Fowler in 5-way tie for morning Wells Fargo lead

By Doug FergusonMay 3, 2012, 7:35 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler is starting to hear chatter about why he hasn't won on the PGA Tour. He hopes it won't be long before he no longer has to listen.

One week after he gave himself a chance in New Orleans, Fowler played a clean round of 6-under 66 on Thursday and was part of a five-way tie for the lead among early starters at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Fowler played with such control that he never came close to a bogey. His longest par putt was 4 feet.

''I feel that I'm good enough to win,'' Fowler said. ''I definitely feel like the amount of people expecting or thinking that I can win is a compliment. I'm not too worried about the talk that goes on about when my first win is coming, but it's my main goal, and that's what I'm focused on.''

Fowler was joined at 66 by John Senden, Brian Davis, D.A. Points and Patrick Reed, who earn a spot through Monday qualifying for the second straight tournament. He tied for 24th last week in New Orleans. Nearly one third of the morning wave broke 70.

Phil Mickelson was trying to edge closer to the morning leaders until he hit a tee shot out-of-bounds on the fourth hole and made triple bogey. He recovered for a 71. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played in the afternoon under scorching temperatures at Quail Hollow.

Fowler has been a marketing machine since he turned pro in the fall of 2009 and lost in a three-man playoff during the Fall Series. He has had a few good chances to win, such as the Phoenix Open in 2010 and the AT&T National last year. He did well enough to make the Ryder Cup team as the last of four captain's picks in 2010, and he showed his promise on the last day by winning the last four holes to earn a halve.

He just doesn't have a trophy – at least not on his home tour.

Fowler won the Korea Open last year over McIlroy, and he hopes it will lead to bigger things. And he was motivated last month when he watched good friend Bubba Watson pull off a spectacular shot out of the woods to win the Masters in a playoff.

Fowler didn't just watch, he was there. He joined Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley on the course, and they were among the first on the green to share in an emotional moment for Watson.

''I might have been more nervous than he was there,'' Fowler said. ''It was a lot of fun to be there. Obviously, being one of my best buddies ... and having Ben and Badds there as well, just kind of getting to see kind of the moments from outside the ropes and see what was going on coming down the stretch, I definitely took a lot away from it.

''More the feeling that I want to be in that position. Instead of Bubba winning, I want to win. Maybe he'll let me win one soon.''

Watson isn't at Quail Hollow, which doesn't make the week any easier.

The tournament attracted another strong field on a Quail Hollow course rated among the best on the PGA Tour schedule. Without much wind, and with warm weather in the morning, it yielded plenty of low scores.

That's not to say everyone played great, even if they were happy with their scores.

Fowler had a birdie putt on every hole except the par-4 ninth, when he came up just short and chipped to 2 feet. Davis, the Englishman who has never won on tour, hit only six fairways and 11 greens, yet he wound up with the same score.

''I absolutely hit it awful tee-to-green. It was just terrible,'' Davis said. ''I got away with everything. I chipped and putted like hell today, and things go your way. Things like that can make a difference. We'll go to the range this afternoon and try and iron out a few flaws in our swing, but obviously delighted to get in at 66 and build on that momentum.''

The surprise in the group was Reed, a 21-year-old who helped lead Augusta State to another NCAA title last summer. He was trying to Monday qualify for the Texas Open when he was told in the middle of his round he had received an exemption. Then, it was off to New Orleans to Monday qualifying and he moved up the leaderboard with five birdies on the back nine. He made it through yet another qualifier and landed atop the leaderboard.

''This round was all because of the confidence I've had for the past month that's gone on,'' Reed said.

He felt so good that he attacked with driver on just about every hole, leaving him shorter irons into the greens and plenty of birdie chances.

''Whenever you can do that, you feel a lot more confident,'' he said. ''Next thing you know, 6 under and tied for the lead.''

But it's just one round, a long way from winning. Fowler can attest to that as he enters his third full season.

And there was no guarantee it would be enough to stay in the lead. Ryan Moore already was at 5 under with six holes remaining, while Webb Simpson chipped in for eagle on the short par-4 eighth hole and was 5 under.

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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.