Hot Seat: Britches, boxers and briefs

By Randall MellMay 1, 2012, 6:26 pm

The Hot Seat’s back and Luke Donald (despite not playing), Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are all on it at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

Here’s our special heat index for gauging who is facing the most pressure to perform this week:

Smokin’ britches – Luke McIlroy

Or maybe that should be Rory Donald.

Whatever, Donald and McIlroy have been interchangeable pieces atop the Official World Golf Ranking since late February. Donald got the top spot back this week. The two have exchanged the No. 1 ranking four times in the last 10 weeks, and it’s possible they’ll do it again when the last putt drops at the Wells Fargo Championship.

At least McIlroy will have something to say about what happens with the world rankings while actually on the golf course this week. Since the Masters, he has gained and lost the world’s top spot without getting off his couch, so to speak. McIlroy is coming out of rest mode and ought to be fresh. He has played just one event in the last seven weeks, but he will be busy now. McIlroy is scheduled to tee it up in four of the next five weeks before taking a week off and then defending his title at the U.S. Open.

Donald, meanwhile, is taking the week off after playing two of the last three tournaments, including a third-place showing in New Orleans which helped him reclaim the No. 1 ranking.


Blazing briefs – Lee Westwood

The Englishman arrives for the Wells Fargo at No. 3 in the world and looking for a chance to climb back to the top spot. With loads of world-ranking points up for grabs this week and at next week’s Players Championship, Westwood can make a serious move to get back in the musical chairs rotation atop the world rankings.

Westwood is looking for his first PGA Tour or European Tour victory since the Ballantine’s Championship more than a year ago, but he’s showing good form this year with four finishes of fourth or better and a victory at the Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.

Westwood held the No. 1 ranking for 22 weeks in late 2010 and in early 2011.


Toasty boxers – Phil Mickelson

Mickelson is back in action for the first time since Bubba Watson displaced him as the hottest “Lefty” in the world by winning the Masters.

This year, for the first time in forever, it seems, Mickelson isn’t the highest ranked “Lefty” in the game.

With Mickelson showing good form this year, he’s among the favorites at Quail Hollow, a venue where he has looked comfortable contending. Mickelson has finished top four in four of his last six starts, with a victory (AT&T Pebble Beach) in that mix. If not for one wayward tee shot in the final round of the Masters, he might have two victories in that mix. Mickelson takes momentum to Quail Hollow, where he has finished top 10 the last three years, including a second two years ago.


Sizzling back side – Green Mile

The 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Quail Hollow, dubbed the Green Mile, were ranked the three toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour in 2009 and 2010, but the trio slumped to No. 3 last year with Atlanta Athletic Club’s test at the PGA Championship taking the top spot. It marked the first time since 2003 that Quail Hollow’s finishing holes weren’t No. 1 or No. 2 in difficulty on the PGA Tour.

Unless there is some challenging weather, don’t expect the trio to seize back its title as the toughest finishing holes this year. Quail Hollow and PGA Tour officials have decided to use the left tee boxes at the 17th all four days of the tournament, choosing to stay away from the right tees that make that long par 3 so much more difficult. The left tees play between 190 and 205 yards, the right tees play up to 217 yards. Given the slope of the green, the left tees offer much more receptive shots, a change that should please players.

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.