#AskLav: Uncovering the seedy side of golf

By Ryan LavnerMarch 21, 2013, 12:34 pm

All is fair in love and war, the saying goes, so in the ongoing battle between Tiger Woods and the “stalkarazzi,” Round No. 729 goes to Tiger after an emphatic verbal and social takedown this week. Becoming Facebook official, with professional photos to boot? A brilliant bit of revelatory strategy.

Sadly, these money-hungry photogs will still sniff and snoop, dive into dumpsters and hide in trees and harass his two young children, determined to get the blurry photo that drives pageviews for another day. The war continues.

But if nothing else, the brief glimpse into Tiger’s very public private life – and constant, bitter struggle against the stalkarazzi – was a reprieve from the other conflicts that have proved just as divisive lately: anchorers vs. traditionalists; fast players vs. slow pokes; Tiger guys vs. Rory guys; flat bills vs. visors; pro-bifurcators vs. sane people.

Fortunately, the #AskLav mailbag is here to remind you of those: 

Well, McIlroy clearly doesn't think so. The last time we saw him, during the Sunday 65 at Doral, he looked pretty good. But let's not forget, of his 8 competitive rounds this season, 7 of them were unspectacular. Would I have liked to see him tee it up at Arnie's Place? Of course. And if he struggles next week in Houston, and then can't find his game at Augusta, he certainly has opened himself up for second-guessing.

Ridiculous at this point, right? It's been 50 days since the Sports Illustrated report that Vijay Singh used deer-antler spray. The Tour is always secretive when it comes to player discipline no disclosure of fines, for instance but we need an update on the issue, or at least something more substantial than 'the investigation is ongoing.' We can assume there has been an appeal. The Tour likely tested the spray to determine if it did contain a banned substance. They're following their protracted protocol. But with Singh able to continue playing, the Tour brass faces a potentially hairy situation if the Big Fijian finds himself in contention on the weekend. If we want answers, let's root for that.

No, but I sure hope that gadget fares better than Denzel Washington's plane in 'Flight.'

Sergio Garcia is the favorite, according to Vegas oddsmakers, with Pat Perez and Tim Herron close behind.

Couldn't hurt. What the American Junior Golf Association has instituted has helped tremendously. Last year, the average pace of play on the AJGA was 4 hours, 23 minutes. That is light years hours! better than college and amateur golf, and most Tour rounds. At the elite level, players aren't deterred by, say, a $10,000 fine when there is a $1-million, first-place prize. Strokes are money.

Nearly unfathomable. At 25, I don't feel old often. But think about it: A 12-year-old should be in the seventh grade. At that age I was good at gym-class dodgeball, and being incredibly awkward around girls. To play in a European Tour event at 12 years old? Crazy. Hopefully his mom packs a good lunch that week.

The armchair rules officials believe they are protecting the field, and it's irrelevant whether the infraction is spotted on the property or 3,000 miles away. I've never been a fan of this, simply because the players who aren't on the TV telecast aren't subjected to the same kind of scrutiny, and players should police themselves. Some have called for a rules official to be stationed in a TV truck. At least that's a better alternative than being flooded with calls from rules aficionados camped on their La-Z-Boy.

Buy an egg-salad sandwich, maybe two. Spend a few hours at Amen Corner. Check out the spot where Bubba hit the hooking wedge on 10, and where Larry Mize chipped in on 11, and where Phil split the trees on 13, and where Tiger pitched in on 16. And don't forget to drop a few Franklins in the merchandise center.

Well, the 18th hole is guarded by the Calibogue Sound down the left, with out-of-bounds stakes on the right. Try a straight ball instead.

Give me a birdie-fest! The U.S. Open could be brutal. So might the British, if the weather doesn't cooperate, like in 2002. The last time Oak Hill hosted the PGA, the winning score was 4 under. So I'll take the birdies at Augusta, with the roars and the Sunday charges. It may be the only major this season with a flurry of red numbers.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).