What We Learned: From Abu Dhabi to Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 30, 2012, 1:30 am

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers up thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent big events. This week, the team reflects on Tiger's third-place finish at Abu Dhabi and Kyle Stanley's stunning collapse at Torrey Pines.

Tiger Woods may be getting some nice form back, but nobody’s going to give him tournaments anymore.

Robert Rock didn’t blink with Woods aside him Sunday at Abu Dhabi, even after Woods birdied two of his first three holes.

In days gone by, Woods' little starting burst might have been enough to shake and rattle his fellow competitors. Not anymore. There’s no longer this sense Woods won’t beat himself, that you have to do something extraordinary to beat him when he's got the lead on a Sunday. Woods will beat himself now, as most mortals will, but Woods so rarely did at the height of his powers.

Woods missed five consecutive greens on the front nine on Sunday, didn’t make a birdie on the back nine, hit just two fairways all day long. That’s beating yourself on a Sunday in contention.

None of this diminishes the fact that Woods is getting a lot more comfortable with his new swing, that his putting looks good again, that he’s definitely on an upward track again.

Woods will win again, soon, but nobody’s going to hand him that win. – Randall Mell

I learned that Robert Rock has the best hair in golf, Sergio Garcia can still ignite a crowd and Tiger Woods continues to make progress in his climb out of a two-year victory slump.

Also, that no matter how much you practice there's no way to prepare for Sunday pressure. Robert Rock, an admitted jittery sort, weathered a wayward drive at the last to win in Abu Dhabi, while Kyle Stanley never recovered from his misplayed approach at the 72nd hole in San Diego. – Rex Hoggard

I learned this week that closing a golf tournament isn’t as easy as it looks from the living-room couch.

At the Abu Dhabi Championship, Robert Rock stepped to the 18th tee with a lead, only to drive his ball into a hazard, from which he took a drop and salvaged bogey to win.

Kyle Stanley only wishes that would have been his result. The second-year PGA Tour player spun his third shot on the 72nd hole into the water at Torrey Pines, then three-putted to go from a three-shot advantage to a playoff. From there, he lost on the second extra hole after missing his par attempt.

It’s easy to watch on TV and scream, “Come on, all you have to do is …” but the truth is, it’s a difficult game that becomes so much harder when the pressure is on. The travails of Rock and – to a much greater extent – Stanley prove once again that playing the final hole with a lead is unlike playing any of the previous ones. – Jason Sobel

What I learned: Ulster golf is alive and well to start 2012.

Rory McIlroy was in the cauldron of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship from the outset of the tournament and his blockbuster grouping with Luke Donald and Tiger Woods. Though he again is a runner-up in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy remains in the great form he has enjoyed since last summer.

While it may have taken a heck of a break to make an ace, Graeme McDowell overcame a cracked driver to finish tied for third. Then again, had that driver not cracked like Robert Rock didn't, maybe McDowell is champion. – Ryan Ballengee

I learned that getting up at 4 a.m. to watch live golf from Abu Dhabi is tough. I then learned that watching live golf around suppertime is much more convenient and enjoyable – even if Kyle Stanley almost made me choke on my chicken wings.

And I also learned that a play-safe attitude (Stanley's lay-up on 18 in regulation) can oftentimes lead to disaster. You see it all the time with coaching decisions in the NFL late in games. Smart play or not, Stanley's choice may have let an evil voice creep inside his head. – Golf Guy

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Watch: Thomas nearly makes ace ... off rock wall

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 7:50 pm

You don’t become a major champ and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year without catching a few lucky breaks along the way, but this shot from Justin Thomas on Sunday at the Honda Classic was just silly.

Playing the 182-yard, par-3 fifth hole with the tournament lead, Thomas’ tee shot found the rock wall guarding the green, and proceeded to bounce forward about 20 feet in the air before nearly go in the hole for an ace:

Thomas couldn’t take full advantage of fortuitous bounce, missing the 13-footer for birdie. But if he holds on to his lead down the stretch, JT will remember this nonchalant par for a very long time.

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Watch: Tiger's drive startles strolling duck

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 7:21 pm

Tiger Woods split the eighth fairway with a 287-yard, 3-wood on Sunday and startled a duck (goose?) who was merely out and about for a stroll at PGA National.

The duck (goose?) walked away under its own power, and Woods followed up with a wedge to inside 9 feet and his third birdie of the front nine.

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Watch: Tiger's Sunday birdies at the Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 6:40 pm

One day after he left a barrage of birdie opportunities out on the golf course, Tiger Woods worked his way into red figures early on Sunday.

Seven off the pace to start the day, Woods found the first fairway, hit the first green and rolled in a 20-footer for his first birdie of the day.

After narrowly missing a 10-footer for what would have been another circle at the par-5 third, Woods came right back at the fourth, flying an approach from 148 yards to 9 feet and finishing the job.

At the par-4 eighth, Woods went with 3-wood off the tee and startled a duck that was walking down the middle of the fairway.

The duck walked away, and Tiger stuffed his approach inside 9 feet, setting up his third birdie of the day.

Woods dropped his first shot of the day at the par-4 ninth after hooking his tee shot and then short siding himself right of the green. He made the turn in 2-under 33.

Following four straight pars to start his second nine, Tiger took down the 465-yard, par-4 14th with a 2-iron, a 9-iron, and a putt to move back to 3 under.

Unfortunately, the Bear Trap would bite Tiger for the fourth day in a row. Woods rinsed his ball at 15 for a double bogey and three-putted at 16 to drop another shot and fall all the way back to even.

Closing pars at 17 and 18 left him even par for the round and the championship. The real story of his week: Woods played the Bear Trap 8 over and the rest of the golf course 8 under.

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New-look Korda wins after serious jaw surgery

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 6:31 pm

If the pictures of Jessica Korda from the Honda LPGA Thailand cause you to do a double-take, you're not alone.

Korda's world-class talent was on full display this week in Asia, where she won by four shots, but so too was her new-look face. The 24-year-old underwent serious jaw surgery in December, a final attempt to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

The procedure was intense. Doctors first broke her nose, then broke her jaw in five different places - three on the top, and two on the bottom. She now has 27 screws in her face, and the physical result still requires some adjustment for a woman who now has five career LPGA wins.

"I look at pictures of myself and I don't feel like I look like that person," Korda told Golfweek. "I don't know who that is. And then I look at pictures of my old self and that doesn't look like me either."

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

The Dec. 7 surgery left Korda unable to eat, with her mother reportedly feeding her through a syringe for "weeks." Korda's facial structure before the surgery was such that she was only using 20 percent of her teeth when chewing food.

But despite returning to practice only six weeks ago and still dealing with lingering numbness in her face, Korda promptly dusted a world-class field in her first start back. She shot 25 under for the week, highlighted by a second-round 62, leaving the likes of Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn in her wake.

After a difficult winter, Korda's look may have changed but her game clearly remains unaffected.

"Coming in after surgery, I didn't know what to expect," Korda told reporters. "Obviously when I look at myself, I still don't feel like I look like myself yet. That will come. I'm just very, very happy. All the hard work I was putting in in the off-season when I could has paid off rather quickly."