Press Pass Debating Tiger Annika

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2007, 5:00 pm
Press PassEach week, Golf Channel experts and analysts will offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf. This week, the Press Pass debates Tiger Woods' win streak, Annika Sorenstam's chances at a record, potential Hall of Fame inductees, and the worst playing conditions.
Hot Topic
How long can Tiger Woods continue his winning streak and when do you think it come to an end?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Senior Writer,
What? Do I look like Nostradamus? I will not predict he will break it and I will not predict he wont. But what I will do is hope for a Masters playoff between Phil and Tiger with Tiger looking to break Byron Nelsons consecutive win streak with a victory. Think a few people would be watching that baby?
Rich Lerner Rich Lerner - Reporter, Golf Channel:
Eleven is possible, with the toughest hurdle being Riviera, where he's never won (He has played the Nissan Open nine times as a professional and twice as an amateur without winning).
Kraig Kann Kraig Kann - Host, Golf Channel:
As long as he stays hot. I actually think he cares more about this than we might think. Kapalua was no lock, but contention in the Buick Invitational has been as close to a guarentee as you could get. I say he wins this week, but the next few opportunities will be tough. Match-Play and Nissan haven't been so special. So good luck to Tiger... he'll need some.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
Having won three of the last four Buick Invitational events, he's got a good chance at reaching eight straight PGA TOUR wins. But I don't see him winning the following event, the Nissan Open.
Hot Topic
Annika Sorenstam has dispelled rumors of her retirement. Will she break Kathy Whitworths record of 88 LPGA Tour wins (she currently has 69)?
I think it all depends on how soon she starts having a family. That may be sooner than we think. If and when it happens, it will all depend on how children affect her outlook on golf. That being said, if the Whitworth record is something Sorenstam wants, its something she will get.
Annika would need four wins a year for five years and that seems within reach so, yes, she'll break the record.
Annika's run at Kathy Whitworth requires 20 wins. Four a year for five years? Sure. But if Annika says she wants a family ( I know she's dispelling retirement rumors) then she might not make it. This is a tough question because it's all about what she decides to do with her life. Bottom line... if she wants the record, she'll get it. If not, she'll leave us knowing it was hers if she wanted it.
I think a lot of that will depend on this year. Annika was quoted in a Swedish newspaper as saying that she didn't work as hard in 2006 as she had in previous seasons -- and she only won three times (her lowest total since '99). It's getting tougher and tougher to win on the LPGA Tour. If she can rekindle a competitive fire this season, she can put a serious dent in her 19-victory deficit to Whitworth. If she's lost that drive, however, she may never catch her.
Hot Topic
Of the current players on the Hall of Fame ballot, who would you vote in and why?
I not only would, but already have voted for Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Strange, Hubert Green and Craig Wood. I could have voted for as many as six. These were the four I chose this time around. Wadkins (21 wins and one major) was fearless. Strange (17 wins and two majors) was tough as nails in his prime. Green (19 Tour wins and two majors) is still underrated. And Wood (21 wins and two majors) has been, sadly, forgotten.
Curtis Strange for back-to-back U.S. Opens, Lanny Wadkins and Hubert Green because others with comparable numbers like Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw are in, and perhaps even Tony Lema, because his numbers, had he not died tragically in a plane crash, project to being worthy of consideration. Further, Lee Trevino told me Lema was as good as he'd seen and should be in the Hall.
Asking me to vote on Henry Picard or Denny Shute isn't something I feel confident about. Just as asking me to vote on Warren Spahn in baseball or Deacon Jones in football. Sure they have great numbers, but when it comes to players I never saw play, I bow out. Among the names that strike me, I'd lean on Curtis Strange. The back-to-back U.S. Opens is amazing - and he was dominant during that time. His career win totals are very strong in an era of many greats. Didn't Ben Crenshaw find his way in with two majors? I'd give Curtis a nod. And Hubert Green deserves some serious consideration, in my book.
Of the guys on the list who played primarily in the '80s and '90s (the Era which I'm most familiar), I would cast my vote for only one: Curtis Strange, who won 17 times on TOUR including back-to-back U.S. Open titles. Guys like Fred Couples and Davis Love III are still one major away from serious consideration.
Hot Topic
The final round of the Bob Hope was played in intense winds. What is the toughest condition under which to play: intense wind; steady rain; freezing cold; oppressive heat?
Intense wind. It affects putting more than most people realize. And nothing will break a players swing down more quickly than a swirling wind that makes it so much harder to commit to every shot. No swing. No confidence. Steady rain is the second worst. Caddies need to be octopi.
High winds make putting brutally difficult and considering they blew Tiger to an 81 in the '02 British at Muirfield, the ferocious winds would seem to be hardest with which to deal.
To me, heat's not that bad. Heck, me and my college buddies head to the desert each August and play 36 or 45 a day in 110-degree weather, and I'd play 36 a day in the summer in Orlando if my children were in school. Freezing cold doesn't affect me ... because I won't go out of my house to test it! Steady rain, I've played in ... and I think players are able to handle it better than brutal wind. One shot that goes 30 yards off line in a stiff wind and your confidence tags along for the ride. To me, the wind is the toughest. Not just ball striking but putting. If you don't take my word for it, take Lucas Glover's.
For tour players, it's probably the intense wind. For me, it's the freezing cold. I'm just as poor a player under perfect conditions as I am in the wind and rain. And having grown up in the South, heat is no problem. But I can't stand the cold. And anything below 60 is cold to me.
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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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    List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

    He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

    Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

    So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

    ''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

    And he has plenty of company.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

    Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

    Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

    ''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

    The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

    Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

    ''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

    It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

    ''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

    List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

    ''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

    He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

    And there was another guy four shots behind.

    Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

    Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

    Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

    The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

    He went with the 5-iron.

    ''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

    It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

    Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

    ''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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    Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

    Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

    Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.