Bay Hill's final three holes trip up Woods

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2013, 11:37 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – There is no gimmicky, made-for-Madison-Avenue nickname for Bay Hill’s closing three holes. There is no need.

On Friday the trifecta spoke volumes with leaderboard-rattling clarity, starting with Phil Mickelson – who has now failed to post a single top-20 finish in over a decade at Arnie’s place – all the way through the day's title threesome of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Ernie Els, Bay Hill’s best proved to be too much for the game’s best.

If tournament host Arnold Palmer ever does decide to give his finale a moniker, Woods & Co. likely have some PG-13 options for him following Friday’s unfavorable finish.


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“I certainly made my share of mistakes on the last few holes,” Woods said in what qualifies as the week’s greatest understatement. “(No.) 16 was unfortunate, 17 I made a bad swing, 18 I made a bad swing.”

Got that?

When Woods was finished it added up to a bogey-bogey-bogey finish and a fall from the upper echelons of the Bay Hill leaderboard.

Things got sideways when Woods drove into a fairway bunker right of the 16th fairway, slipped trying to reach the green in two strokes from 190 yards and signed for a bogey that felt like a triple.

Remember when the 16th was temporarily converted into a contrived par 4 a few years back? Good times.

The world No. 2 needed three shots to reach the green at the par-3 17th and left his par putt two rolls short at the last for a 2-under 70 that looked a lot more like a 65 in waiting just an hour earlier.

“My score doesn’t indicate how well I played,” said Woods, who is tied for seventh and four strokes off the lead.

In a round that was reminiscent of 2010, Woods mixed sloppy miscues amid masterful play yet remained in the hunt for his eighth Bay Hill bottle cap thanks, at least in part, to a similarly slow finish by Rose.

Combined Woods, Rose and Els, who were paired together for the first two rounds, played the last three in 4 over par. In fairness to the marquee group, that twisting piece of terra firma played to a collective 11.863 stroke average with the 18th ranking as the hardest hole of the week and the 17th as the seventh-toughest.

“The finish kind of got the better of the whole group, really,” said Rose, who carded a second-round 70 and is tied for the lead with Bill Haas at 9 under. “The atmosphere seemed to change when it started to rain. Guys started to struggle a little bit coming in.”

Still, if Woods’ chances were washed away by Friday’s showers he didn’t have the manner of a defeated man when he bolted property, the byproduct of a swing that has produced two signature victories this year at Torrey Pines and Doral and a track record at the King’s track that somewhat mitigates his Friday miscues.

In 2008 Woods was a full touchdown adrift of the leaders at the turn following rounds of 70-68, but he laid a pair of 66s on the field on the weekend and beat Bart Bryant by a shot.

In 2001 he was two back at Friday’s intermission and beat Mickelson by a shot. The point is Woods has proven adept from the pole position and the pack at the Central Florida layout.

“At one point I was one back (following his birdie at the 13th hole) and right there so the good news is we have 36 holes to go,” Woods said.

Mickelson doesn’t have that luxury. Lefty finished his Thursday round with back-to-back three-putts. On Friday he finished his week with a four-putt at the 13th that would have been a five-putt but his first attempt was from the fringe.

From 43 feet Mickelson lagged his first attempt to 5 feet, blew his par putt 5 feet by and needed to convert a 3-footer to save a triple bogey-7. Mickelson signed for a 79, his highest card in 14 trips to Bay Hill.

“I played terrible,” said Mickelson, who added to his woes by playing Bay Hill’s closing three in 1 over par. “I deserved to shoot a score like this, but I felt like if I hit good shots I could make birdies. The (course) set-up was great.”

Els suffered a similar fate over the closing stretch, matching Woods’ bogey at the par-5 16th, and will also miss the weekend following matching rounds of 75, brining into question both players’ status as perennial favorites as the circuit inches closer to Magnolia Lane.

But at least at Augusta National there is time after Amen Corner to make up for mistakes. At Bay Hill there is no such leeway or iconic nickname for those last three holes. As Friday’s play proved, when players round Nos. 16-18 they are just finished, one way or another.


National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.