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Rosaforte Report: Landry's grit born in a Pea Patch

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 22, 2018, 3:40 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report: The birthplace of Andrew Landry's grit, Tiger's former coach invites instruction debate, downtime may be good for Brooks Koepka, Stacy Lewis is amped for 2018, and a "very boring" birthday gift for Jack Nicklaus.

The beauty and drama of tournament golf played out in the California desert on Sunday when Andrew Landry, a journeyman who learned the game on a shabby nine-hole course called the Pea Patch in Port Groves, Texas, took the hottest young player in the game, Jon Rahm, to four holes of a sudden death playoff before finally succumbing. It was riveting drama in a yard-for-yard, stride-for-stride and putt-for-putt contrast that ended with the sun setting over the Santa Rosa Mountains.

With it, the 23-year-old Rahm went to No. 2 in the world and the 30-year-old Landry, a grinder finally off the Web.com Tour, moved from 184th to a career high 102nd in the world ranking.

The 5-foot-7 Landry, who had his “Tin Cup” moment in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he held the first-round lead and hung with the big boys until a T-15 finish, never backed off in the shadow of the 6-foot-2 Rahm, just as he never backed away from bets in the Tuesday and Saturday games at the Pea Patch. That’s where he would write his name on the chalkboard for the “Dog Fights” that were the club’s version of the SWAT competition that is an Oakmont tradition.

“Those money games are what made us,” Andrew’s brother, Adam, told me the day his sibling became the proverbial no-name leader after shooting the lowest opening round (66) in U.S. Open-Oakmont history.

Andrew Landry lost his money game to Rahm, but his second-place finish still paid out $637,200, putting him over the $1 million mark for the season, and sending him off to the Farmers Insurance Open with a message that this isn’t the last time we’ll hear from him.

“We’ll take it and move on to Torrey Pines,” Landry said before exiting Palm Springs. “It’s obviously a great course for me. I’m driving the ball really well and I’m doing everything really good, so we’ll try again next week.”



GREAT(S) DEBATES: Chris Como may not be Tiger Woods’ teacher anymore, but he was recently appointed director of instruction at Dallas National, one of the plush practice environments in golf. He is also architect of an interesting forum on the mental game and the philosophy of instruction Tuesday at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., which features Claude Harmon III, David Leadbetter, Jim McLean, Mike Adams, Fran Pirozzolo, Hal Sutton, Brad Faxon and Brandel Chamblee.

“It’s an event that invited open dialog and debate about all the topics of golf instruction,” Como said in a text message. “The goal is to put a bunch of smart people in the same room together to move our industry forward in a positive direction.”

This should be entertaining dialog, especially coming two days before Tiger makes his comeback at the Farmers.


Stacy Lewis at the 2017 LPGA Cambia Portland Classic


STACY'S SPARK: On the week when she was named winner of the Ben Hogan Award for overcoming scoliosis, Stacy Lewis did what Hogan epitomized – she doggedly continued to work on her game.

Heading into her 10th season on the LPGA tour and facing her 33rd birthday on Feb. 16, Lewis flew from Houston to Florida, on her way to the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, for checkups with instructor Joe Hallett and performance coach Dave Donatucci.

After workouts and an evaluation at his gym, Donatucci noted the veteran’s vertical leap was 2 inches higher than she’s ever jumped before. “Physically, she’s in a great place,” Donatucci said. Mentally, she is in a great place as well, breaking a 39-month winless streak in September with a victory in the Cambia Portland Classic. After playing lessons at Old Palm and The Floridian, Hallet told me, “There’s an energy there that she’s always had.”

Other than Cristie Kerr, who is 40, the top 10 players in the Race to the CME Globe were all in their 20s. Lewis, who was 13th, told the Houston Chronicle she played some of her best golf the last six to seven tournaments of 2017. “Honestly it doesn’t feel like that start to a new year,” she said. “It just feels like a little bit of a break and I’m starting up again.”



KOEPKA'S HEALING TIME: Claude Harmon III had an interesting take on the torn wrist tendon that will sidelineU.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka until the Masters. “To be honest, the time off for the injury part of it doesn’t worry me,” Harmon said, using last year as his point of reference.

Looking back to the start of 2017, Koepka missed cuts at the Farmers Insurance Open, was T-42 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, missed cuts at the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic, finished T-48 in the no-cut WGC Mexico Championship, and didn’t play on the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Three months later, Koepka overpowered Erin Hills and tied Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open scoring record of 16 under par. Harmon used McIlroy’s third-place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in his return “as something to look at and emulate.”

The hard part is that Koepka closed out the 2017 season with a second-place finish in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and a nine-stroke win over Xander Schauffele in the Dunlop Phoenix, rising to a career high seventh in the world. But between cardio at Joey D’s gym and putting practice (once he gets doctor’s clearance), Harmon doesn’t think Koepka will look at the next three months as down time.



BIG-TIME PERFORMER: Thomas Pieters was back in the top-five of a premier tournament again, finishing T-5 in Abu Dhabi after a run of nine events at the end of 2017 that did not match the first eight months of his rookie year.

Coming off a Ryder Cup performance in 2016 that set European records for most points (4) and wins (4) by a rookie, Pieters was T-2 at the Genesis Open, T-5 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, T-4 at the Masters and solo fourth at the Bridgestone Invitational.

In a news conference after his opening-round 67, Pieters admitted it was nice having fun again and attributed the lack of enjoyment to some struggles he was having off the golf course.

“With a lot of players these days, it’s more off the course than on the course; life in general sometimes causes problems,” swing instructor Pete Cowen told me Monday morning from Dubai, without getting into specifics. “Pieters is looking a lot better. I think he’s now in a great frame of mind.”

After winning the NCAA Championship as a sophomore for Illinois in 2012, the now 25-year-old Belgian is 34th in the world, 33 spots behind his goal.

“Tom Pieters doesn’t want to be a superstar, he just wants to be the best player,” Cowen said. “That’s what drives him … what I like about him. He wants to be the best, and will do whatever it takes to be the best.”



GIFT OF LOVE: What do you give a man that has everything for his 78th birthday? For Barbara Nicklaus it was classified in a text message with a smiley face emoji as a “Very boring!!!!!” gift of two pairs of pants and a shirt.

As you can see from the above photo, just being together with his family and bride of 57 years at The Bears Club was enough.

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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


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How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.


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Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


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Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.

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Woods doesn't mind 'fun' but brutal 17th hole

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods doesn’t mind the boisterous crowd that surrounds the par-3 17th hole at PGA National.

And why should he?

When the wind died down Friday afternoon, Woods played a “big ol’ cut” with a 5-iron that dropped 12 feet from the cup. He made the putt – one of just nine birdies on the day – and when he walked off the green, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

The scene is expected to be even more raucous Saturday at the Honda Classic, especially with Woods in contention.

There is a Goslings Bear Trap tent just to the right of the tee. The hole has become a hot topic in recent years, after a few players complained that the noise from the nearby crowd was distracting as they tried to play a wind-blown, 190-yard shot over water.


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Woods was asked his thoughts on the party setup after finishing his second-round 71.

“As long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, we’re fine,” he said. “They can be raucous. They are having a great time. It’s fun. They are having a blast, and hopefully we can execute golf shots, but as long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, everything’s cool.”

After the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, a few players told Woods that fans were trying to time their screams with the players’ downswings.

“There’s really no reason to do that,” Woods said. “I think that most of the people there at 17 are golfers, and they understand how hard a golf shot that is. So they are being respectful, but obviously libations are flowing.”

The 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course Friday, with a 3.74 scoring average and a combined score to par of 104 over. More than a quarter of the tee shots found the water.