Clarke Leads Woods Struggles

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Tiger Woods' pursuit of history at Augusta National got off to a shaky start Friday, opening the Masters with a 76 -- his worst first-round score in a major since turning pro.
 
Sunshine finally broke through after nearly a week of nastiness, but Woods and many others probably wished they could have stayed home another day.
 
Only seven of the 93 players broke par in the first round, which was delayed a day by rain. Jack Nicklaus shot a 13-over-par 85 -- his worst round ever at the Masters.
 
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland wasn't bothered at all by the soggy course, grabbing the lead with a 66. And this was a stunner: U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes was tied for second with Sergio Garcia after a 69.
 
The 22-year-old Barnes will always have something to tell his kids. Playing with Woods, the Masters rookie beat the two-time defending champion by seven strokes.
 
Woods struggled to his worst opening round in a tour event since a 76 to start the Western Open in 1998. The only time he opened with a round this poor at a major was the 1996 U.S. Open.
 
Something else to consider. The world's greatest golfer had a birdie-less round for the first time since the third day of the 1999 British Open.
 
At least Woods had a chance to quickly make up for his poor showing. Since Thursday's play was rained out, Augusta National scheduled 36 holes in an attempt to get the tournament back on track.
 
After a quick break, Woods and the others returned to the course for Round 2.
 
Starting on the back side, Clarke missed a 2-footer to save par at No. 11. That was about the only thing that went wrong. He got rolling with an eagle at 15 and was flawless the rest of the way, adding two more birdies and no bogeys.
 
Garcia birdied two of the last three holes to drop three strokes behind the leader, who had the largest 18-hole advantage at the Masters since Nicklaus was three-up in 1982.
 
The Spaniard was joined on the leaderboard by Barnes, a senior at Arizona and son of a former NFL player. The amateur looked a bit nervous on the first hole, taking a bogey, but he finished with one of the rare birdies on the brutal 18th.
 
Nick Price and Mike Weir were at 70. Toru Taniguchi and David Toms also broke par with 71s. That was it for players in the red.
 
Woods, trying to become the first golfer ever to win three straight green jackets, started his day with four ugly shots. As he walked off 18, his streak of 10 straight sub-par rounds at Augusta was over.
 
Last year, the world's best player started with a 2-under 70, leaving him three strokes off the lead. He went on to an easy three-stroke victory over Retief Goosen, joining Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as the only players to win two straight green jackets.
 
If Woods can win this week, he'll take home his fourth Masters championship. That would tie him with Arnold Palmer and leave Woods trailing only Nicklaus, who has six.
 
As Woods arrived at the first tee, the sun finally cut through the clouds for the first time since Sunday.
 
Waiters, busboys and cooks wandered out from the clubhouse to get a look at his opening shot.
 
It wasn't pretty. Woods appeared to mishit his drive, which didn't even make it to the bunker at the top of the hill. Playing from the edge of the rough, Woods knocked his second shot over the right side of the green.
 
He was too strong with his next shot, chipping past the flag and watching the ball catch a ridge and slide off the opposite side of the green. He was short with his next chip, the ball rolling back off the green as the gallery groaned and Woods stood with his hands on his hips, a look of disbelief on his face.
 
He quickly recovered, chipping in his fifth shot from about 40 feet for an improbable bogey.
 
Woods ran into more trouble at the par-3 fourth, where his tee shot went long and he failed to save par. At No. 5, Woods lost another stroke after driving into the 10-foot-deep bunker, which he had planned to avoid.
 
While 36 holes were scheduled Friday, it seemed likely only a handful of groups would get in both rounds before dark. The rest will have to return Saturday morning to finish the second round.
 
The course, stretched to 7,290 yards by changes last year, was playing even longer. The fairways were softened by persistent rain, which forced the first round to be called off for the first time in 64 years.
 
'It was so long. Wow!' said Gary Player, who shot 82. 'I'm hitting 3-wood and 5-wood on every hole. I need more strength.'
 
Sunny conditions were expected for the weekend and that was good news for Masters officials, who hoped to squeeze in enough play for the tournament to end on Sunday as usual.
 
Sandy Lyle hit the opening tee shot. Fanfare was minimal. Club chairman Hootie Johnson wasn't on the first tee since the Masters did not have honorary starters for the first time since 1982.
 
Johnson may have other things on his mind.
 
Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson called on any Augusta National members who oppose the club's all-male policy to resign.
 
'If they do not agree with this policy, they must resign their memberships,' said Burk, who plans to lead protests on Saturday.
 
The 63-year-old Nicklaus, an Augusta National member, had seven bogeys and three double-bogeys for his worst Masters round ever. His previous low point: 81 on a wind-swept day in 2000.
 
'The course wasn't much of a problem,' he said. 'I was.'
 
Nicklaus rarely got his irons close to the hole. When he did, the putts wouldn't fall.
 
'I was horrible with the putts,' he said, 'and where I was putting from wasn't very good, either.'
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)