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Mickelson determined to make Ryder Cup team

By Doug FergusonNovember 7, 2017, 9:19 pm

Phil Mickelson has more than just an elusive U.S. Open title on his mind for 2018. He wants desperately to be on another Ryder Cup team, and he's willing to add tournaments to his schedule if that's what it takes.

Mickelson already holds the U.S. record by qualifying for 11 consecutive teams, and he has made 23 straight appearances in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup combined. But this isn't about a streak. It's about having a chance - perhaps his last chance - to win a Ryder Cup in Europe.

''That's a big goal of mine, and if I play like I've been playing, I'll make the team,'' Mickelson said at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Whether he speaks from confidence or hope remains to be seen.

Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 British Open, and the last PGA Tour season was his first without recording a top-3 finish. He plans to start next year at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Southern California and play the entire West Coast from there, followed by the World Golf Championship in Mexico City.

''I'll play more tournaments if I have to,'' he said. ''I'm not sure if I have to add much. Paris is a big goal of mine, and it's important to get off to a good start.''

Mickelson has been on five losing teams in Ryder Cup matches held on European soil. There were two close calls. One was in 2002 at The Belfry, when the matches were tied at 8 going into Sunday singles. Europe won the last session, including Phillip Price defeating Mickelson. The other was in Wales, when Graeme McDowell won the final match for a one-point victory.

Mickelson, who turns 48 in June, doesn't see Paris next September as his last chance to win in Europe. Told that he would be 52 the next time the matches go to Europe, Mickelson said, ''I'm not looking that far ahead.''

''I'm expecting to have a good year,'' he said. ''I'd like to get on the team and go over there and win.''


PARK ON TOP: Sung Hyun Park brought plenty of winning experience to her rookie LPGA season.

The 24-year-old won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, and facing the best competition in the world hasn't slowed her. Park became the fourth South Korean player to reach No. 1 in the world, and the first player to get there as an LPGA rookie.

''There won't be any changes because of the ranking,'' Park said from China, where she makes her debut at No. 1. ''I believe my future play is more important that the fact that I moved up in the ranking.''

Her future play could lead to even grander feats.

Park, who won the U.S. Women's Open, leads the LPGA money list at just over $2.1 million with two tournaments remaining. She is second behind So Yeon Ryu for the points-based Player of the Year and already has clinched Rookie of the Year. Not since Nancy Lopez has a player won both awards in the same season.

Park also is No. 3 in the Race to the CME Globe and is second in the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.


KOEPKA'S LIST: Brooks Koepka knew he had a big year from looking at that U.S. Open trophy. A look into his closet brought even more evidence.

One of Koepka's traditions at the start of every year is to go down to the beach and write a list of goals for the year on a yellow sheet of paper. He tapes it on the wall of his closet, then invariably forgets about it.

''I'm usually looking down trying to find clothes and shoes,'' he said.

A few weeks ago, he happened to look at eye level and noticed his list for the year, which had about seven items related to golf and five items off the golf course. Among the ones he ticked off was winning a major (U.S. Open), having at least a share of the first-round lead in a major (British Open) and then one of the bigger ones, having the lowest aggregate score in the majors (21 under par).

He described them as ''little goals,'' only because of the detail, such as having the solo lead after the first round. He took care of that Thursday in the HSBC Champions.

''You can make them as detailed as you want,'' he said. ''When you go into specifics, a lot of those things come true.''

He didn't get them all.

One goal was to not miss a cut. He missed the cut by one shot in his first tournament of the year at Torrey Pines. He also wanted to win multiple times, meaning he will have to either successfully defend at the Dunlop Phoenix next week in Japan or win the Hero World Challenge.

''The biggest change for me was off the golf course,'' Koepka said. ''The hardest thing for me was making sure I was in the gym five days a week when we played. Some days I've gone seven.''

Overall, Koepka was pleased with how many he got. He'll do it again this year, only at a different beach. Koepka will be on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?: The LPGA tied a record when Stacy Lewis tied for 15th in the Toto Japan Classic. Lewis became the 15th player this year to top $1 million, equaling the number from last year.

And it's about to grow.

Women's PGA champion Danielle Kang is $647 short of $1 million and is assured of topping the $1 million mark next week at the CME Group Tour Championship. Minjee Lee is the defending champion this week in China. Lee is $3,268 short of $1 million, and provided she doesn't withdraw from Blue Bay, she will top $1 million.

Amy Yang and Mirim Lee will have to play well next week in Naples, Florida, to have a chance. Lizette Salas and Michelle Wie are further away from, but still in range of, the $1 million mark. Both are playing in China and next week at the season finale.


DIVOTS: Four of the five winners of full PGA Tour events this fall were in the Tour Championship. ... Patrick Cantlay won in Las Vegas at 9-under 275, the highest winning score by seven shots since it became a single-course event in 2008. This was just the third time the winning score has been worse than 20-under par. ... Jason Day, who started the year at No. 1, is now at No. 12. ... The PGA of America has extended the contract of chief executive Pete Bevacqua through 2024. ... Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, which has hosted U.S. Open sectional qualifying 30 of the last 31 years, has been selected to host the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2020. ... The PGA Tour Champions has a new title for its Tucson event - the Cologuard Classic. Cologuard, produced by Exact Sciences, is a colon cancer screening test used at home.


STAT OF THE WEEK: In the last two years, Shanshan Feng has three victories, two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes during the LPGA's fall version of the Asian swing.


FINAL WORD: ''Can we just keep playing here? Can we move the CME Group Tour Championship here? Can we move the U.S. Open here?'' - Shanshan Feng on playing LPGA events in Asia.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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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 made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

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.

Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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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.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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.