Lewis makes pain her ally on way to landmark win

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2013, 1:35 am

PHOENIX – Stacy Lewis turned heartache into something to marvel over again.

She made pain her ally yet again.

Lewis won the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup on Sunday to seize the Rolex world No. 1 ranking with the odds heavily stacked against her. She won closing fiercely, scorching Wildfire Golf Club with an 8-under-par 64 to come from four shots back and beat Ai Miyazato in the final round.

This victory embodied what makes the folks around Lewis appreciate her so much.

The little girl who inspired family pursuing an unlikely golf dream was at it again here. The little girl who persevered after doctors surgically attached a metal rod and five screws to her spine to remedy the ravages of scoliosis turned pain into triumph again.

When the final putt dropped Sunday, Lewis turned to her caddie, Travis Wilson, waving her index finger at him before he engulfed her in a hug.

“This was for you!” Lewis told him.

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Lewis, 28, told Wilson the same thing walking off the 16th hole, a piece of property that Lewis and Wilson will always remember for the agony and ecstasy it gave them both.

Just a day earlier, Lewis was penalized two shots after Wilson was deemed to have violated Rule 13-4 by testing the surface of a hazard when he walked into a fairway bunker. The penalty came down hard at round’s end and threatened to mar what was otherwise a brilliant third-round charge.

On the precipice of seizing No. 1, Lewis was struck with what should have been a momentum-killing blow.

Instead of starting Sunday two shots behind Miyazato, Lewis found herself in a hole four back.

Wilson was crushed Saturday evening, despondent that he put his player in such a hole. Golf was abuzz with debate over why he even ventured into the bunker, whether it was a subtle attempt to test the sand, or just an unfortunate mistake under the heat of the moment.

As Lewis hit balls Saturday night, she confided concern to swing coach Joe Hallett.

“I’m really worried about Travis,” Lewis told Hallett. “He’s taking this really hard, and he doesn’t need to.”

Hallett said Lewis set the tone for the entire team when she marched out so resolutely to the practice putting green after Saturday’s disappointment. Wilson, Hallett and Dale Lewis, Stacy’s father, were waiting there curious how Lewis would greet them.

She clapped her hands and then threw her arms in the air.

“She was wearing the biggest smile,” Hallett said. “She says, `You know what? We work our butts off every week to put ourselves in position to win, that’s where we are. What could be better? Let’s go putt and hit some 3-woods.'”

It was fitting the 16th hole would prove to be the turning point again Sunday.

Lewis virtually willed a better outcome with her resolve.

One shot down at the 16th tee, Lewis pounded a drive into another fairway bunker there. This time, she hit a pure wedge from 123 yards to 18 feet. She buried that birdie putt in a dizzying three-shot turnaround.

Miyazato made double bogey there. Her fate was sealed in a struggle to escape an errant shot into the desert. Miyazato, playing so steadily all day long, blew a pitching wedge left into the scrub brush, where she had to take an unplayable lie. She couldn’t get up and down from her drop into the desert dirt.

Lewis birdied four of the final six holes in giving a clinic on how to close.

“I was super motivated by what happened yesterday,” Lewis said. “I feel good for Travis.”

At first reluctant to speak as Lewis signed her scorecard, Wilson acknowledged the great relief the win gave him.

“It’s a huge weight,” Wilson said. “I do everything I can to help her get in the winner’s circle, and to have something weird like that happen yesterday . . . It’s the first time in 21 years that I’ve had anything like that happen. I was just devastated by it.”

Wilson clutched the flag from the 18th hole in one hand, his prize to remember this unforgettable finish. He briefly revisited his disappointment he felt standing in this same spot 24 hours earlier.

“It was a great day on the course, but the half-hour after, you go through the gamut of emotions,” Wilson said. “You’re mad, then you just have to accept it.

“Stacy just showed me the way to do it. She is like, `We will just go out there and get it done tomorrow.’”

Dale Lewis was overwhelmed yet again by his daughter’s determination to overcome obstacles in her life.

“Today, and what happened yesterday, it’s almost like that’s the way Stacy’s whole career has been,” Dale said. “Every time she gets down, she just bounces back up.”

Stacy told her father there had to be some adversity to stick with the script.

“Why should getting to No. 1 be anything different from anything else in my career?” Lewis told her father. “I’ve always got to make it extra hard.”

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).