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Woods' actions, words give reason for excitement

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2018, 12:55 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Listen to what Tiger Woods said Sunday after finishing the Honda Classic.

Forget his even-par 70.

Forget his 12th-place finish, his best in a PGA Tour event in 30 months.

Forget his 128 mph swing speed, which ranks him ahead of so many of the fastest, strongest and longest young players in the game today.

Forget all of that and listen to what he said leaving here . . .

“The last couple days, it felt easy to play tournament golf,” Woods said.

That’s the real story here this week.

That is the giant stride Woods made here this week. It’s the giant dose of hope he created with the Masters six weeks away. It’s the giant promise he generated in reawakening the possibility that he really may not be done making history.

It felt “easy” to play tournament golf again.

There’s a mountain of achievement in those words, because this game has looked so damn hard and painful for him to play for so long.

What we saw this week was encouraging, but what we didn’t see was almost as encouraging.

No wincing in discomfort.

No doubling over in pain, no limping.

In just his third PGA Tour start after his fourth back surgery, a fusion that left a lot of us thinking we might never see him play again, Woods is way, way ahead of even his own schedule.

Listen . . .

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Woods said of coming back this year. “My expectations have gone up.”

So have everyone else’s.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

There was something special in this week’s performance that will make too many of us rush too far ahead, but that was the story this week. Tiger speeded things up. He dramatically changed the narrative around him with his unexpected run into contention.

He made those six weeks until the Masters suddenly seem like enough time to get himself ready to compete for a green jacket again.

That seems crazy given where he was a few short months ago, but listen . . .

“I'm just building towards April,” Woods said. “I'm trying to get myself ready for that, and I feel like I'm right on track for that.”

Tiger got himself on track on an extremely penal golf course at PGA National, in blustery winds that magnified misses and exposed imprecise ball striking.

Woods didn’t win this week, but he finished third in driving distance at 319 yards per drive.

His driver may not be perfect, but it’s no longer a liability. It’s a weapon again.

His iron play got a whole lot better this week. He was first in proximity to the hole this week. Yeah, nobody hit it closer. He was 10th in hitting greens in regulation.

He hit 14 greens in regulation Sunday, most in a round since he tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in the summer of 2015. His 12th-place finish overall here, by the way, was his best since then.

The short game’s still looking good. He was T-11 in scrambling.

His putter didn’t allow him to take advantage of all those improvements. He was 18th in strokes gained putting.

Mostly, Woods got beat by the Bear Trap this week. He dumped a shot in the water Sunday at the 15th, cutting his shot too much into the wind there. It was his second rinsed shot there this week, leading to his second double bogey there.

Woods was 8 over through the Bear Trap’s trio of holes (Nos. 15-17) for the week.

He was 8 under everywhere else.

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open last week, where he was so wild off the tee and with his iron play, the question this week was whether he could simply make the cut.

He didn’t win this week, but he changed the nature of the questions about what may lie ahead for him.

Listen . . .

“I know it's been a long time, but I remember how to do this,” Woods said.

Joey LaCava, Woods’ caddie, knows how the expectations will change now.

“I see strides, good positive things going forward,” LaCava said. “I didn’t want to panic when he didn’t play well at LA last week, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but it’s nice to see him moving forward. I think he hit the ball better every day this week.

LaCava said Woods seemed to get tired in the middle of Sunday’s round. He said being gym fit and golf fit walking 72 holes are different things. It’s another area where Woods can get better.

Mostly, LaCava liked how Woods reacted with his name climbing the leaderboard going into the weekend.

“It’s nice to see him get the juices flowing and get amped up a little bit and hit the ball farther,” LaCava said. “You can see a difference in mentality.

Woods could feel it.

Just listen . . .

“I had control of my game,” he said.

There’s so much promise in those words.

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Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.