Sunday Morning Coming Down

By Mercer BaggsJuly 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Hes now won 11 of these things. But its hardly old hat. Tiger Woods loves to win major championships, and each one has its own special meaning.
 
None like this one.
 
Ten times, Tiger has been able to celebrate a major victory with his father, Earl. This time he could not. Earl passed away May 3 due to cancer, leaving his son with lots of memories and lots of emotion.
 
Tiger Woods and caddie
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams embrace after Woods' third Open Championship victory.
That emotion, previously unavailable for public consumption, overflowed Sunday evening in England, when Tiger tapped in his par putt for a two-stroke victory ' a repeat performance ' in the 135th Open Championship.
 
Woods raised his fists, gave a shout that Pops could hear in Heaven, and then broke down. He hugged his caddie, Steve. As Williams went to pull away, Tiger held on. He buried his head into Williams broad right shoulder and covered it in tears. He then shared an extended embrace with his wife, Elin. And another with his instructor, Hank Haney, as well as with a few other people.
 
He didnt have his father to bear hug this time, so he spread the love around to everyone else.
 
It was honest and real. It was the best moment of this championship.
 
Driving into work this morning, trying to beat Tiger and Sergio to the first tee, I heard a song, Sunday Morning Coming Down, and wondered if Johnny Cash was singing the theme for this finale at Royal Liverpool.
 
It sure seemed like it, especially with everyone tumbling down the leaderboard early.
 
Chris DiMarco bogeyed the first. Jim Furyk bogeyed the first two. Adam Scott did the same. Mark Calcavecchia bogeyed 2. Garcia three-putted 2 and 3 for bogey. Angel Cabrera tripled the second. Ernie Els didn't falter, but never made a move.
 
By the time Woods made the turn, he had a three-stroke lead. It looked like a reprise of the 2002 Masters Tournament, when Woods led a group of world-class players by a slim margin, posted a modest final-round score, and still won handily.
 
Thank goodness for an inspired DiMarco. He put forth a fight that would have made his late mother so very proud of her son.
 
His birdie at 13, combined with Tigers bogey at 12, cut his deficit to just one. But he could get no closer. Woods birdied 14 and 15 ' with still two par-5s to play ' to create a separation that could not be fully filled.
 
Woods wasnt flawless this Sunday, but he was close. He tied the lowest score of the day, a 5-under 67, which is remarkable considering that he was playing from the front.
 
Just goes to show you what he can do when it puts his ball in play.
 
By using driver only once over four rounds, he managed to hit an astonishing 86 percent of these tricky and unpredictable links fairways ' this from a man who ranks outside the top 175 this season on the PGA TOUR in accuracy off the tee, and who hit only 25 percent of the fairways in two quick rounds at the U.S. Open.
 
And even though he was hitting longer irons into greens crustier than W.C. Fields, he managed to get his ball to finish on them 81 percent of the time, 15 of 18 on Sunday. He knew that he couldnt be aggressive, and so he wasnt. He just made sure to hit as many browns in regulation as possible, just put the ball anywhere on a putting surface that mirrored worn-out grass in the final match at Wimbledon.
 
His execution was brilliant. His putting, save for portions of the third round, was magnificent. His pace was perfect, particularly on Sunday.
 
His only mistake came in the form of an errant approach shot at 12, which led to his only dropped shot of the day, and can be attributed to the annoyance of the incessant clicking of camera phones.
 
Woods was as close to mistake-free as a player can be in the final round of a major championship.
 
Such cannot be said of his playing competitor.
 
Garcias first mistake came when he got dressed in the morning. After watching him the last two days, I thank my mother for making me color blind.
 
Sergios game was almost as offensive as his attire. Nerves attributed to a couple of early, critical errors. Frustration or disappointment may have contributed to a couple more going out. One day after shooting a front-nine 29 to rally into contention, he was 10 shots higher to plummet out.
 
Regardless of how he may try and spin it, this was a big loss for the 26-year-old Spaniard. Heading to the PGA Championship at Medinah, site of his electric introduction to the golfing public in 1999, Garcia is still without a major championship.
 
But its not just that ' its not just that Sergio hasnt won one of golfs Big 4. Its that this week ' this final round ' proved that he is no nearer Woods than he was seven years ago. In fact, hes no where close.
 
But, then, who is? Perhaps Phil Mickelson, who should not be discredited because of a lackluster performance this week.
 
Woods, though, on the heels of missing his first cut as a professional in a major championship, proved once again that he is still the standard.
 
The whole week, not just on Sunday, he was in complete control of his mind, his body and his clubs. And even his emotions.
 
It was all in-check ' until it was all over. Then, it all came pouring out.
 
As Kris Kristofferson wrote, and Johnny Cash sang to me this morning: And Lord, it took me back to something that Id lost. Somewhere, somehow along the way.
 
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Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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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.


    Getty Images

    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: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; 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.