Tiger Tracker: Day 2 at the Honda Classic

By March 2, 2012, 5:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods followed his opening 71 with a 2-under 68 Friday to reach 1 under par through 36 holes at the Honda Classic. Randall Mell is at PGA National and tracked Tiger's second round (round started on No. 10). (Click for Honda scores | Tiger Tracker, Day 1)

No. 9 (par 4, 421 yards): 

Tiger had some inspiration for that birdie-birdie finish to shoot 2-under-par 68. His son, Charlie Axel, 3, got a great view of his papa's closing 10-foot birdie. Charlie, toted alongside Tida, Woods' mother, was on the balcony behind the ninth green when Woods finished. He was seen all along the back nine. (Total: 1-under 139; Round 2: 2-under 68)

No. 8 (par 4, 455 yards): 

Woods wants to make this cut. He hits fairway with 3-wood, stuffs a wedge to 4 feet and makes birdie to get back to even par. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 17)

No. 7 (par 3, 226 yards): 

Tiger hits the seventh green, misses about a 20-footer for birdie. His par keeps him at 1 over, just inside the current cut line. Tiger's son, Charlie, is out watching. He was being toted alongside Tida, Tiger's mom, here at No. 7. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 16)

No. 6 (par 4, 488 yards): 

Woods blew his drive way, way right, but he made a nice escape, eventually getting up and down for par from just behind the green. He stays just inside the cut line. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 15)

No. 5 (par 3, 217 yards): 

Woods killed his momentum, rinsing his tee shot at this par 3. He came up short and ended up missing an 18-footer and making double bogey. He is back in black numbers. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 14)

No. 4 (par 4, 376 yards): 

After pushing his tee shot with an iron right and into the crowd, and off the top of a fellow's head, Woods stuffs his approach to 5 feet and makes birdie to get to 1 under overall. Brad Merriman of West Palm Beach didn't get that bump on his noggin for nothing. He gets an assist on the birdie and a signed glove from Tiger. (Total: 1 under; Round 2: 2 under through 13)

No. 3 (par 5, 538 yards): 

A cold putter freezes Woods out at the third. After a big drive in the fairway at this par 5, and a big iron just off the back of the green, Woods three-putted, though it won't count as a three-putt in the stats. He lipped out a 5-footer for birdie. That is three missed birdie chances from 10 feet and closer over the last four holes. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 12)

No. 2 (par 4, 464 yards): 

After missing back-to-back short birdie chances, a frustrated Tiger misses his tee shot with an iron left. He two-putts for par from just off the front of the green. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 11)

No. 1 (par 4, 365 yards): 

Woods is finally giving himself good birdie chances, but he fails to convert his second in a row. Woods pushes a 10-footer right at the first hole and makes par. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 10)

No. 18 (par 5, 604 yards): 

After spinning a wedge in nicely, Woods gives himself a rare close chance for birdie but misses a 7-footer. The putt drifted right, not even close. He makes par to stay even for the tourney. It was just his fourth birdie chance inside 15 feet for the tourney. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 9)

No. 17 (par 3, 190 yards): 

Woods is slightly long on another par 3, forced to chip from rough but gets up and down for par. He goes through the Bear Trap 1-under. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 8)

No. 16 (par 4, 434 yards): 

Woods finally wakes his putter holing a 25-footer for birdie. He hit the fairway with an iron. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 7)

No. 15 (par 3, 179 yards): 

The 15th flummoxed Woods again. For the second straight day, he hit his tee shot over the green. This time he got a free drop from the foot of a TV tower. While he chipped poorly from here Thursday to make bogey, he hit a wonderful short flop today to save par. One third of the Bear Trap is complete. Westwood made birdie here to go two up on Woods for the tourney. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 6)

No. 14 (par 4, 465 yards): 

Woods made a mess of the 14th, missing his first fairway of the day nearly pushing his drive right in the bunker. He blasted out 15 yards short of the green and hit his worst shot of the tournament, a dreadful pitch that came up short of the green. He failed to chip in from there and made his first bogey. The chipping/pitching has been suspect for two days, the ball striking not bad at all. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 5)

No. 13 (par 4, 388 yards): 

With his best shot of the day, Woods sticks his approach to a foot and makes an easy first birdie. He hit the fairway with a 3-wood and is 4-for-4 hitting fairways. Woods goes to 1 under for the day. He and Westwood are both even for the tournament. (Total: Even par; Round 2: 1 under through 4)

No. 12 (par 4, 427 yards): 

Woods decided to hit 3-wood after hitting driver Thursday. He hits his third fairway in a row, then stuffs his approach about 15 feet. The putter is still cool. He two-putts for par. Westwood hit driver here, pounding it 30 yards past Woods into the fairway, but he makes par, too. Woods is still even for the day, Westwood, too. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 3)

No. 11 (par 4, 479 yards): 

With a 2-iron off the tee, Woods hits another fairway. He hit 10 on Thursday and is 2-for-2 today. Woods pulls another approach left but holds the green. He two-putts from 35 feet for par. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 2)

No. 10 (par 4, 525 yards): 

Woods' driver at the opening 10th was a pretty bomb deep in the fairway, but he couldn't duplicate Thursday's birdie here. After pulling his approach onto the fringe, Woods two putts for par. His 50-foot birdie attempt stopped a half roll short in the heavy morning dew. (Total: 1 over; Round 2: Even through 1)

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”