Johnson eagles 18, passes Tiger

By Doug FergusonDecember 3, 2011, 11:30 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Tiger Woods lost his three-shot margin with every shot that looked good until the wind decided otherwise. He lost his lead Saturday in the Chevron World Challenge because of something that was really out of his control.

Zach Johnson was 163 yards away in the 18th fairway, one shot behind and hopeful of getting his 7-iron onto the top shelf to make par as easy as possible. Imagine his surprise when it landed near the hole and hopped back into the cup for an eagle that put him atop the leaderboard.

“I would have been happy with a 4, let alone a 3,” Johnson said. “A 2 is a steal.”

That eagle gave him a 4-under 68, allowing him to make up a four-shot deficit on Woods and take a one-shot lead into the final round of the final official event this year in America.

Woods had three bogeys on the par 5s and didn’t feel as though he did much wrong. On two of them, he hit wedges that looked good until the cool, gusting wind shifted directions and sent the ball much farther than he imagined. On the other par 5, his fairway metal hit a gust and dropped into a hazard.

The result was a 1-over 73. The prognosis wasn’t nearly as bad.

“Even though I made three bogeys on par 5s, I had two three-putts, but I played well,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good shots that ended up in bad spots because I had bad gusts. So be it. That’s the way it goes.

“I’m right there with a chance going into tomorrow.”

Johnson was at 8-under 208 and will be in the final group with Woods, one shot behind. K.J. Choi overcame a double bogey on the par-5 second hole for a 72 and was three shots out of the lead. No one else was closer than five.

Woods had the 36-hole lead for the second straight tournament, and for the second straight time failed to break par in the third round. He felt differently Saturday than he did at the Australian Open in Sydney, where he opened with three straight bogeys and finished the day six shots out of the lead.



“Most of the time today, it wasn’t me,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good shots today.”

The wind was strong and chilly from the start, and rarely stayed the same direction very long. With a wedge in his hand, Woods went some 40 feet long on the second hole that led to a three-putt bogey. Another wedge on the par-5 13th sailed over the green and left a pitch he had no chance to get close.

Both players ran into trouble on the par-5 16th.

Johnson was playing in the group ahead of Woods, felt the breeze in his face and tried to hammer a driver that went left of the grass and into the gallery. He tried to clear a creek and went into the trees to the right before pitching out and taking a bogey.

Woods was in the fairway, but says a gust took his fairway metal too far right and into a hazard. He thought about trying to hit out behind a pair of rocks before choosing to take a penalty drop, and he also made bogey.

The difference was how they finished.

Johnson three-putted the 17th for another bogey, then drilled his 7-iron at the flag on the 18th for the most unlikely finish to his round. Woods had to settle for pars.

Johnson didn’t realize his eagle on the final hole was for the lead. And even though he has a one-shot advantage, he doesn’t think he’s in contention until the final hour of any tournament.

Being in the last group with Woods, who has gone 26 starts since his last win?

“He’s never going to shock me on the golf course because he’s certainly the best player I’ve ever played with,” Johnson said. “I’m glad I’m playing this week and I have the opportunity to go into Sunday with at least a chance.”

Johnson, a former Masters champion, saw his streak end this year of four straight seasons winning on the PGA Tour. The Chevron World Challenge counts toward the world ranking, but is not official for the tour. He still wouldn’t mind using it as a springboard for the next season, much like Tom Lehman did in the early days of this event, and Jim Furyk did in 2009.

For Woods, going from a three-shot lead to a one-shot deficit was not the end of the world.

He felt as though he played as well as he had the first two days, without having much luck with the wind. And for a guy who has gone two years without winning, the hardest part of hoisting a trophy is getting a chance.

Woods still had his three-shot lead when he chipped in from behind the fourth green for birdie. The wind was at its worst on the sixth hole, gusting hard with leaves scattered about the fairway. Woods felt it at his back and to the right, yet as the ball was in the air, it came against him from the left. He came up well short, chipped 7 feet by the hole and lipped out.

Hunter Mahan was the first player to make a run at Woods, going out in 33 and tying for the lead briefly after Woods had a three-putt bogey on the par-3 eighth.

Woods seemed to steady himself with a beautiful flop shot on the 10th that ran up the bank and trickled back 4 feet from the cup, and a solid approach to 18 feet for a two-putt birdie on the 11th.

But he went long of the 13th, turning a birdie hole into a bogey. He made a mess of the 16th with his penalty shot. And he had nothing to match an eagle from the fairway by Johnson on the final hole.


Follow the Chevron World Challenge on Golf Channel and NBC. Airtimes: Golf Channel, 1-3 PM ET Sunday. NBC, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Sunday.

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.

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.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.