Howell Focuses on Lead Not Leaderboard

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 21, 2003, 5:00 pm
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. ' Charles Howell III doesnt like to leaderboard watch. But when he took a peak coming off the 18th green Friday at the Nissan Open, he found his name at the top.
Howell birdied his final two holes for a 6-under 65. He stands at 8-under-par 134, one shot clear of Nick Price, who chipped in from 90 feet for birdie at the last for a 67.
Defending champion Len Mattiace also had a 67 and is two back at 6-under.
Rich Beem is four off the pace after matching Howells 65. Overnight leader Fred Funk (74) made his way to 8-under, but played holes 12-15 in 5-over, to finish at minus-3.
Tiger Woods raced out of the gates Friday to threaten the lead, but limped home to find himself in basically the same position in which he started.
Beginning on the back nine, Woods was 5-under on the day over his first 10 holes. But following five straight pars, he ran into trouble down the stretch.
Woods blocked his tee shot on the par-4 seventh into the right rough. With his ball buried in the foot-long grass, he was unable to advance it more than three inches.
'If I made contact there, it would have been a task. I went ahead and swung as hard as I could and I went right underneath it,' Woods explained.
From roughly the same position, he then turned over his third shot 100 yards left into a fairway bunker. He finally reached the green on his fourth shot, and two-putted for double bogey.
That knocked Woods from 4-under -- and within two of the lead at the time -- to 2-under.
He recovered with a 25-foot birdie at the eighth, only to bogey the ninth after coming up short of the green with his approach from an awkward stance in the bunker.
I really played well all day, just made a bad swing on No. 7 and, unfortunately, it cost me a couple of shots, said Woods, who is seeking his first win in his sixth start as a professional at this event.
Im in a really good spot. Anyone under par has a real good chance to win this tournament.
That includes Tigers two-day playing companion, David Duval.
As he did in round one, Duval scrambled for an under-par score. He hit five of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation, but still managed a 1-under 70.
He chipped in for the third time in two days and needed only eight putts on the front nine, his back.
He stands alongside Stephen Ames (69), K.J. Choi (69), Duffy Waldorf (69) and Funk at 3-under-par 139.
I have managed to hang in there, said Duval, who withdrew from last years final round due to food poisoning.
Like Duval, Price has had his share of success from off the green. He twice chipped in for birdie in the second round, at the sixth and at the 18th.
I missed a few short putts on 15, 16, 17, so I guess it all evens out, he said.
Price has won 18 times in his 21-year PGA Tour career, but is looking to accomplish a pair of firsts this week.
I have never won on the west coast and I have never won on poa annua greens, so this is a good chance to kill two birds with one stone, he said.
Price will play alongside Mattiace and Howell in Saturdays final threesome. This will be nothing new for the 46-year-old Zimbabwean. He regularly plays practice rounds with Howell, and has watched him play for over a decade.
Ive known Charlie since he was 10, Price said. 'He was skinny and hit more balls than I have seen a kid do in my life. And he hasn't changed.'
Howell started the day four back of Funk, and remained there when he glanced at the leaderboard on the eighth hole.
Fred was at 8-under and I was at 4-under, he recalled.
Howell birdied No. 8 to get to 5-under. And as Funk was melting on the back, Howell was burning up the par-5s. He reached the 11th with his second shot and two-putted for birdie. He then got up and down for birdie at 17.
He concluded his day by hitting a sand wedge on the 451-yard closing hole to 12 feet for sole possession of the lead.
Howell said he has turned over a new leaf in 2003, opting not to keep track of where he stands in the tournament.
I dont think anything good comes of that, he explained. Until the last four holes on Sunday I dont think its important.
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 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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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.