Bunker Shots Bear Trap

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2010, 10:49 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from the Bear Trap, as both stage and star, to something special on the Champions Tour ...

The Honda Classic

Jack Nicklaus may be 70, but he’s still handing out beatings.

Nicklaus won’t be playing when the Honda Classic begins Thursday at PGA National’s Champion Course, but his intimidating presence will be felt in the start to the Florida Swing.
Bear Trap
A sign warns players of what they will face down the stretch. (Getty Images)
Nicklaus redesigned the Champion Course in 1981, remaking the original George and Tom Fazio design. Nicklaus’ fingerprints are all over the 15th, 16th and 17th holes, famously known as “The Bear Trap.” When Nicklaus returned to toughen up the course before the Honda Classic moved there three years ago, he decided the Bear Trap needed no sprucing.

“It will stand the test,” Nicklaus said at the time. “I don’t care if they make golf balls go a thousand yards. The Bear Trap will stand the test no matter what the equipment is.”

The Honda Classic will feature one of its strongest fields in recent years with four of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking in the field, but local fans have learned they can count on a triumvirate of stars every year, no matter which PGA Tour pros show up.

The Bear Trap’s 15th, 16th and 17th holes are as much stars as stage.

The 15th hole is a 179-yard par 3 that wouldn't be much more daunting if prison guards stood watch in towers there. A par under final-round pressure will feel like golf's version of a stay of execution, birdies like a governor's pardon. The only protection this hole lacks is a barbed-wire perimeter. The narrow green is guarded right by water and to the left by a large pot bunker. The prevailing wind is dead into the player's face with club selection ranging from a 6- to 8-iron, depending on the strength of the wind.

The 16th hole is a 434-yard par 4 that doglegs right over water to a two-tiered green. This hole is an ageless, square-jawed sentinel that won't be overpowered, even in this era of long-hitting titans. Only a fool will hit driver here. The approach is dead into the prevailing winds, requiring a mid-iron.

The 190-yard, par 3 17th hole is a twin menace to the 15th. There's water around more than half the green with the prevailing wind quartering left-to-right and into the player's face.

The 18th hole offers some drama with realistic shots at birdie, though it’s an ornery par 5 that yields lots of bogeys and worse.

Stance: PGA National Resort & Spa should feel like home away from home for Europe’s top players. The continent’s biggest stars are taking over the resort. Four of the top 10 players in the world will play the Honda this week, and they have something considerable in common: They’re all European. England’s Lee Westwood (No. 4) and Paul Casey (No. 6), Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (No. 9) and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (No. 10) lead the field.

Takeway: Camilo Villegas makes his home in Jupiter, Fla., just a few miles up the road from PGA National, but he’ll be making an especially long commute to this week’s event. He’s flying home to his native Colombia early in the week to help host pre-tournament functions for the Nationwide Tour event that will be played there this week. He received an excused absence to skip the Honda Classic Wednesday pro-am to help his country as host but plans to fly back in time to tee it up in the first round at PGA National. Villegas has a good history at the Honda, tying for second in a four-way playoff that Mark Wilson won in 2007, the first year the event was played at PGA National.

Bunker shot:
Ernie Els bears watching this week. He won the Honda Classic two years ago and calls the area home now. Els moved his family to the Bear’s Club in Jupiter after winning there. He’s off to a promising start this season. He hasn’t shot a round higher than 70 in three stroke-play events. He tied for 12th at the Sony Open, tied for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for 10th at the Northern Trust Open. Something large may be imminent for the Big Easy.

The Toshiba Classic

The Champions Tour is off to a special start.

You only need look at the money list to see how special.

Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson are 1-2-3 respectively.

They’re all in the Toshiba Classic field this week at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club, where play begins Friday.

Stance: If you were going to design a start to the new Champions Tour season, you couldn’t do much better than what we’ve seen. Watson beat Couples in a dramatic duel in the season opener in Hawaii, Couples bounced back to win in the year’s second event in Naples and Langer holed out from a bunker at the final hole to win in week No. 3 in Boca Raton. All three events came down to final shots at the final hole.

Takeaway: Couples vs. Watson. Who could tire of that? Another showdown is possible again this week with both players in good form.

Bunker shot: Did you see how high Langer leaped into the air after holing out from the greenside bunker to beat John Cook at the end of the Allianz Championship last week? If you wondered how hard these guys still grind to win, you got your answer. Langer didn’t show that much joy when he won his two Masters titles.

Around the rest of the world . . .

European Tour: Australian Andrew Dodt will be looking to win back-to-back events when he plays the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.

Nationwide Tour:
The inaugural Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open will mark the Nationwide Tour's first tournament in South America.
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Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'

By Will GrayMarch 18, 2018, 11:05 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.

He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.

Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”

In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”

Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.

“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”

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McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory

By Nick MentaMarch 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:

Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)

What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.

Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.

Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.

Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.

Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.

Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.

Remind you of anything?

Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy

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TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.

• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.

• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”

• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”

After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

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Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.

"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."

Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.