With Masters looming, Woods searching for his game

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2014, 11:56 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods looks completely baffled with the Masters just six weeks away.

The confused look he wore standing with his hands on his hips in the eighth fairway Friday at the Honda Classic pretty much summed up his day, a struggle just to make the cut.

In fact, it pretty much summed up the most lackluster start in his 19 seasons as a pro.

After ballooning a wedge short into the eighth green, Woods looked down at his divot in exasperation. He stared at it for the longest time, studying it the way a forensic scientist might examine a key detail in a crime scene.


Honda Classic: Articles, videos and photos


And then he moved behind the divot, studying it from another angle. He stalked a lot of his divots like that, like a CSI investigator looking for clues to a missing golf swing.

Given how many errant shots clearly frustrated him in the second round, Woods posted a fairly impressive 1-under-par 69. He fought to get the ball in the hole, fought to get to even par overall, fought to make the cut on the number.

His short game saved him time and time again. He chipped in for a birdie at the 13th, a shot that might have saved his weekend.

“The short game was spotty, and now it’s good again,” Woods said. “So now, just need my ball striking to come around.”

Woods is 41st in the field in fairways hit this week. He’s 90th in greens in regulation. He hit just one of the first eight greens he looked at while spraying shots across the back nine.

“It was a grind, there's no doubt about it,” Woods said. “I certainly grinded my way around this place today. I didn't hit it very good. Just one of those days where I fought out a number, which was good.”

How frustrating was his struggle?

As Woods made his way up PGA National’s ninth fairway, the legion of fans hustling after him weren’t rooting for him to catch Rory McIlroy, who at that time loomed 12 shots ahead of Woods. They were rooting for him to make the cut.

“Come on Tiger, we want to see you on the weekend!” one fan exhorted.

Woods made birdie there, with his young children, Sam and Charlie, watching at the back of the ninth green. His girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, looked after them.

This is a home game for Woods, with his residence just down the road on Jupiter Island, but he isn’t looking comfortable here. Still, he won’t dismiss his chances to win this weekend, even though he has to make up 11 shots on McIlroy over the final two rounds.

“Anything can happen this weekend,” Woods said in his typical refrain.

Given the fact that Woods came from nine shots behind McIlroy in the final round here two years ago, and nearly caught him, you dismiss him at your own peril, even with his game looking so unsettled. He looked this way two years ago and posted a 62 in the final round.

Mostly, though, this weekend has to be about Woods getting his game right for the Masters, with the year’s first major just six weeks away.

Because that’s the thing, Woods game isn’t ready.

He was all over the place here. He hooked a tee shot at the fourth under a sawgrass bush, and he blocked a tee shot so far right at the 11th, he had to punch back into the fairway.

And then he hooked his tee shot at the 12th into trouble, and Woods fanned his approach short and right at the 14th.

The sluggishness in Woods missing the Saturday cut at Torrey Pines, and then tying for 41st in Dubai, made this week feel important. Even Woods said the turn to the Florida swing heightens preparation for the Masters.

“It’s only three events,” Woods said when asked about the cool start to his year. “So, not that many rounds into it.”

Woods isn’t ready for the Masters, but he doesn’t have to be, not yet. He has this weekend, and then two starts at places where he’s comfortable. He goes to Trump Doral next week and then the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks after it.

If he's still in CSI mode at Bay Hill, it will be time for Tiger fans to fret.

Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.