Notes: Woods not considered for Comeback Player

By Doug FergusonNovember 13, 2012, 4:27 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Tiger Woods was on the ballot when the PGA Tour began voting on its annual awards but only in one category.

Even though Woods missed four months with an Achilles heel injury last season, failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and finished out of the top 125 on the money list for the first time in his career, he is not under consideration as Tour Comeback Player of the Year.

Neither is anyone else, for that matter.

The Tour has changed the definition of the award, which began in 1991, and over the years had been given to players who came back from injury (Steve Jones, Steve Pate), a life-threatening illness (Paul Azinger) and bad play (long list but notably Steve Stricker – twice).

Now it will be awarded to a player ''who through courage and perseverance has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as a personal tragedy or debilitating illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf.''

The award will be determined by Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and the four players on the policy board, assuming there is a candidate.

It is not unprecedented for no one to win the award. There was no one on the ballot in 2009 and 2011. That's partly due to what now has become a running joke, with Stricker becoming the only player to win the comeback award in consecutive years – in 2006 after he started the year with limited status and was considered for the Ryder Cup team, and in 2007, when he won a FedEx Cup playoff event and was No. 4 on the money list.

Andy Pazder, the Tour's chief of operations, said potential candidates down the road could include Jarrod Lyle, who is in Australia recovering from a recurrence of leukemia, or even someone like Chris Smith, whose life suffered a crushing setback when his wife was killed in a car crash.

For Woods – and J.B. Holmes, who had brain surgery last year – there was little doubt they were going to return to play.

Rory McIlroy is virtually a lock to be voted Player of the Year after winning four times, including an eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He also won the money title (on the PGA and European tours) and the Vardon Trophy.

John Huh is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. He won in Mexico in an opposite-field event, which wasn't nearly as impressive as Ted Potter Jr. winning The Greenbrier Classic. What is in Huh's favor is that he started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 25 and was the only the rookie to make it to the Tour Championship.

RYDER CUP: The PGA of America has a new chief executive and a new president, and it might not be long before it picks a new Ryder Cup captain. Davis Love III has some insight on the selection, at least one aspect of it.

''I can guarantee you it won't be me,'' Love said after he finished his final round of the year at Disney.

Love's name surfaced not long after Europe's amazing rally at Medinah. The Americans have not had a captain serve more than once since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, and the last U.S. captain to do it twice in a row was Ben Hogan in 1947 and 1949. Love said he hadn't been asked, and he wouldn't be interested.

At least not for 2014.

''I love my team; I love the way they played, everything they did,'' he said. ''If I had another chance, the only thing I'd change is winning. It would almost be wrong for the guys who played for me and played so hard and so well ... to try to make up for it. I don't think it would be good. Maybe down the road if they had a gap.''

Love doesn't understand why the PGA of America is hung up on a captain being in his late 40s, or having won a major. He has yet to figure out how winning a major translates into being a good captain. He said players argued for Jay Haas immediately after the 2004 Ryder Cup. Love figures with the Champions Tour, television and news coverage, the older players still know what's going on.

David Toms, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson appeared to be logical candidates for the next several years. After that?

''If there's a gap where they don't have anybody who fits, and they asked me to do it 10 years from now, I'd do it – maybe,'' Love said. ''Back to back? I don't think so.''

Q-SCHOOL: Scott Brown was a lonely figure on the putting green at Disney for the last two days after he missed the cut. He saw no point in going home. Brown was No. 144 on the money list, and if he dropped out of the top 150, he would have to go to the second stage of Q-School.

His projected number fell as low as No. 149, and he wound up at No. 148. He could go home for two weeks before heading out to the California desert for the final stage of the last Q-School that awards Tour cards.

So many others were not so fortunate. Billy Hurley III finished at No. 151 by $165. Mark Anderson was tied for the lead at one point Friday, but he fell back and didn't make up enough ground to avoid the second stage, which starts this week at six locations and is a critical step in getting back to the Tour.

Those who don't make it have no status anywhere on Tour, unless they are a past champion.

Among those entered in the 72-hole stage are major champions Todd Hamilton, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and Lee Janzen. Also entered are a pair of Europeans ranked in the top 50 (Jamie Donaldson and Alex Noren), a former Ryder Cup player from England (Ross Fisher) and K.T. Kim, who played in the Presidents Cup last year.

JOE DEY AWARD: The U.S. Golf Association has selected Taizo Kawata of Japan for its Joe Dey Award, making him the first non-American to win the annual award that recognizes volunteer service to golf.

Kawata first got involved with the USGA in 1981 as the color commentator for the Japanese television broadcast of the U.S. Open at Merion. He later joined the USGA Rules Committee and has been a rules official at the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open for most of the last decade. He also helped establish the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Japan in 2005. Kawata has been a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club since 1990.

Kawata, who played baseball at Ohio State, will be honored Feb. 2 at the USGA annual meeting in San Diego.

DIVOTS: Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and Peter Hanson of Sweden were among four international players who earned enough money to get full Tour cards for next year. The others were David Lynn of England, the runner-up by eight shots at the PGA Championship, and Ryo Ishikawa. ... The top 26 players in the world ranking are all Tour members. ... Stricker says he struggled with his putter over the second half of the year, and one statistic shows that. In the ''strokes gained'' category, Stricker fell to No. 67. He was No. 2 last year. ... Justin Leonard (No. 9) and Jerry Kelly (No. 25) will be using one-time exemptions for being in the top 25 in career money to have a full Tour card for 2013.

STAT OF THE WEEK: There were 67 tee shots of at least 400 yards on Tour this year, with 65 occurring at either Kapalua or Firestone. The exceptions were Retief Goosen on the seventh hole at Doral and Kevin Kisner on the 18th hole at Sedgefield CC in the Wyndham Championship.

FINAL WORD: ''I still have a lot of years ahead of me. I just don't want to be burned out. I don't want to get to the stage where I'm 30 years old or 35 years old and ... I don't want to say, 'Fed up with the game.' But it's a long time to be playing a sport. And I just want to pace myself.'' – McIlroy.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.