Flock of birdies propels Woods to Doral lead

By Doug FergusonMarch 8, 2013, 8:40 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Tiger Woods set a personal-best with 17 birdies over two rounds on the Blue Monster. What mattered more to him was a two-shot lead going into the weekend at the Cadillac Championship.

In a World Golf Championship with golf's biggest names in the hunt, Woods began to pull away with six birdies in an eight-hole stretch around the turn in a clean, crisp exhibition Friday at Doral. That sent him to a 7-under 65, two shots clear of former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who had a 67.

All it took was one shot for Woods.

After a scrappy session on the range, and failing to birdie the easy opening hole, Woods laced a 4-iron on the 239-yard fourth hole that caught ridge and rolled to tap-in range. His big run ended with another 4-iron, high and soft, on the 224-yard 13th hole.

Those par 3s ranked as the toughest two holes in the second round, and he birdied them both.

The 17 birdies beat his previous best of 16 birdies in the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic. Asked what that meant, Woods smiled and replied, ''It left me a two-shot lead.''

Woods was at 13-under 131.


WGC-Cadillac Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Highlights: Woods takes lead to Doral weekend


A birdie-birdie finish by McDowell prevented a dream final group for the weekend at Doral – Woods and longtime nemesis Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, sparked by a visit to Augusta National earlier in the week, hit a 9-iron that stopped inches from dropping for a hole-in-one on the par-3 ninth. He had a 67 and was three shots behind, along with Steve Stricker (67).

Rory McIlroy showed signs of turning the corner with a 69, although he ended with a sloppy three-putt bogey. It was his first round under par this year, a small consolation for the world's No. 1 player. He was still 11 shots behind Woods.

Woods, who once owned these WGCs, has not won the last 10 he's played. But after a key putting tip from Stricker on Wednesday afternoon, Woods looks as comfortable as ever on a Blue Monster course where he has won three times.

''It's going to be tough to catch him,'' Stricker said. ''We all know when he gets out in front, he's tough to catch and tough to beat. Looks like he's playing well. Looks like all parts of his game are working. Yeah, he's going to be tough to catch.''

The toughest part of the weekend might be the Blue Monster.

The greens already are firm and crusty under a week of sunshine and dry air. Woods, McDowell and most everyone else expects it to only get worse.

''I guess they can let this place go since they're going to tear it up on Monday,'' McDowell said.

Donald Trump, who bought the resort a year ago, plans a big makeover on the Blue Monster with construction to start right after the tournament. If that's the case, it could be reminiscent of Bay Hill a year ago, where Woods outlasted McDowell on the final day.

''It basically was a U.S. Open that broke out in Orlando,'' Woods said. ''We don't get too many opportunities where the weather cooperates, where they can push the golf course to a point where it's pretty tough like that.''

Not that he would mind. Woods has thrived on the toughest courses over the years, one reason he has 14 majors.

''It would be fun,'' he said.

More fun is being atop the leaderboard, especially on a course where Woods has a history of winning. He has a 35-10 record when he has at least a share of the 36-hole lead, though he is only 2-2 in the last year. Those events he failed to win were the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

The star from Northern Ireland this year has been McDowell, who won the World Challenge at the end of last year at Sherwood and hasn't missed much of a beat since returning from a 10-week break. He lost in the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship, and tied for ninth in the Honda Classic.

Making up a two-shot deficit to Woods is never easy, though McDowell holds one distinction. He is the only player to make up more than two shots to Woods in the final round, rallying from four down at Sherwood in 2010.

''Tomorrow is not about winning the golf tournament. Tomorrow is about maintaining position, maintaining the way I'm playing and trying to give myself a chance come Sunday afternoon,'' McDowell said. ''It doesn't really matter who I'm playing with tomorrow. Tiger always brings his own interesting little circus inside the ropes. But like I say, I've been there many times and I always look forward to playing with him.

''And he certainly looks like if you can finish one ahead of him this weekend, it looks like you'll do OK here.''

McDowell didn't mind finishing ahead of Mickelson on this day, a small motivation. He looked at a leaderboard filled with so many big names, and he couldn't help but notice the four-time major champion making a move.

''I saw Phil sneaking up the leaderboard there behind me and I said, 'Let's spoil this part tomorrow.' I'm sure they would have liked Tiger and Phil in the last group tomorrow, but I certainly will enjoy the position of being in the last group. That's where I want to be.''

Mickelson will play with Stricker.

Masters champion Bubba Watson recovered from a shaky back nine for a 69 and was at 9-under 135 with Freddie Jacobson (69). Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel also had a 65 and was five shots behind, along with former PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who had a 68.

Mickelson also wanted in that last group with Woods, especially with his track record against him over the last five years. He was happy with his game, though, coming off a two-week break, with a detour to Augusta.

''There's something very spiritual about playing Augusta if you love the game as much as I do, and going there gets me fired up,'' Mickelson said.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.