Tim Clark wins The Players Championship

By Doug FergusonMay 10, 2010, 2:52 am

The Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tim Clark was good enough to win on three continents and play on three Presidents Cup teams. He was better than everyone but Phil Mickelson in the 2006 Masters.

Good enough to win on the PGA Tour? Clark was starting to wonder.

In more than eight years and 204 tournaments on golf’s toughest circuit, he was a runner-up eight times but nothing more. The worst moment was last year at Colonial, where he missed two putts to win, in regulation and a playoff.

“There was a part of me that thought, ‘Man, what have I been doing?’ When you play that many tournaments, and when you have weeks where you feel like you’ve played well enough to win and you haven’t, it gets a bit frustrating,” Clark said. “You do start to wonder, ‘When is it going to happen for me?’

“Luckily for me, this week I did play my best,” he said. “That’s about as good as I can play.”

Regarded as one of the best players to have never won on the PGA Tour, Clark ended that conversation Sunday by beating the best field in golf at The Players Championship.

And he did it in style.

Trailing by seven shots going into the weekend, Clark set a TPC Sawgrass record with the largest 36-hole comeback, breaking by one the previous mark by Tiger Woods in 2001.

On a frightening Stadium Course that played its toughest in the final round – the greens were so firm they were brown – he didn’t make a single bogey. The 34-year-old South African dropped only one shot on the weekend, and he played the final 26 holes at par or better.

The streak never mattered more than on the final hole.

Having survived the famous island-green 17th hole, Clark faced an 8-foot par putt on the 18th hole. He had a two-shot lead over Robert Allenby of Australia and Lee Westwood of England, but they still had three holes to play, including the par-5 16th that could easily be reached in two shots with an iron.

For Clark, it was about the same length he faced at Colonial last year. It was close to the same length of the birdie putt at the Bob Hope Classic this year, when he finished one shot behind.

“I knew I needed that putt, and I knew I needed it at the Colonial,” Clark said. “Today, I just trusted myself and just tried to get into that shot and tried to hit that shot as best as I could. That’s really the whole key. I think in the past, I’ve maybe been thinking about winning way too much. Today, I just tried to hit every shot as good as I could.”

Allenby hit them just as well. He just didn’t hit two putts quite hard enough.

Allenby can relate to Clark, having won plenty around the world, but not on the PGA Tour since September 2001. Two shots behind, he drilled his approach into 18 feet for eagle and a share of the lead. It lacked just enough pace to fall in.

One shot behind on the 17th, Allenby hit another pure shot that cleared the water, the bunker and looked as though it would funnel to the hole for a tap-in birdie. Instead, it checked up. His putt looked good all the way until it rolled up to the edge of the cup, then turned away. Allenby was so shocked he walked to the edge of the water, and no one would have blamed him for jumping in.

“For it to go up to the hole and take a little look over the top and then come back, that was a bit rude,” Allenby said. “But obviously, the golfing gods were with Tim today, and I can accept that. I did everything that I could possibly do to try and win the tournament.”

Allenby closed with a 70 to finish runner-up for the seventh time since his last PGA Tour victory.

Clark finished at 16-under 272 and earned $1.71 million from the richest prize in golf. It comes with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and a three-year exemption to the Masters.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover wound up third with a strong finish – a 31 on the back nine, including a 50-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

Westwood tied for fourth, four shots behind, although he had as good of a chance as anyone. He had a one-shot lead going into the final round, just as he did at the Masters, and held it going to the back nine.

Clark, however, ran off four straight birdies starting and ending with 18-foot putts on No. 9 and No. 12 to take the lead. Westwood, who made so many clutch pars early in the round, kept within two shots by making a 50-foot par on the 15th.

But his birdie putt caught the lip on the 16th, and his tee shot on the 17th clattered against the boards and went into the water, giving him a double bogey.

“Disappointed, but not something I’m going to pull my hair out over,” Westwood said. “If you don’t play well, you don’t deserve to win. And I just didn’t play well over the weekend.”

No one will question whether Clark played well. He was simply at his best.

“I did all I could out there,” Clark said when he finished his round. “That’s as good as I could have played. I feel like I hit every shot I like I wanted to today.”

It led to the best feeling of all – a victory on the PGA Tour.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

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.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

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.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

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.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“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.”