Haas, Rose share lead; faltering Woods 4 back

By Doug FergusonMarch 22, 2013, 11:41 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bill Haas wanted to atone for the way he finished his opening round. He did that and more Friday and was tied for the lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

That sure wasn't the case for Tiger Woods.

One shot out of the lead with three holes to play, Woods closed with three sloppy bogeys to fall four shots behind going into the weekend. That makes the chore a little more difficult in his bid to defend his title at Bay Hill and return to No. 1 in the world.

''The good news is we've got 36 holes to go,'' Woods said. ''We've got a long way to go. And certainly four shots can be made up.''

Haas not only kept bogeys off his card, his longest putt for par was no more than 4 feet in a clean round of 6-under 66. He was tied with Justin Rose, who was poised to take the outright lead until he was fooled by the speed of the greens after late afternoon showers and finished with a three-putt bogey for a 70.

They were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of John Huh, who had a 69.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Video: Woods' Round 2 highlights


The finishing holes have proved pivotal in the opening two rounds. Haas was challenging for the lead on Thursday when he flew his tee shot into the back bunker on the par-3 17th and had to two-putt from 40 feet for bogey. Then, he three-putted from 8 feet on the 18th hole for bogey to ruin his day.

''So to leave, basically giving two away, my goal today was try to get those two back and go from there,'' Haas said. ''That was kind of my mindset today, and then I was able to keep it going.''

Rose went eagle-birdie on the 16th and 17th holes that sent him on his way to an opening 65, and he regained the lead Friday with a 4-iron just off the fringe for a simple birdie on the 16th. But after a burst of rain, he thought the green might be slower than it was on his 25-foot birdie try. He ran it 5 feet by the hole, and missed it coming back.

''But that was the only thing that hampered the day, really,'' Rose said. ''All in all, exciting day and I'm in a good position.''

Woods hit the ball better in the second round and had to settle for a higher score, all because of his finish.

He had about 210 yards from a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th and caught it heavy, slamming the sand with the back of his club even before the ball took one hop and tumbled into the creek short of the green. He pitched up to 25 feet and took bogey. Then, he turned over his tee shot on the 17th and wound up in the rough well behind the green, and his chip went all the way through the green.

Woods followed that with a tee shot into the right rough that forced him to play short of the water, and he hit a poor chip to about 30 feet. He missed that for a 70.

''I've made my share of mistakes on the last few holes the last couple of days, and I need to clean that up,'' said Woods, who made bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes on Thursday in the middle of his round.

That closing stretch wasn't the only thing that held him back. Woods missed a birdie putt inside 3 feet on the par-3 second hole. He missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fourth hole and he tried to jam in a 3-foot birdie putt on the 12th that caught the lip and stayed out.

''He's normally a fast finisher, and you can expect him to probably finish fast on the weekend,'' Rose said. ''He did a lot of hard work today. He actually played really well. I thought he was probably a couple of shots away from shooting 64 today at times. I'm sure he was very disappointed because he actually played some great golf today.''

Sixteen players were separated by five shots going into the weekend, and the question was how much fire the downpour at the conclusion of Friday would take out of Bay Hill.

Ken Duke (68), J.J. Henry (67) and Jim Walker (69) were at 6-under 138. Woods was right behind, along with Mark Wilson and Vijay Singh, who each shot 68. Rickie Fowler had a 67 and joined the large group at 4-under 140.

There was still some drama late in the day. Club professional Rod Perry found a bunker on No. 9 in a driving rain and took bogey, letting eight players into the weekend. That group included Robert Allenby, who had not made a cut all year. Allenby is assured four rounds against a full field for the first time since June.

Two notable players will not be around.

Phil Mickelson four-putted from 5 feet on the 13th hole for triple bogey, and whatever hopes he had of making the cut ended when his tee shot sailed left on No. 9 and went out of bounds. Mickelson closed with a triple bogey and a 79, his highest score ever in 48 rounds at Bay Hill. It was his highest score since a 79 at the Memorial, hosted by Jack Nicklaus, so at least he treated golf's two biggest living greats equitably.

''There is a huge discrepancy between the low scores and the high scores,'' he said. ''Obviously, I played terrible and I deserved to shoot a score like this. But I felt like if I hit good shots, I could make birdies.''

Geoff Ogilvy, at No. 50 in the world and needing to stay there after the Houston Open next week, opened with a 70 and watched it all go wrong in a round of 78. He was still in good shape to make the cut until he hit his tee shot out of bounds on the 16th and made double bogey.

Rose wasn't just fooled by the speed of the green on the 18th hole. He also had a spectator get in his head over a 15-foot birdie attempt on the 13th. The putt narrowly missed and Rose spun around and pointed his finger at the noisy spectator. It wasn't about heckling, rather advice.

''I was reading the putt thinking ... 'Might go a little bit right-to-left of the hole. Fairly straight overall.' And as I'm lining it up, someone is like, 'It goes right. It goes right. It goes right.' So I'm like, 'OK, thanks, buddy,''' Rose said. ''It's just one of those annoying moments where you're having to then battle someone who planted a seed. And I hit a great putt that's in the middle with 4 feet to go and it goes left of the hole.''

He smiled when he finished the story. After all, he was still tied for the lead.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.