Tiger Woods alone on top Down Under

By Doug FergusonNovember 13, 2009, 7:09 pm
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Back in Australia for the first time in 11 years, Tiger Woods is in a familiar place.

He opened with two birdies that revved up another massive crowd, saved his round with two par putts in the middle and kept bogeys off his card on his way to a 4-under 68 that gave him a three-shot lead Friday.

It was the fourth straight tournament that Woods has been atop the leaderboard going into the weekend. The trick now is to finish it off, even with no one among the top 50 in the world chasing him.

Woods has failed to win the last two times, at the Tour Championship and HSBC Champions, both won by Phil Mickelson.

Despite losing his swing and at times his temper, Woods built a comfortable margin over Jason Dufner (67) and a pair of Australians who had a chance to join him in the final pairing Saturday.

James Nitties, who played behind Woods in another rock-concert atmosphere at Kingston Heath, bogeyed the 15th and 17th holes and had to settle for a 71. Greg Chalmers got a bad lie on the 17th and made bogey to shoot 69.

Both lost a chance to play before a hometown crowd with the world’s No. 1 player, who was at 10-under 134.

“It’s been very rare when he comes down here, and who knows when he’ll come again, so to play with him at any time is always a pleasure,” Chalmers said. “I was a little frustrated by that, but at the same time I have played with him before. It just would have been nice in Australia to have a game with Tiger Woods.”

The hope now is that Woods gives them a chance.

“To shoot 68 today, I thought that was a pretty good number considering the conditions,” Woods said. “I did have a couple of short birdie putts that I missed … but not to drop a shot to par, those are always days that you feel quite good about.”

Dufner shot his 67 in the morning, as the skies cleared and the wind was minimal, and he finished atop the leaderboard at 7-under 137.

Woods regained the lead quickly.

First came a putt up the slope short of the green on the par-5 first hole to 3 feet. As the wind was shifting, Woods switched clubs three times from the middle of the second fairway and dropped his approach 2 feet from the hole for another birdie.

Woods appeared to be on the verge of pulling away when frustration settled in.

He slammed his driver into the ground, drawing gasps from the crowd – remember, it’s been 11 years since they have seen him – and stalked the cup after missing birdie chances from 10 feet on the 15th, and from 6 feet on the next hole. Both could have expanded his margin going into the weekend.

Still, it was a pair of par putts that kept him satisfied.

His tee shot on the ninth – the first time he pulled driver – went through the fairway and into the rough, and the grass grabbed his club on the second shot, pulling it toward the gallery. Such shots elicit cheers from fans who realize Woods will be standing next to him to play his next shot, although this chip came out hot and went 15 feet by the hole. He made it for a key par.

Then came the par-5 14th, which Woods reached Thursday with a 3-iron. Into the wind, he tried to hook a 3-wood around a gum tree, but the ball clipped branches and tumbled into a bunker some 60 yards short of the green. Woods did well to get it on the green, but he left his long putt 10 feet short. Facing a bogey, he made that putt to save par.

“I didn’t really do anything great, but I made two big par putts to keep the round going,” Woods said.

Dufner, playing before a decent-sized crowd in the group with Adam Scott, reached 9 under in the easier morning conditions until playing his last five holes in 2 over.

The American has been Down Under while playing Nationwide Tour events. Now, he’s on a tour of this part of the world, having qualified for the World Golf Championship in China, and heading to the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

The idea was to knock some rust off. There didn’t appear to be too much at Kingston Heath.

“I could have stayed at home and played in the States, but that’s kind of the same old thing,” Dufner said. “I play enough events over there. I thought it would be a good choice to come over here and kind of broaden my golf experience, and it happens to be a real good event now that Tiger is playing.”

The question is whether Woods will give anyone a chance.

“As a professional, you have to believe so,” Chalmers said. “Otherwise, you may as well throw your sticks in the bin. At the same time, it’s a tall order. You’re talking about the greatest player of our era, and nobody seems to know how to win more from 36 holes than him.”

Chalmers was poised to join Woods in the final group until his tee shot landed behind a clump of grass that kept him from making a free swing with a predictable outcome directly at the green. Instead, he played for a 40-yard hook to avoid the clump, missed the green and chipped poorly to make a bogey.

Woods is 1-3 with a 36-hole lead dating to the PGA Championship, when Y.E. Yang overcome a four-shot deficit – including two shots behind in the last round – to beat him at Hazeltine.

Inspiration? Maybe.

“You can ask any player whether it’s possible and we would all agree that yes, sure it is,” Chalmers said. “But I’m sure Tiger is sitting at home in his hotel going, ‘Ain’t no chance.’ But it’s golf. Crazy things can happen.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.