Round 1 Goes to Tiger

By Rex HoggardJuly 5, 2009, 4:00 pm
AT&T NationalBETHESDA, Md. ' There are all different types of torch-passings: metaphorical, meaningful, magical.
Arnold Palmer bulled his way past a chubby Jack Nicklaus at the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, but even in defeat the seeds were sown for the man who would set the standard for major greatness. Forty years later Nicklaus would give a ceremonial nod to Tiger Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship. On Sunday just the other side of Washington D.C.s Inner Loop the makings of a similar epiphany emerged.
The golf world has waited a dozen years for a challenger to the throne Woods assumed the moment he said, Hello world, and based on Anthony Kims passion, if not his game, there may finally be a legitimate heir to the contender title.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods raises his hands in victory for the 68th time on the PGA Tour. (Getty Images)
It was perfect in many ways ' two titans playing ready golf, or as close as the Tour comes to ready golf, on a breezy Sunday at the AT&T National before 45,000, or about a months gate at a Nationals game. Gen X vs. Gen Y in real time.
Kims game was nowhere near close enough to out-duel Woods at his own soiree, to say nothing of Hunter Mahans masterful 62 that lifted him from a tie for 16th into second place and perhaps front-runner status in the best player to not win a major category. But the kid who learned the game on the scruffy L.A. munis under the tough hand of a driven father learned something about himself and perhaps showed Woods something.
I know I can play at the highest level, said Kim, who began the final lap tied with Woods and briefly took the lead before his putter went cold and driver went left. I feel like Im one of the top players in the world. I just need to go out there and take care of those careless mistakes.
In golf there is no better on-the-job training than a one-on-one with Woods, who went birdie-birdie at Nos. 6 and 7 to go 2 up and withstood Mahans closing pyrotechnics to card Tour title No. 68 and, perhaps more importantly, his first victory at his keepsake stop.
The significance of Kims Congressional encounter ' his first pairing of any kind, be it friendly or otherwise, with Woods ' was not lost on the world No. 1.
As the two made their way up the 18th hole with Woods staked to a one-stroke lead and facing a 20-footer for par that screamed cozy, he drew his young pursuer close.
I enjoyed it, Woods told Kim. There will be many more to come. Just keep working hard, and well do this for many more years.
Whether Kims first head-to-head with golfs head of state is a harbinger of things to come remains to be seen, but the outcome does not blur the significance of the event.
All that promise that Kim showed in winning the mini-major combo last year at Quail Hollow and Congressional, the stuff that was cut short after his Ryder Cup heroics by a litany of nagging injuries, reemerged at Congressional.
Kim opened with a course-record 62, grinded out an even-par round with something less than his best stuff on Friday and wedged his way into the marquee matinee on Sunday with a third-round 68. The kid who would roll in putts in the L.A. twilight to beat Woods in fantasy championships all those years ago finally had his shot at the legend.
Anthonys a team guy. He grew up playing team sports and loves that head-to-head stuff, said Kims swing coach Adam Schreiber.
The Tours ShotLink system calls it left rough tendency. A sports psychologist would probably mark it down as nerves. Either way, after holding his own for four holes with Woods, Kim started slinging his drives left of House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He missed the fairway left at Nos. 5, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18 and yet still had his chances to catch Woods and Mahan but could never capitalize on key birdie opportunities.
Mahan, however, didnt have any problem turning the beastly Blue Course into a pitch and putt. The man who Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger rode as a secret weapon last fall turned quietly with a 3-under 32, but carded just two pars on the inward loop for a 12-under 268 total with the leaders finishing the 12th hole.
I dont know what golf course (Mahan) was playing, Woods said of Mahans round. I didnt see a 62 out there. He put a lot of pressure on Anthony and (me).
Mahan, who was done in at Bethpage by bad breaks and last week in Hartford by a red-hot Kenny Perry, spent the next hour waiting for Woods, who, on cue, did what Woods does on Sundays.
It was funny, said Mahan, who hasnt finished worse than sixth in his last three starts. I was watching with Elin (Woods) and then when (Woods) missed on 14 I yelled, yes, in a joking manner. It was funny because you usually dont see him miss putts.
At least not putts that count, like the curling 20-footer for birdie he faced on the 16th with two demanding par-4s waiting and a share of the lead. But then no one responds to a competitive nudge more thoroughly than Woods.
For the third time this season Woods delivered a dramatic performance with a birdie at the 16th. Two fairways, two greens and four putts later hed secured the third leg of the Legends Slam following victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Nicklaus Memorial Tournament.
Its also the third time this year Woods has won in his major tune-up. Or maybe he was inspired by good friend Roger Federer, who held off Andy Roddick in a marathon final at Wimbledon, and simply refused to be the gracious host.
The victory moves Federer one clear of Woods in Grand Slam hauls, 14 to 15, a statistic Woods is sure to hear about. Before he teed off he fired Federer a foreshadowing text: Great job. Now its my turn.
Hell get a chance to square his major match with Federer in two weeks at Turnberry. And if Kims play at Congressional is any indication Woods may soon end up with someone to chase history with in his own sport.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T National
  • Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

    Getty Images

    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 made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    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.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

    Getty Images

    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?'''

    Getty Images

    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.