#AskLav: The Masters is so close, you can taste it

By Ryan LavnerMarch 28, 2013, 11:30 am

As if you needed another reason to be deliriously optimistic about this year’s Masters – besides the smack-you-in-the-face storylines of Tiger Woods resuming his race to 18 majors, Rory McIlory bidding to win three-quarters of the career grand slam and Phil Mickelson hoping to avenge last year’s blunder amid the bamboo – there is this:

The chicken sandwich is back in Masters concession stands.

Stand and cheer – politely, of course – because a year after one of the most popular sandwiches was removed in favor of a healthier alternative, deep-fried minds have prevailed in bringing it back. The re-entry of that $3 staple means a hearty lunch consisting of three sandwiches (egg salad, pimento cheese, chicken breast) and a lemonade will cost about $10. (Mmm, food.) Sorry, Waffle House.

Here are a few other savory morsels in this week’s #AskLav mailbag:

The Tour’s hands were tied with this one, alas. With the Masters so late this year (April 11-14), there is an extra week to fill between the Florida swing and the year’s first major. Why not flip-flop San Antonio and Houston, you ask? In its contract, Valero stipulates that the tournament cannot be held Easter weekend, which is the same scenario that led to the Hilton Head tournament being played ahead of the Masters (and not its customary week-after spot) in 2011. That said, the switch hasn’t seemed to hurt the Houston field, with 12 of the top 25 players in the world teeing it up this week. Redstone is always one of the best-manicured courses on Tour, and tournament officials set up the course to replicate the conditions players will face in two weeks. It’s always a great tune-up for Augusta.

Of course, Tiger’s play has been eye-opening – after all, he’s already matched his victory total from last year in the first four PGA Tour stroke-play events this year. But when it comes to Woods, little truly surprises. So give me last year’s major champions. Among the quartet of Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy, they have produced just a pair of top-5 finishes this season, and in neither event were they serious contenders. That said, Bubba’s game turned a corner last week at Bay Hill, and he seems primed to make a spirited title defense in two weeks at Augusta. As for Simpson, well, he captured medalist honors earlier this week at the Tavistock Cup, which just might be the most meaningless sentence I’ve ever typed.

Considering he has never played Bay Hill – and clearly he isn’t afraid of turning down the King, who, as we saw in that EA Sports clip, has some pretty devastating counterpunches – then I wouldn’t count on seeing McIlroy next March in Orlando.

Myriad factors, of course, but the most significant reason is that he’s battling a flaw in his swing. Once that gets sorted out – plenty of practice time in the last two weeks, remember – there won’t be any talk about adjusting to the new equipment, or the pressures of being world No. 1, or whether he lacks the character traits to be a dominant and consistent force in the game. He’ll be just fine by summertime.

Of course he has a chance! This opinion is subject to change, especially after seeing how he performs this week in Houston. There are plenty of good seats still available on the Rory bandwagon, but if he follows up that Sunday 65 at Doral with another good showing at Redstone … yes, he’ll still be miles behind Tiger in terms of Masters favorites.

Stricks is too nice of a guy, so scowling at him might be most damaging. No, seriously, what he did by helping Tiger on the putting green at Doral is no different than what dozens of Tour pros do each week. They help. They are an extra (and expert) set of eyes. Stricker told reporters in Houston this week that he’s had about five players come up and ask him to look at their strokes. Some were joking. Some, however, were quite serious.

Sixteen years – is this some kind of historic anniversary? But since you asked … mostly, I remember sitting in my tiny living room, watching on a little Zenith TV, just a few days after turning 10, and marveling at how a kid just barely a decade older than I was could humiliate the world’s best players. Naturally, it was inspiring. Even at that age, it was impossible not to believe you were witnessing the opening act from the greatest golfer who ever lived.

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Watch: Tiger's drive startles strolling duck

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 7:21 pm

Tiger Woods split the eighth fairway with a 287-yard, 3-wood on Sunday and startled a duck (goose?) who was merely out and about for a stroll at PGA National.

The duck (goose?) walked away under its own power, and Woods followed up with a wedge to inside 9 feet and his third birdie of the front nine.

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Watch: Tiger's Sunday birdies at the Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 6:40 pm

One day after he left a barrage of birdie opportunities out on the golf course, Tiger Woods worked his way into red figures early on Sunday.

Seven off the pace to start the day, Woods found the first fairway, hit the first green and rolled in a 20-footer for his firist birdie of the day.

After narrowly missing a 10-footer for what would have been another circle at the par-5 third, Woods came right back at the fourth, flying an approach from 148 yards to 9 feet and finishing the job.

At the par-4 eighth, Woods went with 3-wood off the tee and startled a duck that was walking down the middle of the fairway.

The duck walked away, and Tiger stuffed his approach inside nine feet, setting up his third birdie of the day.

Woods dropped his first shot of the day at the par-4 ninth after hooking his tee and then short siding himself right of the green. He made the turn in 2-under 33.

(More coming...)

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New-look Korda wins after serious jaw surgery

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 6:31 pm

If the pictures of Jessica Korda from the Honda LPGA Thailand cause you to do a double-take, you're not alone.

Korda's world-class talent was on full display this week in Asia, where she won by four shots, but so too was her new-look face. The 24-year-old underwent serious jaw surgery in December, a final attempt to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

The procedure was intense. Doctors first broke her nose, then broke her jaw in five different places - three on the top, and two on the bottom. She now has 27 screws in her face, and the physical result still requires some adjustment for a woman who now has five career LPGA wins.

"I look at pictures of myself and I don't feel like I look like that person," Korda told Golfweek. "I don't know who that is. And then I look at pictures of my old self and that doesn't look like me either."

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

The Dec. 7 surgery left Korda unable to eat, with her mother reportedly feeding her through a syringe for "weeks." Korda's facial structure before the surgery was such that she was only using 20 percent of her teeth when chewing food.

But despite returning to practice only six weeks ago and still dealing with lingering numbness in her face, Korda promptly dusted a world-class field in her first start back. She shot 25 under for the week, highlighted by a second-round 62, leaving the likes of Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn in her wake.

After a difficult winter, Korda's look may have changed but her game clearly remains unaffected.

"Coming in after surgery, I didn't know what to expect," Korda told reporters. "Obviously when I look at myself, I still don't feel like I look like myself yet. That will come. I'm just very, very happy. All the hard work I was putting in in the off-season when I could has paid off rather quickly."

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 25, 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.