Rearview mirror: Hegarty puts 2011 behind him

By Mercer BaggsDecember 20, 2011, 7:33 pm

Asking a man to recount the various low points of his year doesn’t seem very Christian as Christmas nears.

But to Tim Hegarty’s credit, he answered every question thrown his way and didn’t offer up any excuses as to why his golf season was, by his own admission, “pretty lousy.”

“Looking back on it, that last (Hooters Tour Winter Series) event at Forest Lake in February, I felt like things were headed in the right direction and had high expectations,” Hegarty, 29, said. “Then I started to play poorly and it was one missed cut after another. I lost more and more confidence with each event.”

Hegarty made seven starts on the eGolf Professional Tour and missed seven cuts. He failed to qualify for other tournaments in his home state of New York over the summer and didn’t make it through U.S. Open local qualifying or PGA Tour Q-School pre-qualifying.

Along the way, he switched coaches and attempted a swing change. He tried working with a sports psychologist. But nothing provided that professional spark.

“I got lost in the swing change,” he said. “I was trying different swings on the same hole.”

This was the kind of mad season that causes contemplation. Am I on the right path? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?

Hegarty had to reflect, had to be critical in his assessment of himself as a professional golfer, and he had to make a determination regarding his future.

“If anything positive has come out of this season, it’s that I haven’t given up,” he said. “This is what I want to do. I really think it’s there. I just have to find a way to get it out of me.”

Hegarty’s back in Orlando, which he will make his home base until May. He’s back playing the Winter Series events, which are contested in Central Florida through the second week of February. But the similarities in his schedule, from 2011 to 2012, end there.

“I’m not sure, but I may chase Monday qualifiers and not play as many mini-tour events – definitely not playing the eGolf Tour next year. It gets really expensive doing that and you’ve got to play really well for a longer period of time.

“Monday qualifying can change your life. If you can get hot at the right time, your career can change instantly.”

Hegarty said he plans on competing in Monday qualifiers when the PGA Tour makes its Florida Swing. He’ll also play some Moonlight Golf Tour events, which are one-day tournaments in the Central Florida area, and key on some Nationwide Tour qualifiers. He’ll then return home to New York for the summer in an attempt to char the remaining memories of this past year.

There is one key, something Hegarty can improve upon to make sure ’12 doesn’t duplicate ’11. It’s something we discussed as an inhibitor in January and February and March, and pretty much every month of this year: being too hard on himself.

“That’s a huge focus,” Hegarty said. “Amanda (his girlfriend) came to one of my tournaments and watched me play and that was the theme of the day: being easier on myself. ‘Talk to yourself as if you were talking to my 10-year-old nephew,’ she would say.

“And she’s right. If he hit a bad I wouldn’t cuss at him like I always do to myself. I’d tell him to get back up, put it behind him. Tell him this is a wonderful opportunity to hit a better shot the next time. I need to tell myself those things.”

“You know,” he added, “it’s never as bad as it seems. I think that’s what I really learned from this year.”

Come Christmas Eve, Hegarty will be back with his family in New York. They’ll all go to Mass and then he, his two brothers and his father will play golf at their home club of Sleepy Hollow. That night, they’ll all open presents and then hope the Jets don’t ruin their night by losing to the Giants.

2011 was a struggle for Tim Hegarty. He didn’t perform well and he had his results publicly showcased in this series. But Hegarty was chosen for this feature as much for his character and personality as for his potential. And he reminded in his final interview that regardless of what happens with his career in golf, the kid will be just fine.

“Outside of golf, I had a lot of good things happen this year. So I’m not going to say it was a bad year. Life is great. I’ve got a healthy family. Got an awesome woman, awesome family, awesome dog. I’m not missing any meals. And I’ve got the greatest job in the world,” he said.

“I just feel grateful for the opportunity to compete. Just want to continue to do it.”

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 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.

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.