shots, but managed a birdie from one of them on the 14th hole when he caught a flat lie at the bottom of a slope and hammered an 8-iron over an oak tree to 25 feet.
Woods figures he can make a move Saturday. He just isnt sure which direction.
The way the pins are for tomorrow, you can probably shoot a good one if you play well, he said. But you have to hit the ball well. Youve got to take advantage of the slopes. Because if you dont, and you hit the wrong side, then youre going to be in some tough spots.
Cejka proved that anything can happen off the golf course.

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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.