Nicklaus: Woods had better 'get with it' to catch me

By Doug FergusonMarch 4, 2013, 9:20 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods was long gone from PGA National when Jack Nicklaus settled into his seat in the NBC Sports tower.

Woods' week at the Honda Classic included two lost balls, four shots in the water and 15 shots out of the bunkers. He made four double bogeys, was never better than 3 under par at any point and was under par for only 26 out of the 72 holes he played.

None of this was enough to alarm Nicklaus.

In what now sounds like a broken record, Nicklaus maintains that records are made to be broken, including his gold standard of 18 professional majors.

''I still think he'll break my record,'' Nicklaus said Sunday. ''Tiger's talent, at 37 ... it's not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn't that difficult. I don't think for Tiger to get four or five more – or six or seven – is that big a stretch.''

Woods, of course, has been stuck on 14 since winning the U.S. Open in a playoff at Torrey Pines in 2008. Perhaps of more interest than his 0-for-14 streak since then is that he has not seriously contended in any of the majors since giving up a two-shot lead to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship. Sure, he was tied for the lead at the turn at the Masters two years ago. He was in the penultimate group at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, as he was at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last summer.

But when was the last time Woods had a realistic chance in the final hour of a major?

Even during his previous two droughts in the majors (both 0-for-10) he had serious chances to win at Royal Birkdale in 1998 and Pinehurst in 1999, and then at Hazeltine in 2002 and Royal St. George's in 2003.

The Masters starts in 38 days, and Woods will be among the top two favorites to win a fifth green jacket, as he should be.

It's foolish to suggest 37 is old, even on a left knee that has gone through as many surgeries as Woods has won green jackets. Nonetheless, with age, time seems to go faster.

''I still think he can do it,'' Nicklaus said. ''But that said, he has still got to do it. He hasn't won one in five years. He had better get with it if he's going to.''

Even after the road to 18 majors went over a cliff at the end of 2009 – and it took Woods two years to recover from the public embarrassment of his infidelities, his injuries and yet another coaching change – Nicklaus stayed consistent in the belief that his own record will fall.

• ''If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard,'' Nicklaus said at the start of the 2010 season, alluding to a major rotation that included Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

•''I'm surprised that he has not bounced back by now,'' Nicklaus said in March 2011. ''He's got such a great work ethic. He's so determined to do what he wants to do. I'm very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he'll break my record.''

•''I don't know whether he's going to continue to beat guys ... whether these guys have all learned how to play or they all learned how to win, they're probably no longer afraid of Tiger,'' Nicklaus said in March 2012. ''In my opinion, I still think Tiger will regain what he does. He will come back and play very, very well. Whether he breaks my record is another issue. I still think he will.''

Nicklaus never went through a major championship drought this severe, except for the 20 majors he played between the 1980 PGA Championship at Oak Hill and his 18th and final major at the 1986 Masters when he was 46.

It's too early to make a conclusion about Woods' 2013 season.

One week at the Honda Classic is not much of a barometer, nor is one day at Dove Mountain for the Match Play Championship.

His game is good enough to win anywhere on any golf course. It's good enough to win majors. It's good enough to return No. 1, perhaps even before the Masters. The intimidation and aura of Woods might not be what it was, but there were traces of it the way he rallied at the Memorial last year and dominated at Torrey Pines this year.

Still, it's the inconsistency that keeps Woods from looking to be the threat he once was.

When Nicklaus was at about the same stage in his career, it was not unusual for him to miss the cut or have a bad week. But his results were never this up and down. At age 37, the Golden Bear had 14 straight finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour.

Look at the start to Woods' season. He missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, won the next week by four shots at Torrey Pines, and in his next stroke-play tournament, he never broke par and tied for 37th.

Look at last year.

He won twice in five starts, at Bay Hill and Memorial. In the three tournaments in between, he tied for 40th at the Masters and The Players Championship and missed the cut at Quail Hollow. He gave up a 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open, and then won his next tournament. And then he missed the cut at The Greenbrier Classic.

About the only consistency comes from his answers.

''It's not that far off,'' Woods said when asked to compare his game at the Honda Classic with Torrey Pines. ''I feel like I'm probably just not quite driving it as well. My iron game is pretty good and my short game is way better than it was at Torrey. I feel very comfortable with my putting, so I need to obviously get it in play a little bit more and attack from there, because everything else is pretty good.''

Except that he hit 65 percent of his fairways at PGA National and 57 percent of his fairways at Torrey Pines.

Woods pointed to his mistakes at the Honda Classic as painting a distorted view of how he played. Four shots because of lost balls. Four shots from his water balls. All this is true, except every player can say the same thing.

You have to wonder if Woods has a different outlook at this stage in his career. No doubt he wants to win every time he plays, but perhaps his performance at regular events takes on less significance to him, as long as his game is sharp and he peaks for the majors.

And that can't be measured for another 38 days.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).