Gal holds steady in wind on Day 2 of Titleholders

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2013, 10:53 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sandra Gal is in control halfway through the CME Group Titleholders Championship.

That’s a big deal given she didn’t feel like she had much control of her swing or game when she was struggling to make cuts earlier this year.

Even in the blustery winds over Tiburon Friday, Gal was undaunted, carving draws and fades on command on her way to a 3-under-par 69. At 11-under, she’s three shots ahead of Sun Young Yoo (68) and five ahead of Gerina Piller (67), Cristie Kerr (69) and Pornanong Phatlum (68).

Gal, 28, is in position to soothe some disappointment this year with the biggest first-place check in women’s golf. The winner takes home $700,000 this weekend.

“It’s easy to say I don’t care about money, and I just want to play well,” Gal said. “Everybody says that. I’m going to say that and try to mean it.

“At the end of the day, I think when you win a tournament, you’re happy fighting and overcoming fear and hitting good shots.”

Highlights: Gal leads Titleholders through 36

Photos: CME Group Titleholders

Gal’s career was on a nice upward arc until she lost her best form this year. The German broke through to win the Kia Classic in 2011, her first LPGA title. She made the European Solheim Cup team that beat the Americans in Ireland that year. Last year, she was voted’s “hottest golfer.”

But her game cooled off this year. Through a stretch early in the summer, Gal missed four cuts in six starts, including the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. The swoon cost her a spot on the European Solheim Cup team.

Something started click after she started working with Gary Gilchrist as her coach, but it wasn't enough to win her the favor of European captain Liselotte Neumann. Gal tied for fourth at the Ladies European Tour Masters in July, tied for sixth at the Safeway Classic in August and tied for sixth at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October.

Did missing the Solheim Cup spark something?

“I was very disappointed, but my good play hasn’t had anything to do with not getting picked,” Gal said.

Yoo, 26, has been working to find winning form, too. She broke through to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year, her first major championship and second LPGA title, but she hasn’t won since.

“I was pushing myself a little too hard,” Yoo said. “It was kind of stressful for me, because I wanted to play better and better every week. At the same time, I had confidence after winning. I felt like, `Oh, I can win the big tournament.’”

Gal and Yoo avoided most of the trouble Friday’s winds brought.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park got to 7-under on the front nine, but she made four bogeys over the final 10 holes, including one at the last, where she tried to splash a shot out of a muddy hazard but dumped her ball into a bunker. Park shot 72 and sits seven off the lead. Park wasn’t fretting about it, though. After signing her card, she was off to get ready for the LPGA's Rolex awards program, where she would receive the Rolex Player of the Year award.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the week,” Park said.

Cristie Kerr opened the second round with a double bogey after hitting her second shot into a hazard and then bogeyed the third hole, but she rallied with four birdies and an eagle to get within five of the lead.

“Honestly, I got so PO’d, like I wasn’t going to let this tournament go down the toilet,” Kerr said. “I just got really determined. I said I don’t care if I’m not hitting it great. I’m going to have to just be better mentally. I just made it happen out there. That’s the kind of round I needed in the wind today.”

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TT postscript: Tiger (E) survives difficult day

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 6:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Here are some observations after watching Tiger Woods’ even-par 70 in the first round of the Honda Classic:

• Whew, that was tough. Like, by far the most difficult conditions Woods has faced this year. The wind blew about 20 mph all day, from different directions, and that affected every part of the game, especially putting.

• And though the stats aren’t necessarily pretty – half the fairways hit, just 10 greens – this was BY FAR his best ball-striking round of the new year. He even said so himself. When he walked off the course, he was just four off the lead.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

• Woods had only one bad hole Thursday. It came on the par-5 third hole, his 12th of the day. He blew his driver into the right bunker. He had to lay way back, to clear the lip of the bunker. And then he tugged his third shot just barely in the greenside trap. And then his bunker shot didn’t get onto the green. Then he chipped on and missed a 4-footer. A truly ugly double bogey.

• The driver is still a concern – he found the fairway only once in five attempts. But only one of those misses was way off-line. That came on the 12th, when he double-crossed one way left.

• Though the driver is uncooperative, he has showed a lot of improvement with his 3-wood. The four times he used it, he controlled the ball flight beautifully and hit it 300-plus. His 2-iron is making a comeback, too, in a big way.

• After this round, he should have a little wiggle room Friday to make the cut, barring a blowup round. It’s playing tough, and the 36-hole cut should be over par. Tiger needs four rounds of competitive reps. If he plays like this Friday, he’ll get them. 

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 5:45 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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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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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:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; 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).