Mills Makes Steady Progress

By Ian HutchinsonApril 29, 2008, 4:00 pm
Sitting 123rd on the money list as he was last week, its unlikely that Jon Mills name will be whispered into Tiger Woods ear as the new Canadian superstar on the PGA TOUR when the latter returns from his recent knee surgery.
Outside the glare reserved for the games top players, Mills does have a few positives to contemplate, one being that he might avoid that nasty little competition at the end of the year called qualifying school.
Im happy, said Mills, 30, who appeared to be getting into contention with an outstanding 68 on Friday at the Byron Nelson Championship only to tumble down the leaderboard with a 77 on Saturday before finishing up with a 72 yesterday.
I feel like I got off to a decent start, but at the same time, I got myself into some positions where I could have had some better finishes. Im building from those events I played well at and using that confidence and hopefully, Ill get in the position again and will be able to finish it up better.
The recent Puerto Rico Open is a perfect example. In the Puerto Rico event, I was playing well and made a double on 17 and had a short par five (on the 18th hole) and failed to birdie that, he explained.
Mills could obsess on the negative, or draw whatever lesson he can from the experience and focus on the fact that he tied for 13th in Puerto Rico, the best finish in his short career on the PGA TOUR.
That lofty finish earned him a cool $70,000 and he followed that up with a tie for 20th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to earn another $74,813.33. His $207,388 as of last week is over three times what he earned his first time on tour in 2006 and its only May ' well, almost May.
Late spring presents new challenges for Mills, who has missed five cuts in 12 starts so far this year. While there are encouraging signs, he isnt a priority for getting into tournaments as the season heats up, so Mills will be on the sidelines some weeks.
Lack of action on the PGA TOUR could mean backing up on the money list, something he would rather avoid with the possibility of Q-School always in the back of the mind. On some off-weeks, Mills will play the Nationwide Tour, where he finished fourth on the 2007 money list to regain his PGA TOUR card.
Earlier this season, Mills expressed interest in playing the new Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic June 26-29 near Collingwood, but he now figures he may have a good chance of getting into the PGA TOURs Buick Open to be played at the same time in Michigan.
If Mills is to get into the Buick Open, it would work nicely in his quest to get into the British Open, which holds North American qualifying in Michigan right afterwards.
He is also scheduled to take part in U.S. Open qualifying after making it through to Oakmont last year, where he missed the cut in an event highlight by inflated scores. Still, he calls the 07 U.S. Open a building block in his career and more majors are on his mind.
At the start of the year, my goal was to play at least two of them, said Mills, adding that he has come to know Torrey Pines, the site of this years U.S. Open, through his participation at the Buick Invitational.
I played two years ago. I played this year, so I know the golf course, he said. I played it as a junior. I guess of all the PGA golf courses, apart from the Canadian Open, I think Im more experience on that golf course than any. Its not much experience, but its more experience than most of the other golf courses.
Its actually comical listening to Mills discuss the future as he seeks the dates of tournaments from wife Megan, apparently the schedule-keeper. I just show up and play, he said.
Thats a good thing because Mills doesnt want to get too far ahead of himself. While qualifying for a major or two and showing well would go a long way in his quest to stay on tour, its a long way to the end of the season and there are many obstacles along the way.
Unless he goes on a tear, playing in the Fall Series, once called the Quest for the Card, is a sure thing, but thats something Mills doesnt mind after playing into November on the Nationwide Tour.
To prepare for that stretch run, he is working regularly on his fitness with Craig Davies of Chiro Training International. Davies is on the road frequently with Mills, who admits he needs motivation in that department, but he says he is already seeing results from Davies program.
His results on tour are starting to pay dividends too, but just like the beginning of a fitness program, the ultimate reward of keeping his card takes time.
Email your thoughts to Ian Hutchinson
Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.

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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.