Tough Times for Tiger

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Tiger Woods stood on the first green, looking back up the fairway in search of some sign that his long day was finally over. A few minutes later it was, and he sprinted quickly toward the clubhouse as if trying to flee Augusta National.
Who could blame him, after a day that began with back-to-back blunders and ended 28 holes later with Woods finding himself in territory as unfamiliar as the brown muck surrounding the fairways was to his fans.
A fat opening round of 76 -- his worst ever in the first round of a major championship -- was salvaged only somewhat by a brief flurry of birdies in the second round he is still eight holes from finishing.
Woods ended the day at 2-over par, tied for 23rd and eight shots off the lead of Mike Weir.
It was bad, but it could have been much worse.
That may have been why Woods was still smiling as he chatted with amateur playing partner Ricky Barnes and tossed a ball up and down as they waited on the second tee -- his 29th hole -- for the horn to signal that it was too dark to play.
Woods had the look of someone who had gotten a reprieve.
''I feel like I'm right where I need to be. I've still got a chance,'' Woods said. ''There's a long way to go and the leaders aren't going to run away and hide.''
That can't be comforting to the players in front of Woods, who must now spend a long Saturday looking for signs that the world's best player is making a charge.
Still, if Woods is going to make history by winning a third straight green jacket, he's going to have to do something else no one has ever done -- come back from a 10-shot, first-round deficit to win The Masters.
''Obviously, I'd like to be a little better than I am, but I'm on the right track,'' Woods said. ''I made some progress.''
Woods had already been delayed a day by rain in his quest for a record third straight win when he arrived at Augusta National. He met a nervous Barnes on the first tee and offered him a bit of advice.
''Just enjoy yourself and things will go OK,'' Woods said.
For 18 holes, things went just fine for Barnes. It was Woods who was having the problems.
A Masters he was heavily favored to win went bad quickly for Woods, who struggled to break 40 on his first nine and grimaced in disbelief as putts slid by hole after hole.
In the early cold and muck, he played poorly. When the sun came out, his game warmed up to merely indifferent.
As darkness loomed, he pounded a drive into the trees to the right of the 18th fairway, then hit another tree trying to get out and made bogey.
It was typical of a day when Woods was all over the place off the tee and struggled with both his putting and chipping.
''Obviously it was soft and slushy,'' Woods said. ''I caught a lot of fliers in the fairway.''
One of those came on the first hole when Woods hit a 4-iron over the green and had to chip back with a wedge. He hit the ball too hard, though, and it rolled off the front of the green.
Trying to be more precise, Woods hit his second chip up the hill, only to leave it short and watch as it rolled back toward him.
With typical Woods' flair, he then chipped the next one in.
''I had so much practice pitching, I figured I'll just pitch it in,'' Woods said.
As he fell off the leaderboard right away, fans slogging through the mud to watch couldn't believe what they were seeing.
At times, Woods couldn't believe it, either. He shot 39 on the front nine, then hit a drive down the middle of the sloping 10th hole.
When Woods arrived at the ball, he slapped his hands together in frustration when he saw mud sticking to the ball.
''Oh mud,'' he yelled as his second shot trailed off into the right bunker.
Barnes beat Woods by an astonishing seven shots over the first 18 holes, and it was the U.S. Amateur champion, not Woods, who got the big ovation when he hit it close and made a birdie on 18.
''He made some bombs today,'' Woods said.
Woods won three U.S. Amateurs himself, often trailing on the final day. But he always came back in the 36-hole finals, just as he was doing against Barnes when the round was called.
Incredibly, Woods made no birdies in the first round. It was the first time since the third round of the 1999 British Open that he had played a round without a birdie. When his first came on a tap-in two-putt on the par-5, 13th hole, he smiled widely and raised the ball in the air to the crowd.
Woods promptly birdied the next hole, then made his third birdie in four holes by running in a 25-footer on No. 16. His momentum was slowed by the bogey on 18 and he made a routine par on the first hole before play was halted.
Related Links:
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  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."