Woods starts year with 69 and trails by five strokes
Looking for a new start after a disastrous year on and off the golf course, Woods felt little stress Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 3-under 69 on the North Course that left him five shots behind South Korean rookie Sunghoon Kang.
If the setting was familiar for Woods, so was his middle-of-the-pack position. In four of his six wins at this tournaments, he has been at least five shots behind after the opening round.
“I’m happy with the way I played, absolutely,” Woods said. “I could have been a lot better if I took care of the par 5s a little bit more, but obviously, I didn’t do that.”
Kang, a 24-year-old rookie, finished with back-to-back birdies on the North Course for an 8-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over fellow rookie Chris Kirk, Alex Prugh and Rickie Fowler.
Phil Mickelson shot 32 on the back nine for a 5-under 67 to match the best score on the tougher South Course, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open that Woods won in a playoff. Also at 67 on the South was John Daly, whose last win came in 2004 at this tournament. He is the last player to win at Torrey Pines when Woods was in the field.
“This place means a lot to me,” Daly said. “The top golfers play here every year. That says something.”
Woods no longer is No. 1 – he has slipped to No. 3 in the world ranking and can’t improve on that this week – but he has not played the public course he has practically owned since that U.S. Open in 2008. He missed the next year because of knee surgery, and last year while in a Mississippi addiction clinic after being caught in extramarital affairs.
“Welcome back to Torrey,” was a popular phrase from the gallery throughout his round, in which Woods played solidly except on the greens. He made only two putts longer than 3 feet – a 10-foot par save on No. 8, and a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 sixth that bounced along until catching the right corner of the cup.
“I didn’t leave myself any putts,” Woods said. “I kept leaving myself above the hole. And I didn’t take advantage of the par 5s.”
The North Course is not the pushover it has been in past years because of some new length, and not just in distance. Along with being some 90 yards longer, the rough was allowed to grow and is thicker than the grass found on the South Course.
“I didn’t know the North was as long as the South,” Ben Curtis said after a 70. He knows better, but it felt that way if tee shots did not stay in the narrow, canted fairways.
Woods was in shorter grass on half of his 14 tee shots, although four of those misses came on the par 5s. He couldn’t get to the green in two, and didn’t make the birdie putts.
Even so, he looked more like the Woods who ended last year with a playoff loss at the Chevron World Challenge, not the guy who played so poorly for so much of the year that he didn’t win on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career.
It felt like a typical season-opener for Woods, including his position on the leaderboard. In his last four trips to this PGA Tour event, he has trailed by seven, six, five and two shots after the opening round and went on to win them all.
Even so, scoring on the North was lower, and Woods will need to pick up the pace on the South Course. He is playing the first two days with Anthony Kim and Rocco Mediate, whom Woods defeated in that epic U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines.
Mediate was chattering away, as usual, but there wasn’t much conversation about that 19-hole playoff from 2008.
“We didn’t play that golf course,” Woods said.
Kim was among those at 68, a tribute to his great scrambling. He chipped in from 40 feet for par, holed a 30-foot par putt from the fringe and made two other par saves outside 10 feet.
The top of the leaderboard was filled with youth, starting with Kang, who earned his card through Q-School. Fowler was voted the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2010 on a ballot that included Prugh. Kirk finished second on the Nationwide Tour last year, when he hurt his wrist and couldn’t play the last two events.
On the South Course, rookies Fabian Gomez of Argentina and Keegan Bradley were among those at 67
Kang had the recipe on the North Course that Woods couldn’t find.
“This course, all the par 5s are reachable, so I really tried to keep to the fairways and it worked really well,” Kang said. “And I really had a good chance on the par 5s. That’s why I played very well today.”
He played them in 4 under, including an eagle on No. 14 when he chipped in from 25 feet.
Daly has special memories of Torrey from his playoff win in 2004, but he wasn’t in such a great mood a year ago. He missed the cut after rounds of 79-71, and told a Golf Channel television crew that was taping a documentary that he was done. Some media outlets construed that to mean he was retiring, although Daly had made similar comments right after a bad performance.
“You get frustrated,” Daly said.
That wasn’t the case Thursday, a spectacular day of sunshine along the Pacific coast.
Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief
A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.
The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.
The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.
Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.
Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.
"This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."
LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse
The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.
While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.
The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).
The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.
An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.
The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.
The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”
While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.
Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:
Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million
Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million
Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million
March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million
March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million
March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million
March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million
April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million
April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million
April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million
May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million
May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million
May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million
May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million
June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million
June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million
June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million
June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million
July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million
July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million
July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million
Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million
Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million
Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million
Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million
Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million
Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million
Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million
Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million
Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million
Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million
Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million
Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth
Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.
And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.
Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.
Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent.
Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.
Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.
Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.
In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.
Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)
U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)
The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)
PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)
TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS
AT&T Pebble Beach
FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18