Scott moves into contention in Tampa with second-round 66

By Ryan LavnerMarch 15, 2013, 8:11 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – His broomstick putter pressed confidently against his sternum, his chipping motion shored up after a breakthrough session, Adam Scott boasted Friday that his short game never has been better. For a guy who plays by his own schedule – this is his fourth and final start before the Masters – his timing couldn’t be more ideal.

Why so confident with his wedges? It stems from a three-hour short-game session in January at Sanctuary Cove in Australia. There, he worked through an entire shag bag of balls, striking each chip with the same weight and feel. Controlled. Consistent. Afterward, he thought to himself, “I think that’s the best bunch of chips I’ve ever hit.”

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Scott doesn’t miss many greens – in fact, the Aussie has missed only 10 so far this week at Innisbrook, just a few days after bludgeoning the Blue Monster on the weekend, shooting 68-64 to vault into a tie for third – but perhaps even more important, he’s equipped with this: the knowledge that his short game is no longer a liability.

“It’s reassuring to know that you don’t have to hit a perfect shot every time,” he said. “You can go for your shot a little bit and the short game will be there to back you up.”

That wasn’t always the case, of course. In 2009, during one of his worst seasons as a pro, Scott’s long-game struggles began to affect his short game. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Whatever the case, his ball-striking failures put too much stress on his short game. And when he couldn’t scramble his way to a good score, it put even more stress on his long game to hit it close.

“Eventually, if it’s not relieved,” Scott said, “it’s all going to break down.”

The switch to the long putter came first, in February 2011. But his wedge game – and in particular, his chipping and putting – demanded his undivided attention this offseason.

After another ball-striking clinic Friday in which he hit 14 greens at Innisbrook’s tree-lined Copperhead Course, Scott was delighted by a bogey-free 66 that left him one shot back of PGA Tour rookie Shawn Stefani heading into the weekend at the Tampa Bay Championship.

“I’m not missing many greens,” Scott said, “but it’s nice when you miss a couple that you feel really confident that you can walk up there and get it up-and-down.”

Save for the Tavistock Cup, a two-day exhibition outside Orlando, this represents Scott’s fourth and final start before teeing it up at the Masters. Those aren’t many competitive reps, but it actually represents an improvement from last year, when he made only three appearances before showing up for the year’s first major (T-8).

“The kind of schedule I play,” he said, “it’s important to play well every time I play.”

That hasn’t been an issue of late. Since the start of 2011, Scott has finished in the top 10 in nearly half (20 of 42) of his worldwide starts. But this time of year always brings more urgency. As it were, Scott flew to Georgia on Tuesday for a scouting trip at Augusta National. His guide for the day was Ernie Els.

Awkward? Not in the least.

Ever since he bogeyed four consecutive holes at Royal Lytham to hand the Open trophy to Els, Scott has maintained that he was happy for his good friend and would view his experience there as nothing but a success. “It’s a highlight for me last year,” he said Friday.

Scar tissue from such a dramatic meltdown is always a concern, but Scott thinks he has made the proper strides. Just a few weeks after the Open, he pieced together a T-11 at the PGA. A few months later, he won the Talisker Masters in Australia.

And here he is, a 19-time worldwide winner armed with a revamped short game, and he’s one shot off the lead, in serious contention for his first PGA Tour title in 20 months … and with another major championship just a month away.

“I feel like now’s my time,” Scott said of his major prospects. “It’s up to me to make it happen. I’ve gotten my game to a point where I feel like I’m right there. Hopefully I can get the first one and then we’ll see. But everyone takes a different path.'

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.”


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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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

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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.

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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.

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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).