Woods-Stricker throttled on Day 1

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2011, 2:23 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods made the first move, reaching out to shake hands with his ex-caddie, that went a long way toward dousing the endless chatter over their acrimonious breakup.

Twelve holes later, as short a Presidents Cup match that has ever been played, Steve Williams had the last laugh.

In the 112 matches of various formats that Woods has played in his professional career, he never had a loss like this one. Playing again with Steve Stricker, an American tandem that was unbeatable two years ago, they didn’t win a hole and didn’t make a birdie in tying the Presidents Cup record for the worst loss ever, 7 and 6.

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Adam Scott – with Williams on his bag, kept his distance from Woods until they shook hands on the 12th green – and K.J. Choi rarely missed a shot in piling up pars and more than enough birdies. The foursomes match ended with Scott rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 11th, and stuffing his approach into 10 feet for Choi’s birdie on their final hole.

“We were just slightly off,” Woods said. “On a golf course like this, it doesn’t take much.”

That match was the biggest surprise on an opening day that featured a few unlikely twists at the end, with the Americans making two late rally to halve matches and leaving Royal Melbourne with a 4-2 lead overthe International team.

It was the third straight time the Americans have won the opening session.

“We are more excited than we were an hour-and-a-half before the day ended,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “Our guys fought hard.”

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, 3 down with seven holes to play, won the last two holes with pars to halve their match against the Aussie duo of Jason Day and Aaron BaddeleyNick Watney and Bill Haas were 2 down with four holes to play and managed a halve against Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel.

“My guys felt like they let a few matches slip away, no question about it,” International captain Greg Norman said. “But they all understand. It’s the game of golf. It does happen. Their heads are really held high. They are not worried about the next three days going forward. They all feel like they are playing extremely good golf.”

The other matches were never close.

Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, partners for the first time since The Ryder Cup in 1999, won five holes in a six-hole stretch for a 6-and-5 win over Retief GoosenBubba Watson and Webb Simpson were 7 under through 16 holes in a 4-and-2 win over Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa; and David Toms and Hunter Mahan took advantage of sloppy play by K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang in a 4-and-3 win.

But it was that last match that brought so much scrutiny – first with the handshake, then the way Scott and Choi slapped around an American team that had been 6-1 going into the Presidents Cup.

They were the last to tee off, and the second match to finish. That’s how big this blowout was.

“K.J. and I didn’t get it out of position today, which is a good thing on this golf course,” Scott said. “We both played very well. They got out of position a couple of times, and they didn’t play their best. Yeah, a good win. Because they were a tough team last time, took a lot of points off us. So it was pleasing to get one up there.”

The caddie squabble meant nothing to Scott, who has tried to stay out of the fray, even after Williams disparaged Woods with a racial comment while getting roasted at a caddies award dinner two weeks ago in Shanghai.

Woods didn’t make too much of it, either.

“I put my hand out there to shake it, and life goes forward,” he said. “There’s some great things that Steve and I did, and that’s how I look at it. I know he probably looks at it differently than I do, but hey – life goes forward, and I’m very happy with what we’ve done in our career together.”

Stricker was playing for the first time since Sept. 25 at the Tour Championship because of a neck injury that weakened his left arm. He hooked a tee shot on the par-5 second that kept them from a birdie, though neither of them played well. It was Woods who put them in a bunker on the fifth, and whose tee shot went through the fairway and into an unplayable lie in a bush, both leading to bogeys during a key stretch early in the round when fell 4 down.

The only other match in Presidents Cup history that lasted 12 holes was in Sunday singles in 1996, when David Frost beat Kenny Perry.

Woods and Stricker started their partnership by winning six straight matches, though the last two were big losses – 6 and 5 against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald at the Ryder Cup last year in Wales, and the 7-and-6 loss to Scott and Choi.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that while the Americans staked themselves to the 4-2 lead, their only loss – and their weakest team – was Woods and Stricker. Couples split them up for Friday’s fourballs – Woods with Johnson, Stricker with Kuchar, although that was the plan earlier in the week.

It will be the first time since the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal that Woods has another partner besides Stricker.

The greater concern for the International team was making up yet another deficit. It led in five matches at some point during the opening session, and the Americans never led in three of the six matches.

The last match might have hurt the worst, with Aaron Baddeley hitting his tee shot into the right rough, leading to a second straight bogey, and Johnson holing a 6-foot par on the 18th to earn a half-point.

“There’s no worse feeling than letting down your other 10 team members,” Norman said. “Sometimes you feel worse for the player than the player feels for himself. These guys are trying their guts out to put points on the board and they were playing very, very well coming to the end of the day. It’s just the way it played out, unfortunately for us.”

Norman hopes a change in weather helps with his team’s experience at Royal Melbourne. Storms are expected, along with a change in wind, forcing the matches to start Friday morning.


Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Thursday 5:30PM-midnight, Friday 3PM-midnight and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.