Woods makes a splash in Honda Classic first round

By Jason SobelFebruary 28, 2013, 7:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – It isn’t often that Tiger Woods opens with an even-par 70 in a regular PGA Tour event and leaves us with an enduring, entertaining memory from his round. Then again, it isn’t often that he removes clothing to blast a shot from a water hazard.

It all started on the tee box of the par-4 sixth hole, playing to 437 yards on Thursday. Woods elected to hit driver, aiming down the left side to play a cut that would fade back to the fairway. He instantly knew it wouldn’t happen. The ball started left and stayed there. By the time it landed, Woods had slammed his club against the ground in disgust.

With a hazard bordering the hole’s left side, Woods believed he would find his ball engulfed somewhere in the muck – either unplayable or unfindable. Not exactly two optimal options.

Photo gallery: Woods' trouble at No. 6

“We didn’t know,” said his caddie, Joe LaCava. “We were just going to see where we could drop, then we were pleasantly surprised that it was hittable. So we got away with it.”

It was hittable, yes, but not without some work. As a right-handed player, Woods would have to get even deeper into the hazard to have a swing at it. He examined the lie for a good two or three minutes, then starting preparing.

Evoking memories of Jean Van de Velde, he first removed his shoes. Then his socks. Then he rolled the ends of his pantlegs into calf-high cuffs, covering them by sliding on a pair of rainpants. And finally he removed his cream-colored sweater. Because apparently even if you’re Tiger Woods and have millions of dollars in the bank and unlimited access to cream-colored sweaters, you still don’t want to get the one you’re wearing splotched with mud.

Once his wardrobe was set, Woods grabbed his 9-iron and climbed into the hazard. Standing barefoot, he took a mighty hack at the ball. A huge splash emerged from the water. Then the ball, which drifted effortlessly and safely into the fairway.

“It was only half submerged,” he revealed, “so I could play some kind of explosion shot and get it back in the fairway. I got in there and I wasn't trying to advance it very far, just make sure I got it back in the fairway and give myself some kind of wedge shot in there, which I did.”

Woods casually toweled off his feet, removed his rainpants, uncuffed his pantlegs, put his shoes and socks back on and pulled his cream-colored sweater over his head again.

Of course, the entire episode would have been more forgettable if not for what happened next.

From 81 yards in the middle of the fairway, he hit a 60-degree wedge to 8 feet below the hole. He then made the putt to save par. For a guy who has made a career out of saving par – he’s done it at major championships; he’s done it to win tournaments – this one may very well rank amongst the best of the bunch.

“I was 1 over at the time,” Woods said of what was his 15th hole of the day. “If that ball is not playable from where it's at, where I caught was pretty far back and I would have had to have dropped. I couldn't even get an angle in the first cut and had to drop in the primary and had to lay up. Looking at a 6 – 3 over, and all of a sudden I flip it. Make par there.”

It wasn’t the first time Woods had to hit one out of the wet stuff. Five years ago, a fan found a glitch in the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 video game that would enable virtual golfers on a specific hole to walk on water, something the fan called a “Jesus Shot.”

So two days after winning the 2008 U.S. Open despite a debilitating leg injury that would need surgery and sideline him for the remainder of the season, Woods met with EA Sports staffers to shoot a promotional YouTube video showing that it wasn’t a fluke.

Filmed off the seventh hole on the North Course at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando on a lake that no longer exists, a hobbling Woods cautiously recreated the video-game shot in a clip that now has close to 7 million views online.

“We pointed out that Tiger can walk on water,” said EA Sports marketing director Craig Evans. “He was a trouper.”

Walking on water may not have been easy, but at least Woods was allowed to go home after that shot. On Thursday, his blast from the hazard and resulting par still left him with three holes to play. Making the shot even sweeter was the fact that he made birdie on the par-3 seventh to get back to even par for the first time all day. With pars on each of the last two holes, he had saved a round of 70 that could have been much worse – especially if that drive on No. 6 was found submerged, as he had believed.

Instead, those few minutes – from finding his ball to removing some clothes to hitting the fairway to saving par – may have saved two or three strokes. And they just may have saved Woods’ title hopes in the process.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.