Watney takes two-shot lead at Sherwood

By Doug FergusonNovember 30, 2012, 1:30 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Sure enough, putting was all the rage Thursday in the World Challenge.

One day after golf's governing bodies proposed a new rule that will ban the anchored stroke used for long putters, Keegan Bradley talked about someone on Twitter telling the PGA champion to send in his resume to Burger King in 2016, when the rule goes into effect. Bradley got so fed up with the teasing over his belly putter this week that he grabbed Tiger Woods' putter and made three out of four from 10 feet.

The rule doesn't affect Nick Watney, though he couldn't say enough about his putting. He made five birdies on his last 10 holes – including his first birdie ever on the 14th hole at Sherwood – for a 5-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead.

Woods' putting saved his round, even though most of them were for par. That included a 12-foot putt on the 15th and an 8-footer to avoid bogey on the par-5 16th. It added up to a 70, which left him very much in the hunt at an 18-man event where he is more than just a tournament host. Without a title sponsor, Woods is underwriting most of the cost.

And yes, even Steve Stricker made news Thursday with his putter. He tried a new one.

''Mid-life crisis,'' he said.

The World Challenge is not a hit-and-giggle at the end of the year, even with a short field, no cut and lots of holiday cash for all involved. The field is stronger than ever, with 13 players from the Ryder Cup, and it showed in the scores. On a cool, overcast day in the Conejo Valley, only eight shots separated the top (Watney) from Brandt Snedeker, bringing up the rear with a 75.

Snedeker drilled a fairway metal into 8 feet and made eagle on the 11th hole, only to see his round to fall apart. He hit two provisional tee shots on the par-3 12th, didn't have to use them but still made bogey, and then he snap-hooked his next tee shot and made double bogey.

Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament – Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell – were two shots out of the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat this year at Congressional, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

But the buzz remained over the belly.

Bradley was the first player to win a major using the belly putter at the 2011 PGA Championship, and then Simpson and Ernie Els followed this year. Bradley is not happy about the rule, though he has been respectful toward the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient in their right to set the rules.

But this is a guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and this chip could be a big one.

He described his round as awesome, aside from a bad break on the 18th that led to bogey, the only green he missed all day.

''If I could have made a few more putts, I probably could have been a lot lower,'' he said, pausing before he added, ''I know people probably don't want to hear that.''

He then revealed how much abuse he was taking on Twitter, though he knows better not to take seriously a comment from people he either doesn't know or who don't use their real names in social media. That would include one tweet telling him to send in an application to Burger King for 2016.

''I've been doing a better job lately of not reading them, but I'm going to make a switch when I feel it's best for me,'' Bradley said. ''And whether that's tomorrow or in three years, we'll see.''

The switch earlier this week to Woods' putter was only temporary, and it was a joke.

''I give him grief every day,'' Woods said.

Too bad Bradley didn't make Woods try a few putts with the belly.

''You don't want to see Tiger with that putter,'' Bradley said. 'If it was up to me, I'd film him and send that to Mike Davis. I think he would take the ban off.''

Bradley did a little more experimenting after his round Thursday. He gripped his putter a little lower so that the end wasn't anchored to his belly. He ran the putter up his left arm for a few putts, the style used by Matt Kuchar that would remain legal. But as he tinkered around, he noticed a TV camera filming him and stopped.

It's still a sensitive subject for Bradley, and he wants everyone to know he's a pretty good golfer with any putter in his bag.

''I feel like the USGA has really put an 'X' on our back and really shined a light on us, and I don't know if that's exactly fair,'' Bradley said. ''I just hope that people look at us for the type of players that we are and the accomplishments that we've had, and not because we use a belly putter, and now the USGA says it's going to be illegal. When we started putting with it, they were legal. And they still are.

''It's a sticky situation, and I hope they can see through that.''

As for Stricker?

He says he got his new putter at a golf store in Madison, Wis., which begged another question: What was he doing in a golf store?

''Looking for a putter,'' he said.

Stricker figured it was time to mix things up, so during his long break from golf, he went looking for a putter similar to what Luke Donald and Ian Poulter use. He bought a Sabertooth made by Odyssey, the same company that made the putter he has used so long even the metal tape on the bottom looks old.

''I like the way it feels, and I putted good today, especially on the short ones,'' Stricker said.

Not to worry. He brought his old putter with him to Sherwood. ''Just in case,'' he said with a smile.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but 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 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal 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 upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”