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Oosthuizen (64) takes early lead at WGC-Mexico

By Will GrayMarch 1, 2018, 11:36 pm

A field of 64 players got started Thursday at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where the leaderboard has a decidedly international flair. Here's how things look after the first day in Mexico City, as play was suspended late in the afternoon because of inclement weather with Louis Oosthuizen out to an early lead:

Leaderboard: Louis Oosthuizen (-7), Chris Paisley (-6), Xander Schauffele (-6), Shubhankar Sharma (-6), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-5), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (-5)

What it means: There were plenty of low scores as players more often than not successfully calculated the elevation adjustments at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Paisley broke out early, followed by Bubba Watson who was 7 under through 11 holes before falling back to a 2-under 69. That created an opening for Oosthuizen, who finished T-24 at the Honda Classic and grabbed sole possession of the lead with a bogey-free 64.

Round of the day: It's remarkable to think that Oosthuizen's 2010 Open triumph remains his lone PGA Tour victory, but the veteran has a chance to add to that collection after going bogey-free in the opening round. Oosthuizen started with three birdies over his first five holes, then authored the highlight of his round when he stuffed his 239-yard approach to within 4 feet for an easy eagle on the par-5 15th.

Best of the rest: Paisley may be a relative unknown to American fans, and this constitutes his PGA Tour debut. But the Englishman has made plenty of noise this year on the European Tour, including top-5 finishes in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and he's again in contention after a 6-under 65. Paisley had four birdies over his first six holes and carded seven birdies before dropping his only shot of the day on No. 16.

Biggest disappointment: Justin Thomas came out on top last week at PGA National, but his bid for back-to-back victories suffered a setback when he opened with 1-over 72. Thomas made only two birdies on the day, including none over his final 12 holes, and after the round told reporters that it was "probably the worst I've felt over the ball in my life."

Biggest storyline heading into Friday: With this week's no-cut format, even players several shots off the lead aren't sweating any given deficit. That includes world No. 2 Jon Rahm, who opened with a solid 67 to sit three shots behind Oosthuizen, while Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler headline the group four shots back at 3 under.

Shot of the day: Defending champ Dustin Johnson nearly whipped the crowd into a frenzy on the par-3 17th, when he spun his tee shot back to within 4 inches. The birdie capped a tumultuous six-hole stretch in which Johnson played 1 under without making a single par. He ended up at 2 under, five shots back.

Quote of the day: "I'm very confident with my driver at the moment. I've got a nice little cut going, and it's nice to be able to just aim left and swing away." - Oosthuizen

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.