Big Four Head for Collision

By George WhiteMarch 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
Oh no ' now Vijays smack-dab in the mix, too. Tiger, Phil and Ernie have all had periods of brilliance in this young season. With all four on the verge of heading to The Players Championship in two weeks, then the Masters in less than a month, something has just got to give.
Singh lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington at Honda when he blew a putt of 2 feet. But he looks like he finally has gotten adjusted to the shafts he put into his clubs just this season. He won the Sony, remember, and then when the tour got to his adopted state of Florida, he promptly put together a tie for third at Doral to go with his almost at Honda. He looks awfully scary heading into this week at Bay Hill.
Woods? All he has done is win twice, at the Buick Invitational and at Doral. He at last put graphite in his driver to get a little extra distance ' he now clubs it 306 yards per measured drive, third on the rankings. But equally as important, he is putting the ball brilliantly. Hes cut his average per-hole strokes down to 1.68, while last year he was at 1.724.
Mickelson might have had the most impressive season over-all. His wins at Phoenix (FBR), Pebble Beach (AT&T) and his battle down to the wire against Woods at Doral would seem to indicate as much. Mickelson also has taken a giant step in his putting, standing second on tour this year, as compared to 43rd last year.
However, Woods still seems to have Mickelsons number. Mickelson had some untimely short-putt misses against Tiger in the closing holes at Doral. And he did likewise in the final holes at the U.S. Open last year against Reteif Goosen. He won a close one over Els last year at the Masters, but until he can do it consistently in the big tournaments, he still cant be considered Woods equal yet.
Incidentally, its worth taking a second look at Els. He finished second to Singh at Sony, remember, and the last two weeks has notched wins in the Middle East (Dubai and Qatar). Qatar was against a weak field and he had to come from a five-stroke deficit the final day. But Dubai was against some fairly strong competition. He now comes to Bay Hill and his American home of Orlando. Is he getting ready for something big?
David Toms has shown flashes of brilliance this year, also. He won the Match Play and was fifth at both Doral and Honda. A sure, steady player, he bears watching closely. The Masters would appear to be a little too long for him, but if Mike Weir can do it, then Toms can, too.
Adam Scott won the Nissan, but his victory was derided by just about everyone because it was rain-delayed and just over 36 holes. But come on, people, he played the best of anyone who showed up. And just to prove that he is worthy of some consideration, he came back the next week and went all the way to the quarterfinals of the Match Play before he ran into a sizzling Toms.
Geoff Ogilvy won the alternate event in Tucson while the Match Play was going on. Ogilvy is an interesting character. An Australian, he is now in his fifth year on the American tour. He is now 27, just about to enter the prime years of a golfers career, and he battled tenaciously at Honda. He was tied for the lead on the back nine at Honda and shot a 64 and 67 in the second and third rounds, respectively. Hmmm
Justin Leonard won the Bob Hope, but what to make of him he has missed three cuts this year. He, too, probably doesnt have enough length to seriously contend at most venues. But every year he will pull a real surprise ' dont forget hes won nine times and got into playoffs another four.
Oh yes ' Harrington. Hes already proven hes the best player on the European Tour. Hes playing a full PGA Tour schedule this year for the first time, and it really came as no surprise that hes won for the first time in America now. Harrington always takes an extended time off around New Years and usually takes awhile to get tuned up. This year, he served notice that he is jumping out of to an early start, in only his third start.
They head to Bay Hill now, the Big Four minus Mickelson, all on a collision course with the victory circle. And in two weeks, all four will be at The Players. Is this the year and the big guns will all be on top of their games at the same time?
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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.