The Beautiful Blue Monster
In the past decade, no two players have come close to winning as many tournaments worldwide as Woods and Els (both have more than 30). So it can certainly be argued that Doral and The Genuity combined to create something that those made-for-primetime TV shoot-outs could not: a true top-two battle.
This was not some fabricated contest. There was something real on the line here. Ernie had not won on the U.S. tour since the 2000 season and Tiger had not visited the PGA Tours winners circle in nearly six months.
A few years ago Raymond Floyd oversaw a facelift at Doral, adding and expanding bunkers to the point where there was so much sand that this Tour stop resembled the Dubai Desert Classic. Most players cringed at the New Blue, so this gem of a course was restored more closely to its historic roots. Now the raves are universal.
Prior to the 2002 Geunity, Tiger had played Doral only once. He finished tied for ninth in 1998. Tiger had not planned to play Doral this year, but poor showings on the West Coast and poor health that limited Woods schedule inspired him to tee it up in The Genuity. Thank goodness. I havent played here since the changes, Tiger said last Wednesday. Im looking forward to it.
The renovated, retro-Doral is a course players covet. It penalizes poor shots severely and rewards good play. There are no tricks on this track. And when that famous winter wind whips across the Florida peninsula, churning up all of that blue Doral water, shaking the sun-drenched palm trees to their roots, thats when we learn why this course earned the moniker 'Monster.'
On Saturday at Doral, the wind swirled and gusted. The average score for the field was two-over-par 74. Els bettered that average by eight strokes. His six-under 66 gave Ernie an eight-stroke lead heading to the final round. He must have been playing a different course than the rest of us, Nick Price said.
Yet, despite the huge lead Ernie held over Tiger heading to the final 18, neither Els nor Woods would admit the tournament was over. Anything can happen here, Ernie explained, Especially with Tiger. Hes come back on me before.
I just hope the wind keeps blowing, Woods said.
On Sunday everyone got what he wished for. The wind blew. Only the most precise strikes could produce the kind of round necessary to catch Els. Tiger almost pulled it off. He whittled the lead down to one stroke for a moment on Sunday, but Woods couldnt completely conquer the Monster and Ernie finally righted his ship.
Els would hang on to win by two after millions of viewers undoubtedly hung on the edges of their chairs, witnessing a thriller. Yeah, Im really glad I decided to come here, said Woods.
Yes, so were we.
One thought for the future of events at Doral: the LPGA Tour staged a tournament at Doral for the first time last year, but no Florida Swing for the ladies this year and, hence, no Doral. What a shame. Lets hope the LPGA returns to the beautiful Blue Monster. After all, what could be better than Els and Woods on Sunday? Well, how about Sorenstam and Webb?
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.
McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.
“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said. “That's what he said.”
The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.
The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.
“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
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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Woods happy to help Furyk at Ryder Cup
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods didn't hesitate when Jim Furyk asked him to become a vice captain at the upcoming Ryder Cup.
Woods said Wednesday that Furyk asked he and Steve Stricker “a while ago” whether they were interested in being assistants in Paris as the Americans try to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Woods said of Furyk, “and whatever he wants, whatever he needs, I’m there to help him. We’re worked well the last couple of years in the cups together.”
Though Woods has said that he wants to be a playing vice captain, he has been an assistant at each of the past two international team competitions.
Furyk, Woods and Stricker were all assistants at Hazeltine, where the U.S. won in a rout.
“Jim is very detailed, very smart, very analytical, and he’s just a fantastic leader,” Woods said. “For him to ask Stricks and I together, it will be special for both of us.”
Woods to hit '4 or 5' drivers each day at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Those hoping Tiger Woods will wield the driver early and often this week at PGA National likely will be disappointed.
Depending on wind direction, he said he will only hit “four or five” drivers each round.
During Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods hit driver on six holes. He found two fairways with the big stick and found the right rough four times, though a few of those misses were only a few yards off the fairway.
In two starts this year, Woods has struggled mightily with every club off the tee, but driver has been especially troublesome. He has found only 36 percent of the fairways so far (30 of 84).
The Champion Course here is a par 70, with water and bunkers often lining the fairways. Putting the ball in play off the tee will be at a premium, and so Woods opted for a low, penetrating 2-iron six times in the pro-am.
Woods said he did not make any equipment changes following the missed cut at Riviera.