Woods (+5) still in contention at difficult Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2014, 11:34 pm

DORAL, Fla. – In 2009 at the PGA Tour’s annual south Florida siesta, Henrik Stenson stripped to his underwear to hit a shot out of a water hazard. On Friday at the new and improved Doral, the entire field felt like they’d been pants-ed.

On a windswept Friday, the combination of architect Gil Hanse’s handiwork, Donald Trump’s maniacal vision of building the Tour’s hardest golf course and what can only be described as Mother Nature’s mean streak conspired to embarrass all of the world’s best – not just Tiger Woods.

Consider that over the last 36 holes the world No. 1 hit four shots into various water hazards – wash, rinse, repeat – No. 3 Henrik Stenson hit a shank and No. 5 Phil Mickelson hit a wall after rattling off three consecutive double bogeys.

We don’t want to overstate Friday’s gale, but at one point Naples blew by.

For Woods, his 1-over 73 in Round 2 could only be considered a victory of sorts. Although the defending champion finished two rounds at 5 over, his post-round optimism didn’t seem misplaced considering a Blue course that suddenly seemed like the Monster of old.


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“Just had to grind it out,” Woods said. “When we made the turn there were nine guys under par and now there are (four).”

Tour types are not normally the best sounding boards for golf course design; as a rule professionals would much rather err on the side of the Coachella Valley over Carnoustie, but as Stenson marched down the third fairway his take was poignant enough to take seriously.

“I don’t think too many players are having fun today,” the Swede said.

For Woods, the roller coaster of Round 2 – he had five bogeys and four birdies – came against the backdrop of an ailing back that caused him to withdraw from last week’s Honda Classic with five holes to play, and the rigors of 35-mph wind gusts and 26 holes on Friday.

“I’m a little bit sore right now, long day,” said Woods, whose opening 76 was his highest score ever at Doral in 40 career rounds on the Blue Monster. “It will be nice to get some treatment tonight and be ready tomorrow.”

The rub is that he will have a fighting chance on Saturday despite finding water hazards at the third, eighth and 15th holes in Round 2. To be fair, more than 100 golf balls found the suddenly ubiquitous water hazards on Friday.

“I contributed to that number,” Woods smiled. “One of them was a perfect shot right down (No.) 8, right down the middle of the fairway with a 3-wood. Just ran out too far.”

Woods would save par at the par-5 eighth - in fact his third shot from 197 yards hit the hole and nearly dropped for the most unlikely of eagles - and he added a 92-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth hole which ranks as the longest made putt on Tour this season ... by 18 feet.

It all added up to a 5-over total to begin Round 3, just six strokes off the pace set by Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.

But Woods stopped short of dubbing the new Doral unfair, questioning instead the setup of the layout considering Friday’s fierce forecast.

“Some of the pin locations were a little bit on the edgy side because of the wind direction,” he said. “You just couldn’t get the ball close. From that standpoint, it was right on the teetering point.”

As Woods marched down the seventh fairway, however, Donald Trump watched the day’s happenings with neither a hint of surprise nor remorse.

“They haven’t even set it up hard,” said Trump, who estimated the winning score would be around 8 under, less than half of what it took to win the World Golf Championship last year.

Luckily for Woods & Co. there is no cut at the Cadillac Championship nor will there be near as much wind on the weekend. The forecast calls for 10- to 15-mph breezes the rest of the way and no rain, which will likely feel like a cosmic mulligan for those who weathered firestorm Friday.

“Basically, you’ve got to hang around. You just never know,” said Woods, who left the property without going to the practice range or receiving treatment on his back. “We’ve all got a shot at it now. No one is going anywhere.”

Nor was anyone going low on what turned out to be the fiercest of Fridays.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.