Westwood maintains slim lead at The Players

By Doug FergusonMay 9, 2010, 12:01 am

The Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A scrambling par on the final hole allowed England’s Lee Westwood to keep the one-shot lead that he started with Saturday at The Players Championship.

Phil Mickelson suddenly is back in the picture, along with a possible No. 1 ranking. Tiger Woods is not.

Westwood, who fell two shots behind with six holes left in the third round, avoided the kind of mistakes on the back nine that slowed Heath Slocum and finished with a 2-under 70 to take a one-shot lead over Australian Robert Allenby going into the final round on the always unpredictable TPC Sawgrass.

Allenby was five shots behind when he walked off the 13th tee. He answered with a 6-iron to just outside 12 feet on the par-5 16th for eagle, then a 12-foot birdie on the island-green 17th that curled into the side of the cup. He shot a 67 and will play in the final group.

Westwood was at 14-under 202.

“The golf course changed a lot. It got really firm this afternoon,” Westwood said. “I thought I played well – gave myself a lot of chances, missed a couple, but all in all, I was pleased with the way I played. I didn’t make too many poor shots out there.”

He certainly didn’t on the 18th after his drive landed in a drain grate. He took a free drop, saw a gap in the trees and hit a 6-iron onto the green to give himself another shot at winning.

A month ago, Westwood had a one-shot lead over Mickelson going into the last round of the Masters.

Mickelson began the day nine shots out of the lead, the same as Woods.

They went opposite directions, however. Mickelson didn’t make a bogey until the final hole for a 66 to put himself back into the picture, just five shots behind Westwood. The 10 players ahead of him have a combined 14 victories on the PGA Tour.

“I feel like things started to click a little bit today, and I think I’ve got one more low round in me,” Mickelson said. “I just hope that it will be enough, that I’ll be within striking distance.”

To reach No. 1 for the first time in his career, Mickelson has to win and have Woods finish out of the top five. Woods did hit part with a bogey-bogey finish for a 71 that put him 10 shots behind in a tie for 45th. His final bogey came after Woods popped up another 3-wood and had to hit fairway metal to the green.

It was the second time this week he hit a fairway metal for his second shot to a par 4.

“I had it going for a little bit,” Woods said. “I thought if I could have birdied 16 and 17, I’d have been right back in the tournament.”

Even for the 14 players separated by five shots, so much depends on Westwood and Allenby.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, the only player in the top 10 with a major, didn’t make a birdie until the ninth hole in his round of 69. He was at 12-under 204, along with Torrey Pines winner Ben Crane (68) and Francesco Molinari of Italy, who had a 71.

Slocum, who won the opening playoff event last year against a cast of stars, ran off three birdies in four holes around the turn to reach 15 under until a three-putt from the fringe below a steep ridge on the 13th changed everything. Slocum also bogeyed the 15th, then dumped his tee shot into the water on the par-3 17th for a double bogey. After all that work, he shot 72.

“What I’m going to have to do tomorrow is play perfect and finish strong,” Slocum said.

His poor finish put him at 11-under 205, three shots behind and tied with Tim Clark (66), Charley Hoffman (69) and Chris Stroud (66), a newcomer to this stage.

Westwood closed out both of his nines well. He hit a towering 5-wood over the trees on the par-5 ninth for a simple up-and-down for birdie, then the 6-iron on the 18th through the trees. His lone birdie on the back required a small break when his tee shot went through some pines and left him only an 8-iron to the green at the par-5 16th.

Allenby’s only blemish on the back nine looked ugly – a bladed lob wedge through the 12th green. He was in a divot in the rough, however, and wasn’t bothered by the bogey.

Even as he walked off the tee and saw Slocum in the group behind approaching at 15 under – five shots ahead – Allenby didn’t panic.

“That’s the thing,” Allenby said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen out there. All you can do is just play your own golf. But I knew I had to push it a little bit just to try to get within reach. Obviouslyly, the leaderboard changed a couple of times through the back nine. Luckily for me, I did well on the finishing holes.”

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Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'

By Will GrayMarch 18, 2018, 11:05 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.

He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.

Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”

In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”

Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.

“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”

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McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory

By Nick MentaMarch 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:

Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)

What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.

Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.

Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.

Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.

Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.

Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.

Remind you of anything?

Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy

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TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.

• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.

• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”

• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”

After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

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Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.

"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."

Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.