Scott can relate to current youth movement
Rory McIlroy shot a 62 at Quail Hollow to break the course record by two shots. Ryo Ishikawa shot a 58 to break the record of any course on a major tour and win The Crowns in Japan.
McIlroy turned 21 on Tuesday. Ishikawa, 18, graduated from high school two months ago. And to keep with the timing, 16-year-old Matteo Manassero is making his professional debut this week in the Italian Open. He made the cut at the Masters.
Adam Scott wasn’t sure which amazed him more.
“I wouldn’t have broken 90 at Augusta when I was 16,” he said. “I’m not just saying that as a throwaway line. I mean that. I wasn’t anywhere near that level at his age.”
Scott wasn’t too shabby, however. He turned pro when he was 20 and earned his European Tour card in eight starts. Over the next decade, he reached as high as No. 3 in the world and has won 15 times around the world, one of those The Players Championship when he became its youngest champion in 2004 at age 23.
Scott was born the same year as Sergio Garcia, who reached No. 2 in the world and counts The Players among his 18 wins worldwide.
McIlroy, Ishikawa and perhaps Manassero might be the next crops of kiddies, and Scott sees a trend.
“Every generation learns from the one before,” he said. “Tiger won early and Sergio learned from that, and he did it early. I was doing it at a fairly early age. Now you have Rory and Ryo. They’ve learned from guys like Tiger. Look at Ryo. He’s 18 and he’s been doing this for three years. He’s already played a Presidents Cup. That’s hard to get your head around.”
That begs the question: Who did Woods learn from?
Scott recalls Woods playing Augusta National as an amateur with Greg Norman, not to mention Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
“I think he learned from the best of his time,” Scott said. “He’s a special athlete who always had an extra sense. From what I remember hearing from Butch Harmon, Tiger soaked up information from everybody.”
CHANGING SIDES: Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water on the island-green 17th at Sawgrass during a practice round Tuesday.
Not to be alarmed. He was hitting right-handed, and this time, there wasn’t a tree in his way.
Mickelson practiced with two-time Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson, and they decided to switch clubs when they got to the most famous hole at The Players Championship.
“He and I had a little contest,” Mickelson said. “He was going to hit it lefty, I was going to hit it righty, and neither one of us hit the green. I at least reached the water. Dustin struggled with that.”
ISLAND SOD: Because of the harsh winter in Florida, the condition of the Players Stadium course is not as good as it has been. The fairways and greens are running well, although there are splotches of green.
On the famous island green at No. 17, there is a patch of sod from where the grass did not come in. That means the back left hole location might not be used this week.
“A couple more chances for a hole-in-one, I guess,” Jim Furyk said.
He was referring to the front of the green, where players can land the ball in the ridge and allow it to funnel back to the cup. The back left location is considered the toughest, as players must make sure they hit it beyond the ridge without going too far into the water.
“It’s enticing,” Furyk said. “It makes you want to fire at it, even though you shouldn’t. I actually won’t miss it, to be dead honest.”
The other area of concern is chipping from around the greens, where the lie can be bare. J.J. Henry was behind the 13th hole when he chose to bump a 2-iron instead of chipping.
Phil Mickelson has opted for the putter.
“It reminded me a lot of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2005 when there was a very bare area around the green and a lot of sand, and you weren’t able to get a wedge underneath it,” Mickelson said. “I found myself putting a lot from off the green, which I expect to do here just because you just can’t get a wedge underneath the ball.”
TIGER TIMES: As expected, Tiger Woods will be teeing off Thursday afternoon from the first hole. That’s only significant because it means he will start on No. 10 on Friday morning (8:18 a.m.).
The 17th hole is the rowdiest at The Players Championship, especially on Friday afternoon when fans have had plenty to drink and are at their most vocal. When Woods gets to that hole Friday, it will be just before 11 a.m.
He had the early-late rotation last week at Quail Hollow.
Over the last 10 years at The Players Championship, this is only the third time Woods has had the late-early rotation. He will be playing with Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan.
POULTER ON THE MEND: Ian Poulter says he is back at full strength after injuring his knee playing basketball.
“Happy days,” Poulter said Tuesday on the range at the TPC Sawgrass. “The knee is good, the fluid is fully dissipated, full strength. There are no issues.”
Poulter, who won the Match Play Championship in February for his first American victory, pulled out of New Orleans because of his knee. He had been playing basketball with his son in the driveway when a few friends showed up, and they went at it for an hour.
“Guys in the NBA only play 48 minutes,” said Poulter, a regular at Orlando Magic games. “What was I thinking?”
DIVOTS: This is the first time Tiger Woods has played the week after missing the cut. … Camilo Villegas and his younger brother, Manny, will be playing together on the PGA Tour for the first time in the St. Jude Classic. Manny Villegas has received a sponsor’s exemption. … Bob Estes showed up Tuesday wearing trousers that look as though they were made from his grandmother’s quilt. He got them from John Daly, the “Loudmouth” variety. “If John can’t be here, someone should wear them,” Estes said with a laugh. But he won’t wear them during the tournament rounds. … Tiger Woods has never held the lead at The Players Championship except for after the final round in 2001, the only time he won.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy (No. 13) was the highest-ranked player to win a tournament where Tiger Woods missed the cut.
FINAL WORD: “The first time I won here was the first year that I stopped trying to make a 2 on that hole and just accepted 3 as being a good score, even though I’ve got a wedge in my hand.” – Phil Mickelson, on the island-green 17th at the TPC Sawgrass.
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.
She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.
Her confidence is high.
“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”
Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.
Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.
“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”
Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.
“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”
Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.
“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”
That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.
While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.
But then . . .
“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”
In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.
She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.
With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.
At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).
Park’s back with a hot putter.
That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.
“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.
“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.
Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.
“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.
Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.
Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.
They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.
Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.
“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.
“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”
Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.
“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”
Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.
“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”
Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers
PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.
It came on St. Patrick’s Day.
“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”
Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).
One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.
“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.
Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year. Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.
Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF
PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”
She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.
That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.
With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.
Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.
Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.
Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?
“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”
Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.
“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”
Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.
“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”
About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.
“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.
Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.
While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.
“You never know,” she said.