Woods trails Choi by 3 in Round 1

By Doug FergusonDecember 1, 2011, 9:40 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – K.J. Choi opened with five straight birdies. Tiger Woods looked as good as he did in Australia, making his fourth birdie with a 3-iron to an elevated green on the par-5 fifth that covered the flag.

And then, without warning, the wind showed up Thursday in the foothills of Sherwood Country Club.

Choi held his own in gusts up to 30 mph and finished with a 6-under 66, giving him a three-shot lead over Woods and Steve Stricker in the Chevron World Challenge.

They were the only three players to break 70 in the 18-man field in the final official event in America this year.

'Anything under par is a good day today with the wind up,' said Woods, a four-time winner of this event and the tournament host. 'If the wind stayed down, you're going to have to shoot probably 68 or below for it to be a good score.'

Five of the six players who broke par – Jim Furyk, Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler were at 71 – had most recently played at blustery Royal Melbourne in the Presidents Cup.

Choi figures he had even a greater advantage. He lives in Dallas.

'I was used to playing in the windy conditions, not only playing in Melbourne, but also living in Dallas, where there's 20- to 30-mile wind every other day,' Choi said. 'I'm used to practicing in those conditions. I've become very comfortable in those windy conditions.'

The notorious Santa Ana wind was in the forecast, with some projections of 60 mph gusts.  

But when the elite field arrived at Sherwood, there was not even a breeze. Woods and Stricker birdied the opening two holes with relative ease. Woods added another birdie on No. 4 with a 25-foot putt, and then came his 3-iron from 229 yards to 18 feet for an eagle attempt that burned the edge.



He was standing on the sixth green, 15 feet behind the hole, when a big gust backed Woods off his putt and scattered leaves raced across the fairway behind him.

On the next hole, Stricker was staring over an iron shot that was drawing right at the flag. A strong gust swatted the ball out of the sky and dropped it 20 feet short of the green into the deep rough.

Watney was motoring along at 2 under when he had a birdie putt on the 14th. He addressed the ball, backed off and watched it move, costing him a one-shot penalty. A new rule that would eliminate the penalty stroke if deemed that the wind moved the ball after address is not effective until Jan. 1.

Watney took a positive out of that bogey.

'I might be the last player in history to be penalized under that rule,' he said. 'That could be a trivia question one day.'

Best that he not hold his breath on that one.

Jason Day was among the leaders until the wind gobbled up his approach on the par-5 16th, leading to double bogey. Then he hit into the trees on the par-3 17th and injured his right thumb trying to play out of the mess. He made another double bogey, and then finished with a bogey for a 74.

Matt Kuchar, coming off a World Cup win with Gary Woodland in China, was 4 under until he made triple bogey on the 16th, bogeyed the 17th and had to settle for a 72.

Woods also made a bogey on the 16th after popping up a tee shot and running into trouble with his attempt to lay up. Earlier on the ninth hole, he had a nasty lie on the side of a hill with a large branch in his way, and he moved the ball only about 10 yards. But those were the rare mistakes.

He looked very steady for nine rounds in the wind in Australia. In more gusts at Sherwood, he didn't look much different. He was in control of his irons and even when he did miss off the tee, it wasn't by much.

'It looks like he's getting a lot of confidence back again,' Stricker said. 'It looks like the Tiger of old, really, and it's great to see. We need him out there playing, and playing well.'

Stricker hit a superb shot on the 10th with the wind at his back. After hitting driver that left him an awkward yardage – about 50 yards to a front pin – he nipped a wedge that just carried onto the green and checked up 3 feet away. He birdied the 18th to join Woods in second place, although Woods will be in the final group Friday with Choi.

Choi, even though he was three groups behind Woods, saw enough of him in the opening round. The fourth and fifth holes go in opposite direction of the second and third holes, and what Choi saw caught his attention, particularly the 3-iron that Woods hit on No. 5.

'I think he is really 80, 90 percent back to his form again,' Choi said. “I'm very happy about playing with him tomorrow. Tiger is a good friend. He's got a very strong will. He's got the right mental attitude right now, and I think it's going to be a very fun day tomorrow.

'I watched him play a couple of holes today, and I was very impressed at the way he was swinging, at his rhythm, at the power he had,' Choi said. 'It almost seemed like watching the old Tiger back in the day.'


Follow the Chevron World Challenge on Golf Channel and NBC. Airtimes: Golf Channel, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Friday, 1-3 PM ET Saturday and Sunday. NBC, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Saturday and Sunday.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.