Spieth shares lead at Hero World Challenge

By Doug FergusonDecember 4, 2015, 10:18 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Jordan Spieth feels like he's on vacation in the Bahamas. On the golf course, he's all business.

Spieth rallied from a rugged start Friday with three straight birdies, and then a surge on the back nine carried him to a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead with Jimmy Walker and Bill Haas going into the weekend at the Hero World Challenge.

''The grind is still there,'' Spieth said.

He had to work hard just to keep pace on a calm, muggy afternoon is the islands, where the wind wasn't strong enough to blow out a match and it showed in the scoring. Rarely has this holiday event with an 18-man field featured so many players near the lead.

For one brief moment on the back nine, there was an eight-way tie for the lead.

Walker, who began working on a new move in his swing just over a week ago, drove the ball as well as he has all year on his way to a 67. Haas, who received one of the two sponsor exemptions to the tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, had a 66.

They were at 11-under 133.


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Patrick Reed (65), Chris Kirk (65) and Bubba Watson (67) were one shot behind.

Spieth is wrapping up a big year, and he seems intent on going out in style. He traveled from Sydney to the Bahamas (with a brief stop at home in Dallas to do laundry) and began his push up the leaderboard with an eagle on the par-5 11th hole from about 30 feet. He followed with two more birdies to get a share of the lead.

''It's still all about rest,'' Spieth said. ''Coming off how much golf we've been playing, I'm still going to be about making sure I'm resting. ... But on the golf course, I'm still getting as intense and upset and highs and lows that I experience at a normal PGA Tour event.''

Spieth also was at 11-under 133 a year ago in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth in Florida. That was good for a two-shot lead, and a 63-66 weekend allowed him to win by 10 shots. This is far different. Half of the field was separated by only three shots.

''The scores are just really good, which makes for an exciting weekend, and I'm just happy to hold my own weight for two days,'' Haas said. ''I think if I shoot 11 under on the weekend, then I'll have a really good shot. Simple as that sounds, that's the way you've got to keep it. If I play well, I think I'll have a chance. But if I don't, there are so many players that are playing well, the best players in the world, I'll fall back pretty quickly if I don't.''

Walker went to see Butch Harmon at the start of last week in Las Vegas to start working on a move where his head moves at impact, which keeps him from having to rely so much on timing. It's coming together nicely - and quickly.

''Driving the golf ball today, I haven't had that much fun in a long time, to be honest,'' Walker said.

No one has been playing more than Reed, or more places. And he's been playing well. He has recorded top 10 finishes in five tournaments since the Tour Championship in Hong Kong, Malaysia, twice in Shanghai and Dubai. He's happy with his performance, though far from satisfied.

''I know to get to all my goals I need to get Ws,'' he said. ''Top 10s, top 5s aren't going to cut it where I need to get to. Those are good fill-in weeks, but we need to get in contention a little more. We need to close some tournaments off.''

Not everyone took advantage. Billy Horschel had eight birdies and no bogeys on his card, which ordinary would please him greatly - except that he took a double bogey on the par-3 second hole, and a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 11th hole without hitting into the water. He had a plugged lie under the lip of a bunker that he shanked into a bush, and his troubles ended with what he called a ''good putt for a 9.''

''This round today is very much how my year went,'' Horschel said with a grin.

Anirban Lahiri of India, who also received a sponsor exemption, was a little more exasperated. Lahiri felt as though he hit the ball well enough to be double digits under par. Instead, a double bogey on the 18th hole gave him a 70 and he was six shots behind. It felt worse.

''If my mom had putted, she would have shot 65,'' Lahiri said.

Justin Rose couldn't get home fast enough after his round of 72, which didn't take long because Albany is now his primary residence. That made it even more frustrating.

''You'd think I had never seen these greens before,'' Rose said.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:



Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.



At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 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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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.