Tiger never ceases to amaze, even his caddies

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It only took Mike “Fluff” Cowan one tournament as the caddie for Tiger Woods to see a shot he had never seen.Joe LaCava had that moment in his third week working for Woods.

Cowan was the first caddie Woods hired when he made his professional debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. He doesn’t remember which round, or even what hole they were on, just the club selection off the tee.

“It was his stinger, his 2-iron,” Cowan said, looking around until he locked his eyes on the waist-high mesh around the practice green at Sherwood Country Club. “It didn’t hardly get over that green net. But it stayed in the air forever. It went out there 270 yards or something. That was the one that got me.

“It was just a different kind of shot that I had ever seen anybody hit.”

LaCava, hired by Woods in October, had spent plenty of time around the 14-time major champion during his 20 years on the bag with Fred Couples, with whom Woods often played.

Even so, a 3-wood on the par-5 15th at Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup got his attention, and a few weeks later, he still had trouble describing what he saw.

“He hit it such a way that it was trajecting like this,” LaCava, using his hand to show a flat line with the slightest downward arc. “But it wasn’t coming down. It wasn’t rising, either. It’s hard to describe. It was gaining speed, but it wasn’t going up. That’s when I thought, ‘This guy is making the ball do something I’ve never seen anyone else do.’ I had never seen a trajectory like this on a 3-wood or any other shot.”

LaCava said the pin was cut in the front right portion of the green, and the ball finally stopped in the back left corner. The shot was into the wind, and in firm conditions, and he estimates it went just under 270 yards.

Just then, Woods walked up on the discussion. And when he sensed the conversation ending, he said, “Keep going.”

“Look at that little grin on his face,” LaCava said. “He knows what I’m talking about. But he won’t say anything about it.”




MATCH PLAY: This is the final week to qualify for the Match Play Championship, making the world rankings relevant for the first of several times this year.

Among those on the bubble for the 64-man field are Ernie Els (No. 62), followed by Kevin Na, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore and Charles Howell, who at No. 66 is currently just beyond getting the final spot at Dove Mountain in two weeks.

That depends on Paul Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding. Casey is on the mend, and there is an outside chance he could play. Phil Mickelson already has said he is not playing.

Na tied for fifth in the Phoenix Open, moving up nine spots to No. 63. He can nail down his spot in the World Golf Championship at Pebble Beach this week, as can Ryan Moore at No. 65.

The others can only hope they hold their positions. Els, Allenby and Howell are not playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Dubai Desert Classic.

Eight of the next 10 players beyond No. 66 are playing this week - Joost Luiten, Rory Sabbatini, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Noren, Spencer Levin, Sean O’Hair, Vijay Singh and Chez Reavie. The exceptions are Toru Taniguchi (No. 70) and Johnson Wagner (No. 73).

Last week’s winners, Paul Lawrie (Qatar) and Kyle Stanley (Phoenix), both locked up spots in the Match Play.


INKSTER OUT: Even when she took time off the LPGA to have two children, Juli Inkster never went more than a month without playing golf. Now comes her biggest challenge.

After trying to cope with pain in her right elbow, Inkster had surgery Jan. 27 to repair a torn tendon. The 51-year-old Hall of Famer will be in some form of a cast for the next month and might not be able to return until the middle of summer at the earliest.

That’s OK with her.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I want to go out on my terms,” Inkster said. “This is the first injury I’ve ever had. Before the surgery, I was kind of floundering. I wouldn’t say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least this is the start of the tunnel.”

The tough part will be finding something to do, except for the physical therapy. Inkster is all about competing. It’s been in her blood since she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three straight years and then went on to the career Grand Slam.

“Me? How do you think Brian is feeling?” said Inkster, whose husband is the head pro at Los Altos Country Club. “I’m sure there’s going to be some ‘Sorry, I’ve got another meeting today, honey.’ I think once I get started with physical therapy I’m going to be fine. But I’ve been watching a lot of ‘NCIS.’ It got to the point where I was watching so much football I started calling the plays.”


RYDER CUP: Kyle Stanley has shot to the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with his playoff loss at Torrey Pines and win in Phoenix.

But there’s a long way to go.

Thanks to Paul Azinger’s captaincy, Ryder Cup points are based on all PGA Tour earnings this year, with the majors counting double. There are still four majors, three World Golf Championships ($8.5 million purse), The Players Championship (at least $9.5 million) and three other events with at least $6.5 million in prize money.

Here’s another way to look at it.

After the Phoenix Open in 2010, the top eight in the standings were Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ben Crane. Only four of them – Stricker, Johnson, Mahan and Mickelson – qualified.

Three others who made the team – Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Jeff Overton – were not even among the top 25 in the standings. The other was Matt Kuchar, who was 13th at this time and wound up getting the final spot.


DIVOTS: Daniel Chopra had a day to remember at Pebble Beach during a practice round Monday. He made a hole-in-one on the seventh hole and then made another ace on the 17th. … Karrie Webb, the only woman to capture the LPGA’s “Super Slam” of five majors, was awarded honorary membership at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. … The U.S. Golf Association will award exemptions to the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open to the players who win the Mark H. McCormack medal as the leading amateur. That would be Patrick Cantlay (already eligible as the U.S. Amateur runner-up) and Lydia Ko, the 14-year-old from New Zealand who recently became the youngest winner of a tour event. … Valero has signed a six-year extension as the title sponsor of the Texas Open. The new deal takes the sponsorship through 2018. … The LPGA added another marketing partner Tuesday by signing Volvik, a Korean golf ball company.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott is the only player from among the top 20 in the world who has yet to play a tournament this year.


FINAL WORD: “I fear we would be eating our own children if we went to two sets of rules.” - USGA president Glen Nager.

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

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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).