Thursday Thumpings Abound

By George WhiteFebruary 27, 2003, 5:00 pm
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods lives yet another day. Thats not news to the golfing public, who expect him to win the WCG'Accenture Match Play Championships with ease. To Woods, though, winning ' and losing ' in match-play circumstances against players of this caliber is as common as picking up a putter.
 
He plays in the third round Friday against Australian Stephen Leaney after sending K.J. Choi packing Thursday. Tiger won by a tally of 5 and 3, and for the second straight day, he didnt make a bogey. He had three birdies Wednesday and two against Choi, and hasnt had a single smear on his scorecard in the tourney.
 
Tiger's triumph was just one of several Thursday thumpings. Darren Clarke started the day by trouncing Davis Love III, 7 and 6. Jim Furyk defeated Steve Lowery, 6 and 5. Leaney won the first four holes and eased to a 6-and-5 win over Justin Leonard.
 
Phil Tataurangi, who shocked Ernie Els in the opening round, fell victim to Peter Lonard in round two, 5 and 4.
 
Phil Mickelson was in a battle until he pulled away late. He was all square with Brad Faxon through 11 holes, before winning Nos. 12-14 en route to winning the match, 3 and 2.
 
He could face Woods in the final. But first, he'll have to get past Jerry Kelly, who beat Mike Weir, 2 and 1, in round three.
 
'That's a hurdle for me,' Mickelson said. 'I want to focus on that match and see if I can get past that.'
 
David Toms was struggling against Chris Riley until he holed a 90-foot chip for birdie on the 18th hole with a 3-wood to win 1-up.
 
Defending champion Kevin Sutherland is still alive. He bettered Justin Rose, 1-up.

Thursday was an awful day if you are playing golf, OK if you are a SCUBA diver. Woods was obliged to play golf, unfortunately, and he made the most of it.
 

It was windy, and all of a sudden became rainy, he said. The rain was hit-and-miss, which was even worse, because you had to take off your gear, put it back on, take it off, put it back on. It was just a day of patience out there.
 
Downpours continually raked the course off the nearby Pacific until noon, lining up to strafe the coast like so many F-18s. But because it was match play instead of stroke play, play continued unabated, officials concerned only that the conditions were the same for both players.
 
It also made for some bizarre shots. Woods remembers hitting one 8-iron from just 120 yards, a couple of 5-irons from 150. Those are distances that mortals hit them, but not a bazooka like Woods.
 
Woods, though, has been on the target this week. I hit two 5-irons back-to-back on 3 and 4, he said, and that got me going. I didnt mis-hit a shot from there on in. I may have put it in the wrong spot, but I hit them flush.
 
Tiger had two birdies and no bogeys in Thursdays match, which ended on the 15th hole. Pins have been, for the most part, unreachable, and it is quite possible to spin the ball back off the green trying to get to them. Woods has been a picture of concentration the past two days as he tried to take all spin off the ball. Its not a shot that many of the pros have. Its not a shot that Woods had his first year or two on tour.
 
I didnt have that shot, not for the swing plane I had, said Tiger. Playing my swing, there was no way you could have played that shot.
 
The reason ' the clubface isn't closed through impact. He changed his swing, he says, to change the angle that the face goes through the hitting area.
 
Thats one of the reasons why I evolved my swing plane to where it is now ' to hit different shots and be more consistent. To be able to keep the blade open longer through impact has definitely given me more variety of shots, especially in these conditions, he said.
 
So he lives to fight another day, another opponent awaits. Others are supremely confident for him, but Woods is counting for today only, just praying he avoids bogeys for one more match. And he knows that just avoiding bogeys wont necessarily get him another match win.
 
You dont know, thats the thing, he said with a sigh. You dont know. And I think thats the beauty of match play ' you just flip a coin.
 
You can still get in a boat race, someone can shoot 7- or 8-under, and not make a bogey, and someone can shoot 3- or 4-under, and youre packing your bags.
 
Related Links:
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  • Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.