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Cut Line: Tiger in the swing of things

By Rex HoggardOctober 20, 2017, 4:00 pm

A couple of firsts highlight this week’s edition, starting with news that Tiger Woods took his first few swings with a driver following back surgery in April, and a surreal cancellation of a round in Peru because of a census, of all things.

Made Cut

Road to recovery. Woods’ doctor cleared him for all golf activities last week, now it would seem his possible return to competition will depend on how clear-headed he chooses to be this time.

Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg told GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champion recently met with his doctor who performed his back surgery in April, and that he hasn’t experienced any pain in his most recent comeback.

The news dovetailed with a video on social media of Woods hitting a driver. Not bad for a guy who just three weeks ago at the Presidents Cup said he was limited to hitting 60-yard wedge shots.

The conversation now turns to his possible return, with some speculating he may be ready in time to play December’s Hero World Challenge, which Woods hosts and is played on a golf course in the Bahamas he’s comfortable on.

That may be a tad too ambitious, and to be honest, if Woods is being as cautious as Steinberg said, it may be time to rethink an entirely new schedule and play courses that are a little more user friendly.

We hear Scottsdale, Ariz., and La Quinta, Calif., are beautiful in January.

Tweet of the week:

Haney, Woods’ former swing coach, was commenting on Tiger’s swing with his driver, which threatened to break the internet. It’s an encouraging sign for Woods, and golf, that he’s back putting in the “reps,” but let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves.

New boss. Fred Ridley moved into a new office on Monday, taking over as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club after Billy Payne announced he was stepping down earlier this fall.

In his first meeting with golf writers as chairman this week, Ridley said there’s no perfect way to prepare for such a gig; but the former U.S. Amateur champion seems to have amassed the right resume.

An accomplished amateur and college player, Ridley opted for a career as a lawyer over that of a professional golfer and ascended to president of the USGA before taking over as chairman of the Masters competition committee for the last decade.

 He also had the perfect mentor in Payne.

“Billy Payne is the best person that I have ever met with regard to the importance of relationships with others,” Ridley said. “If you listen to him speak, he always talks about the other person. He always points the light in another direction, and he probably, more than anyone I've ever met, understands the importance and the power of relationships.”

Ridley will certainly bring his own stamp to the job, but there’s no denying that he was groomed to be chairman.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Far and wide. The PGA Tour broke new ground this week, hosting its first stroke-play event in South Korea as part of the circuit’s three-tournament Asia swing.

The inaugural CJ Cup is off to a solid start with a field that includes reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Adam Scott, fulfilling the long-held desire to expand the game beyond the Lower 48.

What lands the lucrative event in the MDF file is the curious wisdom to send the game’s best and brightest into such a tense region (technically South Korea is still at war with North Korea).

To be fair, the Tour has been proactive in keeping players up to date on the security situation in the region, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of countries across the globe that could benefit from such an event.

Places that don’t require regular updates on the evening news.

Don’t count on it. Speaking of curious planning and far-flung events, this week’s Lexus Peru Open on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica should go directly into the swing-and-a-miss file.

The event in Lima was shortened to 54 holes because of a national census on Sunday and a government mandate that citizens, and visitors, must remain indoors from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Roads will be blocked and air traffic halted in the country during the nine-hour window, while all shops and restaurants will be closed as officials conduct the census.

A bigger concern than a cancelled round, however, are building travel concerns for players and tour officials looking to leave Peru on Sunday in order to travel to the circuit’s next event more than 2,500 miles away in Uruguay.

Delays and cancellations happen in golf all the time, but this one seems like it could have been avoided.


Missed Cut

Wheels of justice. While some may consider this the slow season for the Tour, off the course there is one department that’s been busy in recent weeks.

Last week, attorneys for the Tour and a group of more than 80 caddies argued before a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and last month a New York judge denied a motion from the circuit to reargue a previous decision regarding summary judgment.

The Ninth Circuit panel has not handed down a decision on the caddie lawsuit, which stems from an anti-trust claim made by the caddies who say the Tour uses them as “walking billboards” for sponsors; while the New York ruling involves Vijay Singh’s lawsuit against the circuit claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program.

Both cases have been mired in legal wrangling for years and Singh’s attorney seemed to sum up the frustration of not being able to take his case to trial.

“This case has been going on for a long, long time,” Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for Singh, told the judge in September. “Is it possible for the court to give us a trial date? This war of attrition is just battering my client, who is still plagued by this.”

And they say golf has a slow-play problem.

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.