Nick Watney shoots 64 to take lead at HSBC Champions

By Doug FergusonNovember 5, 2009, 5:57 pm

HSBC Championship

SHANGHAI – Making the first of two trips to China this month, Nick Watney made an immediate impression Thursday in the HSBC Champions by tying the course record with an 8-under 64 to build a two-shot lead.

As hundreds of cameras inside and outside the ropes tagged along to see Tiger Woods open with a 67, Watney quietly went about his business on a sunny afternoon at Sheshan International Golf Club with an accidental eagle and four straight birdies.

He was 9 under through 13 holes until settling into a string of pars and ending his round with a three-putt bogey from the fringe.

“The greens are so good that if you hit a putt on line, it’s definitely going to go in,” Watney said. “I was putting very well. Just tried to give myself as many chances as possible, and I was able to make a few.”

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Ryan Moore, who signed a new equipment deal Thursday, was in a group at 66 that included Shane Lowry of Ireland and Martin Kaymer of Germany, who is second in the Race to Dubai and facing a big week at this $7 million World Golf Championship.

Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan stirred the Chinese crowd with a 67, which left him tied with Woods, Anthony Kim and Paul Casey.

Still, it was Woods they came to see – and to photograph.

It started on the opening hole, with hundreds of fans surrounding the tee. Woods was flinching as he swung his 3-wood and dropped the club at impact. The shot was so short and to the right that his caddie, Steve Williams, had to walk 40 yards to find the yardage.

“The guy in the grandstand basically did almost a photo sequence,” Woods said.

It was a frenzy for the opening hour, with marshals barking at the gallery not to take pictures, and Thongchai Jaidee’s caddie having to walk up to a grassy hill and escort one photographer to the side of the ropes so his player could hit the shot.

Woods is ultra sensitive to cameras, and handled this day better than most. More frustrating was not knowing which way his ball was going, although he managed to take care of the par 5s and make enough putts for his 67.

“I got it around today,” he said. “It wasn’t my best ball-striking round for sure, but I made some putts, which was nice.”

Phil Mickelson opened with two straight birdies and made the turn in 32, although he didn’t make another birdie the rest of the way and had to settle for a 69. Defending champion Sergio Garcia made only one birdie in his round of 75.

Woods played the HSBC Champions twice, before it became a World Golf Championship, and both times he was runner-up. Mickelson is making his third straight appearance.

In some respects, Watney is the face of American involvement this week. For those who thought Americans would stay home this week because it doesn’t count as official on the PGA Tour, he is among 13 players who made the long flight.

And the leaderboard was filled with Stars & Stripes – Watney, Moore, Kim around the top, Pat Perez at 68 and Brian Gay and Jason Dufner at 69. Jerry Kelly tried playing with new grooves for the first time and ground out a 71.

“Got my first shank out of the way,” Kelly said with a laugh.

Sean O’Hair walked over to the side of the ropes to find out a World Series score. Upon learning the New York Yankees had won the title over his hometown Phillies, he made birdie on the par-5 eighth, although that didn’t keep him from a 74.

Watney signed up earlier this year for the World Cup the week of Thanksgiving at Mission Hills Golf Club near Hong Kong. He tried to find something to do in the Far East during the two-week break between the HSBC Champions and the World Cup, then figured he might as well go home to Las Vegas and get some rest.

His game appears sharp at the moment. All but two of his birdies were inside 10 feet, and he made eagle on the par-5 14th by hitting it where he wasn’t aiming. Watney meant to go toward the left side of the green, away from the flag and the water, but pushed his hybrid. It worked out fine, leaving him a 30-foot putt that he made for eagle to get his round going.

The 28-year-old American certainly has no qualms about traveling so far to play.

“The coolest thing about golf is being able to travel all around the world,” Watney said. “And to get this opportunity to come here and then back to Hong Kong, I didn’t think twice about it.”

A cab ride into Shanghai’s massive city center? That’s different. Watney went Tuesday and hung on for life as his cabbie weaved in and out of traffic and around bicycles on the road.

And what did he find to eat in Shanghai?

“We actually went in to eat Texas barbecue,” he said. “I felt a little bad about coming to China and eating Texas barbecue.”

Kim was among the last to qualify through one of two spots from the world ranking, and he almost didn’t make it. He spent all day Tuesday in Hong Kong trying to get a visa and missed the pro-am. He doesn’t know his way around Sheshan that well, which might have helped him. Aggressive by nature, he dialed back on some of the par 5s and picked up birdies.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“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,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “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.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:



Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.