Singh (74) plays through fan insults at Players

By Randall MellMay 10, 2013, 12:51 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Vijay Singh nearly escaped Thursday without confrontation.

Competing in The Players Championship in the wake of day-old news that he was suing the PGA Tour, Singh was greeted by galleries with mostly polite applause and even some spirited encouragement.

But there was the guy wearing the deer-antler hat in the first row at the first tee.

There were a couple odd cracks about deer-antler spray and venison.

And there was the boisterous guy who called him a “bum” at the 17th hole.

And there was a last drive-by insult in the 18th fairway by a fan hiking briskly toward the tee box while Singh was marching toward the 18th green.

The fan, who appeared to be in his 20s, turned as he passed Singh and screamed: “Vijay, you suck!”

Singh heard him, and he responded to the fan, who was speed walking away at what seemed record speed. This reporter couldn’t make out Singh’s response, but a marshal following Singh did hear it.

“Vijay said, `Why don’t you come here and say that,’” the marshal stated.

The insult came with Singh on his way to take a drop in the 18th fairway after rinsing his drive in the lake. Whether the insult was commentary on Singh’s errant tee shot or on the lawsuit is unclear, but it provided a jarring end to a reasonably quiet day for Singh.

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Singh shot 2-over-par 74, leaving him tied for 99th, two shots outside the projected cutline.

Really, despite the few taunts, Singh faced less fan outrage than Kevin Na did for his inability to pull the trigger in the final pairing during the fourth round of last year’s Players Championship. Na heard a lot more taunts than Singh did.

With Thursday’s start of The Players, there was natural curiosity over how hometown fans would treat Singh after hearing he was suing the PGA Tour, which is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach. Singh lives here, too, and he practically lives on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course range on his off weeks.

It was just Wednesday when news broke that Singh had filed a lawsuit accusing the PGA Tour of “reckless administration and implementation of its anti-doping program.” Singh asserts that the Tour exposed him to “public humiliation and ridicule” during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer-antler spray. The Tour ultimately dropped its drug-policy case against Singh.

With Singh signing his scorecard Thursday, an interview request for him was made to PGA Tour media officials. Singh didn’t stop for comment after leaving scoring.

Robert Garrigus was on the front lines when Singh made his first public appearance since news of the lawsuit broke. So was J.J. Henry. They were awkwardly paired with Singh on Thursday.

“There were a few idiots, but, overall, it wasn’t too bad,” said Garrigus, who shot 72. “Security didn’t have to step in.

“The round went fairly smoothly except for a couple of drunk guys who lit him up a little bit, which was pretty stupid. We don’t need that out here.”

When Singh reached the first tee, folks were pouring out of the grandstand in a mass exodus.

At every hole he played his way toward, it was the same thing, mass exodus.

It wasn’t what you think, though. It wasn’t some protest. Singh happened to be playing behind Tiger Woods. Folks were merely scrambling to follow Woods after he hit a shot.

When Singh arrived at the first tee, a man sat quietly wearing a small rack of deer antlers on his hat. It looked like something you would see somebody wear to a Christmas party. The man didn’t say a word to Singh, though, but later told reporters he wore them because he didn’t like the fact that Singh was suing the Tour.

Garrigus managed to get a laugh out of Singh in what could have been an uncomfortable first-tee handshake.

“So, you’re in the spotlight right now, aren’t you big guy?” Garrigus told Singh.

“Yeah, for the wrong reasons,” Singh said, as Garrigus related it.

Garrigus and Singh know each other fairly well.

“I kind of made fun of it today to loosen things up, which I do very well,” Garrigus said. “I talked to Vijay all day. Vijay and I are very friendly. We always have been. We like to talk about cars. It was business as usual.”

Garrigus said he didn’t speak to Singh about the lawsuit after that initial ice breaker.

“I didn’t get into it,” Garrigus said. “I don’t know the details. I don’t know what he’s suing for and all that stuff. He’s obviously earned the respect until everything goes through.”

Though the Singh situation created a sideshow element to the pairing, Garrigus said it didn’t bother his game. He didn’t, however, appreciate those few insults he did hear directed at Singh.

“There was a guy at 17 who called him a bum,” Garrigus said. “There were a couple guys saying `What about that spray?’ Stupid stuff.

“The only thing is he doesn’t deserve that. I don’t know how many majors he has won, how many tournaments he’s won. He’s won a lot of money out here. He deserves our respect as players regardless even if suing PGA Tour or not. It’s a delicate situation.”

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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.