Tiger Keeps Opponents at Bay

By Mercer BaggsMarch 15, 2002, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods is a selfish man. Just as fan excitement was building towards a weekend crescendo, Woods played the role of public antagonist, separating himself from the field at the Bay Hill Invitational.
Early Friday, it appeared as if any number of upper-echelon players would contend for the title. Instead, it may prove to be a weekend whitewashing.
Woods fired the low round of the tournament, a 7-under-par 65, to move to 12-under 132. Only a bogey ' his first in 76 holes ' at the par-4 eighth kept the field within shouting distance.
Scott McCarron is Tigers nearest rival. He shot 68 to get within four at minus 8.
Tiger is obviously playing really well right now, so its going to be tough to catch him. But theres a lot of golf left, McCarron said.
'This golf course is playing very difficult. Anything can happen.'
Ernie Els (67) and Angel Cabrera (70) are five back.
Two weeks ago, the roles were reversed. Els led Woods by four strokes after 36 holes at Doral, and eight by rounds end Saturday. Woods made a charge Sunday ' shooting 66 ' but came up a couple of shots short.
Els went on to win snap an 18-month winless drought on the PGA Tour, and then won the following week at the European Tours Dubai Desert Classic. Friday, after receiving a little advice from his swing coach, David Leadbetter, the South African made his bid for three in a row.
It was just a little tip he gave me, to square up my hips a little bit more, Els said after hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
Els' ball striking resulted in five birdies and no bogeys. He did, however, miss a handful of really short birdie putts, which could have turned a good round into a great one.
Those extra strokes are now weighing heavily on his scorecard.
Woods started the day tied for the lead at 5-under, but lost that position when Els entered the clubhouse. He made a 20-foot birdie at the par-4 10th ' his first hole ' to move closer, and then tied for the top spot with an eight-footer at the 12th.
Tiger reclaimed the outright lead with another 20-foot birdie putt at No. 14. Two holes later, with his confidence brimming, he hit an 8-iron out of the right fairway bunker, 15 feet from the hole. He made the putt to take a two-shot lead at 9-under.
I hit a good, positive shot on 10 out of the fairway bunker. I said, Just try and do the same thing, and it came out absolutely perfect, Woods said.
Asked if he would have tried to go for the green was he not playing as well, Woods responded, No.
Tiger added four more birdies to his card on his back nine, missing a 40-foot eagle putt by an inch on the par-5 sixth. His lone blemish came at the eighth, when he pushed a 3-wood into the trees and had to punch out. He hit a sand wedge to 10 feet, but, this time, the putt wouldnt fall.
Nevertheless, hes in prime position to become the first player to win three Bay Hill titles, let alone three consecutive
I feel comfortable with the lead, and I would much rather be in the lead than come from behind, said Woods, who is 13 of 17 in converting 36-hole leads on the PGA Tour.
A host of big names are jumbled in the top 10, well back of Woods. John Daly is six off the pace after a 1-under 71. Daly was forced to wait on every shot Friday. His Day-1 playing partner, Greg Norman, withdrew prior to the second round. Norman opened in 1-under 71, but complained about a twinge in his back, leaving Daly to play in a twosome with Kirk Triplett.
John Huston (71) is also at minus 6. Sergio Garcia (71) and Jose Maria Olazabal (68) are among a group seven back at 5-under.
I wanted to post another 69 or 68 and be right up there, but, unfortunately, I couldnt ' I had my chances, Garcia said.
Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.