Still in the Ball Game

By Rex HoggardMay 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The question is not whats wrong with Tiger Woods so much as it is whats right with TPC Sawgrass?
 
Earlier this week Woods said he likes the Stadium course hard, the harder the better, he said. The world's No. 1 was talking about the agronomy of the new, bouncy May Players compared with the old, wet March version, but Saturdays display showed that he may as well have been commenting on the layouts fear factor.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' 2-under 70 was enough to get him into the final group on Sunday. (Getty Images)
Check the scoreboard: there is no coincidence that the same day the PGA Tour decided to turn up the heat at Sawgrass, Woods made what appeared to be one of the most indifferent moves up a leaderboard since Paul Lawrie raced past Jean Van de Velde in the Carnoustie gloom. Twenty spots, to be precise, and squarely in the hunt for a title that has eluded him since 2001.
 
Bouncy greens and white knuckles play into Woods hands every bit as much as reachable par 5s and forced carries. What separates Woods from his lodge brothers? A mind fixated on a singular purpose and par. Its why he has 14 majors and structures his competitive calendar around four weeks a year.
 
When Woods walked off property and headed for his yacht at a nearby mooring, hed just broken into the top 10. By the time a large group of rope-a-dope contenders signed their cards he was tied for second and anchored to the best of all possible pole positions ' a final-round Sunday pairing with an unproven leader.
 
Only four (strokes) back as of right now so Im still in the ball game, a surprisingly upbeat Woods said following a scrappy 70 that he characterized as his best round at a May Players. I just plodded along, not coming back.
 
Woods knows more than anyone that at major events lag-putting is key, pars are worth savoring and titles are never won on Saturday. Even when he got sideways off the tee and started hitting shots left-handed, like he did at the 11th hole because of a tree entanglement, he remained composed.
 
By the time he reached the 16th, traffic was already heading in the wrong direction on the leaderboard and back-to-back birdies pushed him to the center of a crowded stage. But not even a birdie at Survivor Island, aka the 17th, could top the 9-foot par save at the last, a scrambling wash that pushed him to 6 under, a salve that likely made dinner taste that much better.
 
Woods save moved him to within five strokes of Alex Cejka and into Sundays final pairing. TPC Sawgrass is not Bay Hill, where Woods won after starting the final turn five back, and Cejka is not Sean OHair, who Woods ran down at Arnies place. But weve seen this show before. There is an unquantifiable advantage for Woods when he can look his chief rival in the eye on the first tee.
 
I was trying to get paired with Tiger so I could have a front-row seat to watch him win, said Kevin Na, who struggled on his closing nine and was 5 under.
 
The outspoken Korean transplant may only be 25 years old, but he speaks wisdom, and none of his pearls were more insightful than his observation of the obvious: Only Tiger Woods can win missing fairways.
 
Midway through Saturdays festivities, the American Tours flagship outing was run dizzy with an array of passports, but that was before tucked pins and decreasing moisture turned the WGC-Players into a two-man show and one of those men uses a suspect belly putter, has never won on Tour and had to have a cortisone shot recently to relieve neck and arm pain.
 
The kid who swam across the Rhein River to freedom has grown into a man who will need to do more than tread water to hold off Woods.
 
Ive got the red shirt and black pants, so were going to look like twins, Cejka smiled.
 
The Czech-born German may want to end the similarities there. As Na pointed out, only Woods can win with a B game and even with a five-shot cushion Cejka will have to have a full bag to hold him off.
 
Just ask OHair.
 

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  • Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."