Singh Woods at Ease on PGA Eve

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' Tiger Woods ended his pre-tournament interview Tuesday and then engaged in a 20-minute, impromptu gab session with some media types.
 
Vijay Singh started his pre-tournament interview Wednesday with a few one-liners about his public speaking skills, nearly putting the moderator in tears.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has looked focused on the course, but relaxed off of it.
These actions, from these two players, can best be described as unusual ' particularly given the circumstances.
 
Woods never, ever chats casually with reporters ' especially at a major championship ' unless its in the locker room around a few of those he trusts.
 
And while Singhs friends love to point out that he does have a sense of humor, its rare that he actually showcases it to the working press.
 
The top 2 players in the world appear very comfortable and sound quite confident as they get ready to engage in the final major of the season at the 87th PGA Championship.
 
There are, the field list says, 156 men who will be competing on the 7,392-yard, par-70 Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club. There are, however, two who clearly stand above the rest in terms of accomplishment and expectation.
 
The Big Four, which became the Big Five, is now the Big Two.
 
Woods has won four times this season, including the Masters and the British Open. He hasnt had a finish outside the top 3 since missing the cut at the Byron Nelson in May.
 
Singh has also won four tournaments; though, no majors. In his most recent performance, he smoked Woods head-to-head (63 to 70) in the third round at Warwick Hills en route to claiming his third Buick Open title.
 
Tigers campaign is drawing favorable comparisons to that of 2000, the last time he won three majors in a single season. But while it might look like 2000, it doesnt feel that way. Not to Tiger and not to his competitors.
 
I think the atmosphere is nowhere near what it was in 2000, Woods said. I guess from some guys Ive talked to this week, you know, in the media, just the novelty factor is not there anymore; Ive already done it.
 
In 2000, he was a phenomenal player that nobody could touch, said Padraig Harrington. I think now hes still a great player, but I dont think ' hes probably not as untouchable as he was in 2000.
 
There definitely was a perception if he was in the field he was going to win, at that time, Lee Janzen said. I think the perception now is that he is still the guy to beat, but its not ' I dont think guys think its a given that he is going to win.
 
Well, certainly his wins would lead anybody to feel that way, Phil Mickelson said about a 2000 revival. But as a player and a competitor, I dont really subscribe to that.
 
I showed to everybody and to the rest of the world that he can be beatable two months ago, said Michael Campbell. He was favored to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst; I managed to knock him off his pedestal for a week, which is nice.
 
Tiger Woods 2005 is not Tiger Woods 2000. Nor does he want to be. He wants to improve upon that. Become more dominant. Even more untouchable than ever before.
 
I dont want to go back to 2000. I want to become better than that. Thats why I made the (swing) changes, said Woods.
 
People ask me, Are you there yet? No. You never get there. And that's the great thing about it. You can always be better the next day. That's how I look at golf and how I look at life. You can always, always be better.
 
No one has improved more over the first half of this decade than Singh. In less than three years, Singh has won 17 PGA Tour events ' seven more than Woods. He has also in that span topped Tiger in the world rankings, on the money list, and for player of the year. He was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year.
 
Another difference between now and then: five years ago, Woods was without peer. Today, there is Singh.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh shared a few laughs early in his press conference, before shifting the tone.
I feel right now Im playing the best golf Ive ever played. To me, Im playing a lot better this year than Ive done last year, said Singh, who won nine times in 2004, including the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
 
Im probably driving the ball much straighter and probably further than I did last year. Im on the same track as last year. I dont know if Im going to do the same thing or not, but you know, I just have to focus on this week and see if I can pull this one off and go from there.
 
Putting not distance, Singh believes, will determine the winner of this event. And both Singh and Woods are quite pleased with their short games at the moment.
 
Just two weeks ago, Singh switched to a mallet-style putter and used a left-hand-low grip. With Woods by his side ' and just one day after Woods had fired 61, Singh made seven birdies over his first nine holes, turning a one-stroke lead into an eight-stroke advantage by days end.
 
Obviously, I was fired up to play with Tiger, Singh said. But I wasnt (under any) pressure at all.
 
Singh and Woods share a rivalry, but not a friendly one. What they do maintain, however, is a mutual regard for one another.
 
How can you not? Woods responded when asked if he respected Singh. What hes done in the game and where he came from; he should be commended. It's not like he was given anything. He went out and earned it.
 
When prompted with the same question about his respect for Woods, Singh replied: Who doesnt? Hes the best player in the golf game right now. Hes been like that for a while. Gosh, if you dont have respect for what hes done, then youre not thinking right.
 
Woods and Singh may feel similarly about one another, but public perception ' and appreciation ' is a different game. While both have their detractors, fans either seem to like or dislike Woods to extremes. Singh has never been embraced as warmly as has Woods, but he has certainly felt the sting. And this he credits to his portrayal in the press.
 
I dont know what I need to do to win you guys. Im not going to beg. Im not going to get down there and get on my knees and say, hey, write good things about me. Im not going to do that, Singh directed toward the media members in attendance.
 
I have not done anything not to win your confidence. Im a player; Im an athlete. I go out there and speak my mind and Im very honest about it. Im not a fake like many guys out here. So you write whatever you want to write, but write what I say, dont mix things over. And thats the way I am.
 
Does he feel underappreciated?
 
In my mind, no, he said. Ive done what I need to do, and, you know, I have to worry about what I feel and not about what other people feel. And I feel great about my game, myself, and what I have done.
 
He also feels great about his chances to win a third career PGA title this week.
 
The guy who putts well is going to win the golf tournament right here, he said.
 
Im really confident with the way Im putting, and I think thats the key to my golf game, is if I start making putt, then Im going to have a good chance of winning tournaments.
 
Woods, a two-time PGA winner (1999, 2000) himself, likes his chances, too. And why not? He seems focused on the course and at ease off of it. At this point in time, he believes he is a better in nearly every aspect of the game than he was five years ago.
 
If there is one thing, though, that hasnt changed since 2000; its his desire to win.
 
The drive is still the same to go out there and win the championship, put myself there and hopefully come out on top, he said. That hasnt changed. Thats still the same.
 
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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.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    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.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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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.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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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.