Tiger, Phil likely to contend on Sunday

By Randall MellApril 9, 2013, 10:05 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods is in better form coming to the Masters, but Phil Mickelson may be more confident here.

Woods arrives with the hottest hand in the game again, with a command and confidence we haven’t seen in his play since his career took a detour with his personal woes four years ago.

Mickelson arrives in typically unpredictable form, even confessing he’s nervous without his customary start the week before the Masters, but he will tee it up knowing nobody has shown more command at Augusta National in the last decade.


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Woods arrives off three victories this season, off six in his last 20 PGA Tour starts, but if there is any last nagging, gnawing notion of doubt to slay in his return to top form, it is in his ability to close out another major championship. It’s in knowing he hasn’t won a Masters in eight years. It’s in knowing he hasn’t won any major in almost five years and that he struggled with chances to win on the weekend in last year’s U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

Mickelson arrives having won once this year, but, more importantly, having won three Masters in the last nine played.

Here’s the thing, though. Whether you like Woods or Mickelson, this is your week. This is the event you can watch with near certainty one or both of these titans will tee it up Sunday in contention to win.

You have to go back before 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was born to find a Masters that didn’t end with Woods or Mickelson finishing fifth or better.

You have to go back to 1994 to find a Masters that didn’t end with Woods or Mickelson finishing among the top 10.

Back in 2005, Mickelson put the green jacket on Woods at the Masters trophy presentation. In ’06, Woods put it on Mickelson.

“I think that's what makes the Masters so exciting is having an opportunity to win, playing the back nine with an opportunity,” Mickelson said. “That is what is so enjoyable, exciting as a player. I've been fortunate to come out on top a few years, and I've been unfortunate to have a number of them come close but not quite good enough. But either way, having that opportunity to be in the thick of it, and to feel that excitement, to feel that pressure, to grace Amen Corner knowing that you need birdies, and trying to win a green jacket, that is the greatest thrill a golfer can possibly experience.”

Woods has won four Masters in his lifetime, but he has come so close to winning a closet-full more. He has finished T-4 or better nine times.

“I put myself in the mix every year but last year, and that's the misleading part,” Woods said. “It's not like I've been out of it with no chance of winning this championship. I've been there, and, unfortunately, just haven't got it done. I've been there in the mix on the back nine, and either not executed, not made enough putts, or didn't take care of the par 5s, or whatever it may be.”

After winning in ’05, Woods went on this run of close calls: T-3, T-2, 2, T-6, T-4 and T-4.

That consistent run in contention ended last year, when Woods failed to break par in any round of the Masters and ended up tying for 40th.

That was part of a run of weekend stumbles in the majors last year. At the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, Woods teed it up Saturday tied for the lead. He shot 75 and 13 players passed him. At the British Open, Woods teed it up four shots off the lead on Saturday and shot 70-73 on the weekend to watch Ernie Els claim the claret jug. At the PGA Championship, Woods started Saturday tied for the lead and shot 74 to fall back.

Mickelson, 42, said Woods, 37, still commanded his attention through that.

“I think that even at times where he has not played his best, you know what he's capable of, and so you're always looking at his score,” Mickelson said. “You're always worried about him making that big run the way he's always done throughout his career.

“Now that he's doing it, and winning tournaments in such a dominating fashion, it does have the feel of what we expect to see from Tiger.”

With Woods back at No. 1 in the world, with command of his swing and driver, with his short game, wedge play and putting returning to sharp form, his Masters drought may be nearing an end.

“I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game,” Woods said. “I feel that I've improved, and I've got more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That's something that I'm proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.”

Mickelson has won three green jackets, but he had his own weekend stumble a year ago that cost him winning his fourth. He started Sunday of the Masters a shot off the lead and derailed his chances nuking his tee shot at No. 4 off a grandstand railing and making triple bogey. He ended up tied for third.

Mickelson said the failure doesn’t add any fuel to his desire to win another Masters.

“There's not one thing that's going to make me more excited for the upcoming Masters, whether it's close, won, or play poorly,” Mickelson said.

Whether Woods or Mickelson wins another green jacket is uncertain; that one of them will at least have a say in who wins is a pretty good bet.

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USGA, R&A detail World Handicap System

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

The USGA and the R&A released details Tuesday of a proposed new World Handicap System.

The WHS takes the six handicapping systems that exist worldwide and aligns them under a new single system.

The USGA and the R&A will govern the WHS with the six existing handicap authorities administering them locally. A two-year transition will begin to fully implement the new system in 2020.

The unified alignment is designed to make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap and to make the handicap more equitable among golfers of differing abilities and genders around the world.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis said the effort is designed to both simplify and unify the handicap system.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play,” he said.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the new handicap system should make the game more inviting.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” Slumbers said. “Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new WHS system aims to more accurately gauge the score a golfer is “reasonably capable of achieving” on any course around the world under normal conditions.

Key features of the WHS include:

*Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

*A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”

*A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.

*An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”

*A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.  

*Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.

*A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). 

*A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and the R&A devised the WHS after a review of the handicap systems currently administered by six authorities around the world: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA. Those authorities, plus the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada, collaborated in helping develop the new system.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.  

“While the six existing handicap systems have generally worked very well locally, on a global basis, their different characteristics have sometimes resulted in inconsistency, with players of the same ability ending up with slightly different handicaps,” the USGA and the R&A stated in a joint release. “This has sometimes resulted in unnecessary difficulties and challenges for golfers competing in handicap events or for tournament administrators. A single WHS will pave the way to consistency and portability.”

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 11:44 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Randall's Rant: Tiger no longer one with the chaos

By Randall MellFebruary 19, 2018, 9:49 pm

Back in the day, Tiger Woods appeared to relish riding atop the chaos, above the raucous waves of excitement that followed him wherever he went.

Like Kelly Slater surfing epic peaks at Banzai Pipeline ...

Like Chris Sharma dangling atop all the hazards on the cliff face of “The Impossible Climb” at Clark Mountain ...

Hell, like Chuck Yeager ahead of the sonic boom he created breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 over the Mojave Desert in 1947.

It was difficult to tell whether Woods was fueling the bedlam in his duel with Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship, or if it was fueling him.

Fans scampered in a frenzy you rarely see in golf to get the best look they could at his next shot at Valhalla in that playoff.

Same thing when Woods turned his 15-shot rout into a victory parade in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that same year.

And when Woods improbably chipped in at the 16th at Augusta National to shake every pine tree at the Masters before going on to defeat Chris DiMarco in a playoff in 2005.

Tiger brought a boisterous, turbulent new wave of excitement to the game, unrivaled since Arnie’s Army followed the legend in his heyday.

Woods attracted new fans who did not understand golf’s time-honored traditions. He lured them to the game’s most hallowed grounds. There were challenges with that, though they always seemed more daunting to Woods’ playing partners than to him.

At his best, Tiger seemed to be one with the chaos, able to turn its energy into his energy.

Every Tiger pairing in his prime turned wherever he was into a home game, turned every golf course into his stadium and transformed every opponent into the visiting team.

We heard how hard that was for the Bob Mays, Chris DiMarcos and even the Ernie Els of the world.



That’s what added to the intrigue of Tiger’s return to Riviera last week, and what will make this week at PGA National and the Honda Classic similarly interesting.

Tiger’s back.

Well, the overly exuberant frenzy only he can create is back, but his game isn’t. Not yet. And now we’re hearing how the bedlam is a challenge to more than his playing partners. It’s a challenge to his game, too.

“It cost me a lot of shots over the years,” Woods said at the Genesis Open. “It’s cost me a few tournaments here and there.

“I’ve dealt with it for a very long time.”

Huh? Did Tiger forget the advantage he had playing in a storm? Or are today’s storms different, more unruly, more destructive?

Did having total control of all facets of his game when he was at his best make the bedlam work for him?

Does the focus it requires to find his old magic today make the chaos work against him?

Jack Nicklaus used to say that when he heard players complaining about difficult conditions going into a major, he checked them off his list of competitive threats.

You wonder if Tiger did the same back in the day, when players talked about the challenges that surrounded a pairing with him.

Golf is different than other sports. That has to be acknowledged here.

When you hear mainstream sports fans wonder what is so wrong with a fan yelling in a player’s backswing, you know they don’t understand the game. A singular comment breaking the silence over a player’s shot in golf is like a fan sneaking onto the field in football and tripping a receiver racing up the sideline. It is game-changing chaos.

Is Tiger facing game-changing chaos now?

Or was Riviera’s noise something he just can’t harness in his current state of repair? Is there more pressure on him trying to come back in that environment?

If Rory McIlroy needed a “couple Advil” for the headache the mayhem at the Genesis Open caused him playing with Tiger last week, then May and DiMarco must have needed shots of Demerol.

Then all those guys who lost majors to Tiger in final-round pairings with him must have felt like they endured four-hour migraines.

“It got a little out of hand,” Justin Thomas said of his two days with Tiger at Riviera.

Maybe McIlroy and Thomas were dealing with something boisterously new, more Phoenix Open in its nausea than anything Tiger created when he broke golf out of a niche.

Whatever it is, Tiger’s challenge finding his best will be even more complicated if he’s no longer one with the chaos, if he can no longer turn its energy into his energy.

If that’s the case, he really may be just one of the guys this time around.

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What's in the bag: Genesis Open winner Watson

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 7:02 pm

Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open for a third time in his career. Here's a look inside his bag:

Driver: Ping G400 LST (7.6 degrees), with Grafalloy Bi-Matrix Prototype X shaft

Hybrid: Ping G (19 degrees), with Matrix Altus Hybrid X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (2), Ping S55 (4-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (52 degrees, 56 degrees, 62 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD Anser

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x