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Rosaforte Report: Phil 'very optimistic' about 2018

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 15, 2018, 5:05 pm

This is the time of year when Phil Mickelson turns up for practice rounds with Freddie Couples at The Madison Club in La Quinta, plays Riviera Country Club (as he did on Saturday), and talks about “making it a great year.” The freshness of another West Coast swing awaits, with Mickelson going into this opening stretch of his 27th season knowing 13 of his 42 PGA Tour victories have come in his home state of California.

Last year was different, because Mickelson was coming off two sports hernia surgeries. At 47, he enters the season healthy and with hopes of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“I really would like to be on that team,” Mickelson told me Sunday morning in the closing stages of preparation for his season debut this week in the CareerBuilder Challenge. “I’m putting forth a lot of effort to get ready, so I play my best to get on a team.”

Mickelson has not missed a Ryder Cup since 1995. If he makes Jim Furyk’s squad and plays in France, it would be his 11th straight Ryder Cup appearance. Performance wise, he needs to step it up. Ranked 40th in the world, he is coming off a season with five top-10s, missed cuts in the PGA and Open Championship and a T-22 in the Masters. He skipped the U.S. Open for daughter Amanda’s high-school graduation.

This year’s U.S. Open holds a special place on Mickelson’s playing schedule. His last of 42 victories was The Open in 2013, so there is plenty of motivation to complete the career Grand Slam at Shinnecock, where he finished fourth in 1995 and second in 2004.

“I’ve put in a lot of time in [the] off-season, getting ready [for] this year,” he said from his base camp in Palm Springs. “I’m physically a lot stronger. I’ve been practicing and working to get my game sharp. I don’t know how it’s going to start out, but I’m very optimistic.”



Little bro steps into the light: Chase Koepka doesn’t look at it like playing in his brother’s shadow. Instead, it’s like playing for one of his biggest fans.

So when he tied for seventh place in his debut as a full-time member of the European Tour, the best text message Koepka got coming off the 18th green at the South African Open was from brother Brooks, the U.S. Open champion. “He believes in me so much,” Chase said not long after his closing birdie. “He’s pumped.”

What made it even more impressive is that it was Koepka’s first tournament with new equipment on a course (Glendower GC) in the mountains that he had never played before. Just before flying to South Africa, he signed with Callaway to use their clubs and ball. An injury prevented him from practicing enough to get the feel of his new tools.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said of the adjustment phase. “This is a course you had to see multiple times to understand how to play it. To see it for the first time showed how good my game is.”

A top-5 finish would have exempted Koepka into this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but he will spend the week practicing with two teammates from his University of South Florida golf team in Dubai, where he will play next week. It will allow him to get better adjusted. “I’m going to relax and get some work done,” Chase said. “It was a good first week. I’ll have plenty more chances to win on the European Tour.”



In from the cold: Dan McCarthy’s pathway to the Web.com Tour started at LeMoyne College, a Division II private Jesuit school in his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. But he wouldn’t be where he is today, starting the third round of the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic with a one-shot lead, without connections to Bear Lakes CC in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the hitting bay of Dennis Tiziani in Madison, Wis.

At Bear Lakes, he joins a cast of tour players that goes back to the heydays of Mark Calcavecchia, Ken Green, Kevin Johnson, Steve Hart, Brett and Dana Quigley, along with more modern players like the Koepka brothers, Brooks and Chase. He is known to play in members’ games and joined a list of tour players that have won the clubs pro-scratch event, making 11 birdies in his last 12 holes.

“I’ve never done anything like that before or since,” McCarthy told me Monday morning from the Bahamas. “It’s amazing what you can do when you get out of your own way.”

At 32, McCarthy is hoping to take that mindset when bogey is a good score in the final 36 holes at the windswept Sandals Emerald Bay. Playing on a medical exemption, McCarthy’s big-picture goal is locking up his Web.com card in a reshuffle after the first four events. He won four times in 11 events on the MacKenzie Tour in 2016 before suffering a wrist injury after finishing T-4 in Exuma to open the 2017 season.

Tiziani stepped into the picture when McCarthy missed second stage of Web.com Q-School by a shot in 2013. Always admiring Stricker’s swing and demeanor, McCarthy had his mother go online to track down Tiziani’s whereabouts and he made the visit to Wisconsin.

“They’ve got a nice little bubble up there, and they’ve been very kind to me, welcoming me into that circle,’’ McCarthy said. “They taught me tremendous amount and turned my game around.”

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

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.''


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


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.''

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

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.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

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.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


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.