Arnie Loses Seven-Shot Lead Casper Wins
Or did he? The year was 1966, the site was the Olympic Club. It was the final round and Arnie had a commanding seven-shot lead nine holes from the end.
When Palmer bogeyed No. 10, no one thought much about it. He was still six shots ahead in this runaway with only eight holes to go. Billy Casper was back there winning the battle for second place. Palmer already had the title in the real battle.
Both parred the 11th and both birdied the 12th, so Palmers edge was six shots with now just six holes to go. No reason for anyone to get upset, Arnie was certainly going to win.
There still wasnt much worry when Palmer bogeyed the 13th, shooting for the flag as he always did. Casper made a par, hanging on to second, playing safe to defeat the rest of the field. Both parred the 14th, leaving Palmer ahead by four just four holes remaining.
Suddenly, at the 15th, Palmer was again going for the flag and again making bogey. And at the same time Casper was sinking a 20-footer for birdie. Hmmm. Well, this might get close, everyone thought. Casper would probably still finish second, since he was now three shots behind with just three holes left to play. But there was going to be a better match than it showed when Palmer was ahead by seven midway though the round.
I started to feel I could win when I was walking to the 16th tee, revealed Casper. Hey, I thought, I can win this tournament.
On the 604-yard 16th, Casper was his same dependable self, finding the fairway with his drive. Palmers drive wasnt so lucky, nailing a tree and finding rough. Instead of just advancing it down the fairway, Arnie tried to lash at it with a 3-iron and moved it only about 30 yards.
He had to hit a 9-iron next, leaving himself 270 yards away for his fourth shot. Meanwhile, Casper had taken out his 2-iron to position himself nicely, needing a 5-iron to land on the green within 15 feet of the hole.
Palmer played a wonderful shot for his fourth, but it wound up in a greenside bunker. His fifth-shot explosion landed near the pin, but Casper holed his putt for birdie. When Palmer saved his bogey, he now led by only one shot.
It was all gone at the next hole, 17. Palmer bogeyed yet again, while steady Billy made par. Casper had made up an unbelievable seven shots in just eight holes. What was once an afterthought was now a reality.
They both parred 18, Palmer with a four-foot putt, and they were destined to an 18-hole Monday playoff.
Monday Arnie led at the turn by two, but once again, the final nine did him in. By days end he shot 73 while Casper had a 69. The greatest collapse in the history of the U.S. Open was complete.
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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand
CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.
Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.
''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''
Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.
Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.
Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.
She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.
''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''
Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.
Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.
''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.
Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.
Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.
''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''
It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.
Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.
Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.
The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.
''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''
PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.
Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.
Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.
''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''
It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.
He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.
''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''
Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.
Later, he laughed about the moment.
''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''
Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.
Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”
Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”
The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.
“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”
The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.
“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”
Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.
“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”
Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .
“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.