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Randall's Rant: Young stars ignoring Tiger's bite

By Randall MellMarch 12, 2018, 6:06 pm

Paul Casey said if he couldn’t win the Valspar Championship on Sunday, he wanted Tiger Woods to win.

Jordan Spieth said today’s generation wants a showdown against a resurgent Woods.

“We want that chance to be able to battle it out with him on Sunday,” Spieth said.

Rory McIlroy said the same thing not so long ago.

“I would still love to have a crack at him down the stretch in a major,” McIlroy said.

That all begs a question.

Are you guys nuts?

Don’t you see what’s happening?

Maybe you need a pair of those special sunglasses Rowdy Roddy Piper wore in John Carpenter’s cult film classic “They Live,” the glasses that allowed Piper to see the real horror engulfing him. 

Yeah, boys, he looks like a kinder, gentler Tiger, but this could be your worst nightmare.

This could be the monster back from the dead.

This could be the beast back from the grave, coming for all of you. By the looks of it, he’s coming in the not-too-distant future to rip all your hearts out.

If Woods comes all the way back, and, astonishingly, that looks like where he could be headed in a hurry, you’re all going to know what it’s like to be extras in a Carpenter horror film.

You’re all going to be reduced to teenage scream queens.

So snap out of it.

If you get caught up admiring the comeback, if you allow this guy to get a taste of winning again, to build momentum and confidence again, you’re going to end up fighting over his scraps, just like all those guys who got beat up in Woods’ prime.

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And, whatever you do, don’t let him get a 54-hole lead.

You’re really screwed if you do that.

Woods was Michael Myers with a 54-hole lead.

An unstoppable force.

After losing to Ed Fiori at the Quad Cities Classic as a rookie in 1996, Woods went 13 years without coughing up an outright 54-hole lead. Y.E. Yang ended that run at the ’09 PGA Championship. Woods was 47-3 with at least a share of the lead as a pro before the loss to Yang.

Yeah, there’s a little tongue in cheek in this hyperbolic writing, but just a little, because Woods really does look scary close to realizing his full powers.

At 42, with head-shaking swing speed and power, with a short game that looks every bit as good as it ever did, Woods appears to be reawakening.

Or reanimating, if we’re staying on script.

A little sharper iron play Sunday, a couple more putts holed, and Woods wins the Valspar Championship.

The Masters is just four weeks away, and Woods looks as if he has his game closer to winning there than Spieth and McIlroy.

Spieth, 24, played the first two rounds at Innisbrook with Woods, and by the weekend Spieth was in front of a TV somewhere watching Woods try to win. Well, we’re presuming Spieth was watching, because who wasn’t?

McIlroy, 28, missed the cut, too.

Yeah, who really knows where this all goes, because it’s still conjecture, but all you lads admiring Woods’ return might want to talk to the boys who got beat up by him. You might want to ask to see their scars.

Because while so many of you have already carved out nice careers in Woods’ absence, your opportunities at making more history might be more limited for a while.

If you let Woods win another major, it’s great for all of us who love golf, but not so much for you. If you allow him to win next month at Augusta National, you’re going to feel a shadow falling on you that is darker and colder than any you have ever felt in the game.

If you allow Woods to win his 15th major, you guys won’t mean Jack, literally. You will become annoying nuisances and obstacles in the monster story that will reignite.

You’ll be in the way of . . . Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus.

If you allow Woods to renew his pursuit of Jack in any meaningful way, that’s all we’re going to care about for a while.

So snap out of it. You’ve got work to do.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.