Shag Bag Blog Week 19


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Welcome to the Shag Bag, where the team and Golf Channel talent will regularly file thoughts and opinions from around the world of golf.

Lost amid the Sunday comings (Henrik Stenson) and goings (Alex Cejka and Tiger Woods) at TPC Sawrass was some solid play by players in need of a boost.
Aaron Baddeley teed off first and played alone, raced around the Stadium Course before Cejka had his first cup of coffee, shot 66 and tied for ninth for the Australians first top-10 finish since last years BMW Championship.
Tim Clark also put on an early show with a closing 69 that included a 55-foot eagle putt at the 16th to add to what is best described as a rebound year. Following his best year on Tour in 2007 when he finished 22nd in earnings, the South African struggled in 08 with just three top 10s.
It was a particularly pedestrian year for a player who, after years of battling a neck injury, was finally healthy.
Last year was tough, Clark said Sunday at TPC. I mean I can finally practice again. 2007 was my best year on Tour and I didnt hit one ball before a tournament. No practice at all.
Clark said a big key to his turn around has been a new set of Srixon irons he put into play after the Masters. Clark, not one of the longest hitters on Tour, said the new sticks let him hit the ball a club longer and with more accuracy.
Fantasy hawks be aware, the new clubs adhere to the U.S. Golf Associations dialed-down groove policy that begins on Tour in 2010, which makes a player that was already one of the best at hitting fairways even more worth watching.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 11, 3:31 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka met with the press Saturday evening and said his plan was to arrive on the first tee Sunday for his date with Tiger Woods wearing Woods customary red shirt, black pants. So, the debate amongst the press ensued.
Was Cejka serious? Was he crazy? Was he joking?
Turns out, he was serious even though he arrived wearing all black on a brutally hot Sunday afternoon on Floridas First Coast.
I was looking in my suitcase, Cejka said. I have 40 shirts with me because Im on the road for a couple months. I didnt have one. I had green, pink, orange, black, plaid, every color, but I didnt have red.
I would have worn it if I had it.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 10, 8:47 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH , Fla. ' Rather than viewing Tiger Woods performance this week as poor, as a sign that hes lost a step since his return from knee surgery, think about looking at it as a way of showing just how good he is when he doesnt have his best stuff.
Woods has played five stroke-play events this year, has won once and hasnt finished worse than a ninth-place tie. Here at The Players he finished eighth, which is his third-best finish at a TPC Sawgrass course that never has suited his eye.
Sure, he never was a factor while playing in the final group Sunday ' something thats almost unheard of ' but no one produces better results with an average game than Woods.
Hes got a lot out of the golf course this week for certain positions that hes hit it in, said Ian Poulter, who finished second. Hes hit it in a couple of spots which, if Joe Average hits it in there, hes shooting 3, 4, 5 over par on the day.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 10, 8:32 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The walking scoreboard with the Henrik Stenson group had just a single red digit on the standard for the late Players leader ' a '1,' which is nine strokes off his actual total of 10 under.
Either the young volunteer didn't expect anyone to climb to double digits under par, an understandable assumption considering how hard the Stadium is playing, or she was trying to make all those contenders who were falling away feel better.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 10, 5:25 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Hide and Sneak.
That's the little game so many PGA Tour pros play on Sundays.
They hide their eyes from the leaderboard and sneak around them.
Most players aren't like Tiger Woods, who likes to look at leaderboards but can't like what he's seeing today. Most players don't look, until near the very end, because looking at leaderboards takes them out of their rhythm, heightens pressure and gets them thinking ahead. They leave the leaderboards to their caddies should strategy need to be changed. On a day like today, though, it's hard not to look. That's because there are so many big boards at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course and because so many players are bunched in contention. Eight players are within three of the lead on the back nine.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 10, 5:04 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' If you're wondering what lies ahead as Henrik Stenson takes his lead to the back nine, here's a scouting report on those trio of finishing holes.
The 16th hole has yielded two eagles and 23 birdies from the first 50 players through, but there have been seven balls hit in the water with that pin tucked right against the hazard. At the 17th hole, with its classic back-right pin, and with little wind, only seven players have hit into the water. It's playing to 135 yards. The 18th is playing tough, yielding just two birdies with six players hitting into the lake on the left with either their drives or their approaches. It ranks as the second toughest hole on the course this Sunday, behind only the eighth.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 10, 4:56 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Interesting scenario out here at The Players, including David Toms' choice not to wing his way home just yet.
Toms finished hours before the leaders teed off at 5 under, well outside the lead at the time. But as the lemmings, eh, leaders dropped off the TPC cliff his total started looking better and better.
Toms said he will go to the airport and wait 'until someone finishes ahead of me.'
Don't count on it.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 10, 4:26 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' We've all heard of the 54-hole cut, right? Right now Alex Cejka is just lucky that the PGA Tour hasn't instituted at 63-hole cut.
At this rate he'll do well to finish inside the top-10.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 10, 3:50 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka has his supporters pulling for the underdog among the massive crowd mostly following Tiger Woods.
'Settle down Alex, you can do it,' one fan shouted at the fifth green. You can hear folks with German accents calling out. Cejka needs all the help he can get with another bogey at the fifth. He left the green no longer the leader of the tournament, a shot behind Ben Crane.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 10, 3:45 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' It took less than an hour for Alex Cejka to squander the largest 54-hole lead in Players history.
Maybe Cejka's bogey at the first and mental lapse at the fourth that led to a double bogey and dropped him to 8 under was expected. What wasn't expected was his co-leader. It wasn't playing partner Tiger Woods who took a piece. It was Ben Crane, playing two groups ahead, who gave Cejka an early game.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 10, 3:37 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Seriously, Tiger Woods looked like me for 15 minutes out here at The Players.
First similarity: He hit his tee shot into a tree left that dropped into pine straw only 25 yards ahead of the forward tees.
Second similarity: He sliced his second shot into the water right of the fairway.
After taking a drop, Woods hit his fourth onto the green on the par 5 and he two-putted for bogey.
That's where the similarities end.
Tiger made 6. Somehow I'd have made nothing better than 7.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 10, 3:00 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' It could have been worse. If you were looking to see if Alex Cejka was nervous there was plenty of evidence that he was at the first hole, but there was reason to believe he'll steady himself.
He got away with some first-hole jitters with just a bogey. He looked nervous pulling his drive left, bouncing his approach over the green and bumping his chip 30 feet past the hole. He showed something, though, making a knee-knocking 4-footer for his 5.
Tiger Woods looked solid with a two-putt par to pick up a stroke. There is little interaction between the two early.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 10, 2:49 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods enjoys his privacy and Shag Bag can certainly understand that, but the world No. 1 took seclusion to a questionable extreme on Sunday when he headed to the far side of TPC Sawgrass practice range.
For the second consecutive day, Woods warmed up for his final turn at TPC with Alex Cejka down at Vijays Corner, the secluded portion of the double-sided range out of sight of media and fans. Only about 20 or so hardy souls gathered to steal an occasional glimpse.
Pre-round is game face time for Woods and we understand that, but folks pay a lot of money to get the full experience and part of that is getting to watch the man try to work the kinks out and find whatever answers the dirt holds.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 10, 2:04 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka came out on the driving range dressed in all black Sunday at The Players Championship.
Given the hot, steamy conditions in a roasting sun, Cejka apparently isn't afraid to turn up the heat on himself with those dark colors. Maybe he figures it can't get any hotter on a Sunday than a final round pairing with Tiger Woods. The temperature was 90 degrees as he began his warm-up.
Cejka said after Saturday's round that he was going to wear a red shirt with black pants. 'Power red' is Woods' color in final rounds. Either Cejka was joking, or he backed down in not wanting to infringe on Woods' domain. Folks rooting for Cejka should hope it's not the latter.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 10, 1:14 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Aaron Baddeley went out in the first group Sunday morning as a single and completed his round in under three hours. When the Aussie signed for his 6-under 66 he was more than four holes ahead Jeff Quinney and Jeev Milka Singh, the next closest group.
Its easy figure out how he played so quickly, at least over the final three holes, which typically are the most brutal stretch of holes here at TPC Sawgrass. Instead, Baddeley closed with three consecutive birdies to shoot 33-33 for his 66.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 10, 12:01 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Day break here on the First Coast and its a familiar feel ' hot, humid and sunny. And dont expect any relief for the players for todays final round at TPC Sawgrass.
After relatively easy opening rounds on Thursday and Friday (72.08 stroke average on Day 1 and 72.37 on Day 2) things got tight on Saturday (73.614). They can make us shoot almost whatever they want us to, Ben Crane said on Saturday.
A glance at the final round pin positions and it seems officials are looking for less birdies and more grinding with 11 pins cut four paces from the edge and two (Nos. 4 and 9) cut just three paces from the edge.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 10, 10:59 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Three of the last four winners of The Players Championship have led the field in driving accuracy for the week of the championship.
That doesn't bode well for Tiger Woods.
Woods is tied for 62nd in driving accuracy with the leaders on the back nine on Saturday. Woods has hit just 24 of 42 fairways.
By the way, Phil Mickelson was the one winner of the last four Players who didn't lead the field in driving accuracy. He finished T-62 in driving accuracy when he won in '07.
As this is being written, Alex Cejka leads the field in driving accuracy. He also leads the tournament.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 6:17 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods is nothing if not a student of history. His five-stroke comeback at Bay Hill still fresh in his memory, Woods finished birdie-birdie-scrambling par to keep the leaders close.
'Only four back as of right now,' Woods said. 'Still in the ball game.'
More like game on.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 9, 5:42 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods said his putt at the 17th island hole Saturday was a delicate downhill adventure off the back slope.
'I joked with [caddie] Stevie [Williams], `Thank God I'm wearing spikes, it's slippery,'' Woods said.
Woods was in a good mood after posting a 70 at The Players Championship to move to 6-under 210. That put him four shots off the lead as he signed his scorecard with the leaders coming back to him. The biggest final-round comeback in the history of The Players is five shots, engineered by Justin Leonard in 1998.
Woods scrambled hard again Saturday, duplicating Friday's numbers with only seven fairways hit and 11 greens in regulation.
'It's playing like a major championship,' he said. 'It's fast and hard and dry like a major.'
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 5:27 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Henrik Stenson is looking to make his biggest headlines since stripping down to his underwear to play a shot out of the water at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral in March.
Yeah, sure, he tied for third at the Shell Houston Open last month, but he said after Friday's round at The Players Championship that he received more attention for stripping down than he has for just about anything he's ever done in golf.
'There's been a lot of publicity,' Stenson said. 'More publicity than I could ever have imagined.'
Stenson said he even had an endorsement offer from an underwear company, which he declined to name. He endorses Hugo Boss, which also makes underwear, so he turned down the offer.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 4:59 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods drove his tee shot into the pine straw adjacent the 11th fairway, turned his club upside down and played his next shot from the other side of the plate, well, we should add.
All of which brings up an interesting match for the next Tiger v. Phil Mickelson duel. Have each player play from the wrong side of their golf balls from tee to green. It would be tough to call, but early money would be on Phil. He spends more time batting switch handed than Woods out of necessity.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 9, 3:47 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Since David Toms' ailing back's improved and he's quit focusing so much on getting longer, he's playing better.
Toms' swing coach, Rob Akins, believes Toms is in the hunt this weekend at The Players Championship partly because he's worrying less about his lack of power off the tee.
'David had been concerned about not hitting the ball far enough to be competitive with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh and players like that,' Akins said. 'David is not short, but I told him, `If you just drive it in the fairway, as great an iron player and putter as you are, you will win a lot of tournaments.''
Toms leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this season, hitting 74.4 percent of fairways. He was 72nd in the category last year, 75th the year before that. He was among the straightest drivers in his best years, but . . .
'David has never led the driving accuracy category this late in the season,' Aikins said.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 3:35 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Stewart Cink picked at his plate in the plush players grill at TPC Sawgrass and didnt look like a man steamed by his plight, and that third-round 77 likely hurt more than your off-the-shelf 5-over effort, but the mathematical reality was he was heading home early.
Cinks 4-over total left him tied for 77th midway through Saturdays third round and meant he would likely miss the secondary cut. For the fifth time this year more than 78 players advanced to the weekend (83) and triggered the circuits secondary axe.
Considering how much harder TPC Sawgrass seemed to be playing, Cink may end up being the lucky one.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 9, 3:12 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' On a hot, humid Saturday, after an unsatisfying round of 71 that failed to get him in the hunt at The Players Championship, Phil Mickelson spent about 20 minutes signing autographs in the roasting sun.
Not everyone loves Lefty, evident with the heckler being escorted away after harassing Mickelson in the first round, but he wins the affections of new fans every week with his willingness to spend so much extra time with the folks who wait around for him.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 2:10 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods may have started his round two hours earlier and one revolution short ' the distance between a birdie and a routine par at the first ' but the world No. 1 seemed dialed in enough.
From a sidehill lie at the second hole he rifled his second shot to 50 feet for an easy birdie and the kind of explosive start the packed TPC Sawgrass house was waiting for.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 9, 1:02 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' That little natural amphitheater surrounding the 16th and 17th holes at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium could be noisy today.
Both holes seem to be set up for fireworks.
The 16th is ranked as the easiest hole on the course early in the round with 11 birdies among the first 19 players through.
The 17th island hole is ranked as the second easiest hole on the course so far. It's set up short, just 120 yards, with the pin up in a basin that should funnel balls to the hole.
Zach Johnson's the only player mounting any kind of early charge despite good scoring conditions Saturday at The Players Championship, though winds are already picking up in the early afternoon with the flags beginning to flap briskly on another steamy day. Winds are forecast to range from 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon.
Johnson was 4 under through his first 13 holes. He shot 31 on the front nine, then bogeyed the 10th.
Nobody's gone lower among early players out with Woody Austin's 68 the low early round in the clubhouse.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 9, 12:59 p.m. ET


Fred FunkPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Fred Funk may be the oldest player in The Players field, and slowed by ongoing knee ailment, but his assigned parking spot seemed a bit extreme.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 9, 12:25 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Daniel Chopra was 9 under through 13 holes Friday and highly motivated to break the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course, but he couldn't close out.
'It's called the fifth major, and nobody's ever shot 62 here,' Chopra said. 'The greatest players have all played here, and the course record would have been a feather in my cap.
'I was going for it, and I really wanted it.'
The course record is 63, shared by Greg Norman (1994, first round) and Fred Couples (1992, third round).
Chopra, who bogeyed the last two holes, had a chance at 8 under at his final hole (No. 9). He had his mind set on making an eagle to become the first player to shoot 62.
Chopra hit an errant drive, though, forcing him to lay up, then he chunked a wedge. His club flew out of his hands as followed through on his third shot, which ended up in a greenside bunker.
'It was a reflex action,' said Chopra, who shot 65 and stands at 4-under for the tournament. 'As soon as the club hit the ground, I knew what I had done.'
Chopra said he had a tight lie from 89 yards and decelerated trying to squeeze a shot into a front pin placement.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 7:31 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' PGA Tour pros lost their perfect game at the 17th island hole Friday when Bubba Watson stepped to the tee.
The first 65 players teeing it up at No. 17 avoided the water, but Watson ended the streak, knocking his shot over the back of the green and into the lake. In the very next group there, Matt Bettencourt rinsed his shot short in the water. Midway through the afternoon, they're the only players to get wet there in the second round. Fourteen shots were rinsed at No. 17 in the first round.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 2:54 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Angel Cabrera has made 14 birdies and an eagle through two rounds of The Players Championship, and he's four shots back.
That's because the Masters champ has made six bogeys and a triple bogey.
Robert Allenby has made 12 birdies and an eagle and he's six shots back. That's because he has made seven bogeys and a double bogey. He made six consecutive bogeys during his first nine holes in the first round.
Cabrera and Allenby show the wild range of possibilities at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course.
It's why no lead seems safe here. Terrific charges and monumental collapses are both possible.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 2:32 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Padraig Harrington's 72 left him on the cut line as he ended his morning round Friday at The Players Championship.
Harrington doesn't have a top-10 in nine PGA Tour starts this season.
The Irishman, who came into the season having won back-to-back majors and three of the last six, tied for 35th at the Masters last month. He said when he ends a successful season, he tends to tinker too much with his game.
'To be honest, I don't want to play like I did in the majors last year,' he said. 'I want to play better.'
Harrington said he spent the off-season trying too much to perfect his swing.
'I've just got to get back to playing golf,' he said. 'I've been addicted to how I am swinging. I'm analyzing everything.'
Sports psychologist Bob Rotella has been trying to get Harrington to focus more on getting the ball in the hole.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 2:25 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Phil Mickelson knew what was at stake on his last hole Friday at The Players Championship.
'I knew I needed to get it up and down to have a chance to make the weekend,' Mickelson said.
Mickelson made a birdie from off the back of the ninth green, his 18th hole, to get to even par, the projected cut line.
Mickelson said if he makes the cut, he isn't ruling out a chance to win, though he was 11 shots back when he signed his scorecard. Mickelson said the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course is a good place to make big moves posting low early scores.
'I've played in the last groups here, and I've seen guys march right up the leaderboard (from back of the pack),' he said. 'I'm not giving up at all.'
Mickelson shot 1-under 71 Friday despite needing 34 putts. He's pleased with his ball striking. He hit 10 fairways and 15 greens in the second round.
'I'm hitting the ball really well,' he said. 'I hit fairways and greens and didn't make squat. I'm not frustrated yet. I feel like I'm playing well.'
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 2:01 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Alex Cejka teed off at 7:30 a.m. on Friday paired with Las Vegas neighbor Kevin Na and the duo raced around TPC Sawgrass in just over four hours, the rarest of accomplishments on the PGA Tour.
That Cejka was able to shoulder through 18 holes was surprising enough given his recent medical adventures. That he did it at breakneck speed is worth bonus points.
Cejka tweaked his C5 and C6 vertebrae pulling his luggage from an English rack before last years British Open. Surgery helped alleviate the pain, but numbness returned to his right side recently and required a cortisone shot.
I can feel my hand now, which is a good thing, Cejka said.
Na has also been slowed by a series of injuries lately, including tightness in a leg muscle and hip pains.
Im only 25 years old and my body is falling apart here, Na smiled.
For those in search of a growth industry in a tough economic environment it appears that keeping Tour players in one piece has plenty of job security.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 8, 1:02 p.m. ET


Some of the game's biggest names have a lot of ground to make up heading towards the weekend. In fact, they may just want to worry about being around on Saturday and Sunday.
Alex Cejka shot 5-under 67 Friday at TPC Sawgrass to take the clubhouse lead at 11 under. The cut line, meanwhile, is currently even par.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia (-1), Vijay Singh (-1), Tiger Woods (-1) and Ernie Els (+1) are all among the afternoon groups.
Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy went out early and are trying to hang on for the chance at a weekend rally.
Click here for full-field scores from Round 2 of The Players.
' Mercer Baggs
Posted May 8, 12:29 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Kevin Na and Alex Cejka were cumulatively 11 under par in their morning pairing Friday at The Players Championship. They are both Las Vegas residents who enjoyed their round together.
'We were calling each other 'Neighbor' all day,' Na said. 'It was 'Nice shot, Neighbor.' We had a lot of fun. I think that's a reason we played so well.'
Cejka shot 67, Na 66.
Cejka said he lives about 10 minutes from Na, but 'We see each other in the casino all the time.' He was kidding.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 12:19 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' On another steamy day at The Players Championship, conditions remain benign.
It took just seven players before somebody (Charlie Wi) got wet at the 17th island hole on Thursday at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course. Fourteen shots ended up at the bottom of the lake in the first round.
None of the first 28 players to tee it up there on Friday has rinsed a shot. Adam Scott nearly holed his tee shot, tapping in from 17 inches after his ball clipped the right edge of the hole.
The pin is cut back, center.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 8, 11:26 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Ben Crane may be on the snail side of slow but give the guy credit, he has a sense of humor.
During the filming of a commercial a few years ago the concept was for a series of players to give a single tip in the pre-shot and swing sequence ' visualize the shot, grip, alignment, etc.
During one take, Crane settled in over the ball with the cameras rolling, adjusted his feet and, according to caddie yard tale, smiled and said, Now wait for a minute, a refreshing jab at his own pace of play issues. The segment never ran with the commercial but on Thursday after his opening 65 at The Players Crane confirmed the playful take occurred.
Im not too proud, he smiled.
He may not be the fastest player on Tour, but self-deprecation cures a lot of evils.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 8, 10:31 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Ben Crane calls the afternoon at the old Booz Allen Classic in 2005 the incident, hands in the air to emphasize the significance, and if his assessment of the event that occurred between he and Rory Sabbatini is any indication, the encounter had a profound impact on him as a player.
Learned I was too slow, Crane said. It was the beginning of a process that I need to play a lot faster, because I dont want to upset the guys that Im playing with. It needs to be a level playing field.
Crane said he has picked up his pace on the golf course, noting he has not been put on the clock in quite a while. He also said he reached out to Sabbatini after the incident and that the two have mended all fences. Of course, the more rounds like Thursdays 7-under 65 help. Its a proven scientific fact that good golf takes less time.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 7:41 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Fred Funk is considering a knee replacement at season's end to remedy his ongoing problems.
Funk, 52, opened The Players Championship with a 73.
After having his troublesome right knee drained countless times after knee surgery a year ago, he contracted a staph infection in December that's required a series of surgeries to correct. Funk played Thursday in a knee brace in just his third PGA Tour start this season.
'I'm just hitting it so short right now, not that I was ever long,' Funk said. 'I can't hit it out of my shadow.'
Funk said doctors have told him he must wait six months, because of the infection, to be eligible for a knee replacement, something he's seriously considering doing in October if he doesn't feel better. Still, he plans to play up to 20 events over the next 25 weeks, most of them Champions Tour events, if his knee holds up. His exemption into The Players Championship as the 2005 champ ends after next year's event.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 7, 3:23 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods first-round 71 at The Players was the highest score (he) could have shot, and, considering his frustration, his demeanor after his round was about as good as could be expected.
Despite numerous missed putts, Woods was buoyed by his ballstriking. He hit 71 percent of his fairways, a marked improvement over his season average, and nearly 70 percent of his greens in regulation.
I hit the ball well today, I really did, Woods said. It's just unfortunately I didn't capitalize on my opportunities today. I had quite a few of them.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 3:09 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Sergio Garcia opened defense of his title at The Players Championship Thursday with a 1-under-par 71.
But he looked like he just signed for something much worse.
Garcia's disappointment in his ball striking overwhelmed the fact that he posted a respectable score.
'I couldn't be happy with anything today,' Garcia said. 'Obviously, 71 is not a bad score, but when you are 3-under with two to play and you finish 1-under, it's not that good a score. It's been awhile since I've hit the ball that badly.'
Garcia double bogeyed No. 8, his 17th hole. He needed just 25 putts but was unhappy hitting only seven of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens
'There's always tomorrow,' someone offered as Garcia was leaving the interview area.
'Or next week,' Garcia said.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 7, 2:18 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Its not often the Tour allows news to get in the way of tournament play, but a positive sponsorship update in a tough economic environment preempted even the play of Tiger Woods on Thursday at The Players.
Just as the world No. 1 was making the turn commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the circuit has signed a new, 10-year agreement with SBS, the Seoul Broadcasting System, to sponsor the Tours seasoning-opening event in Hawaii.
There had been plenty of speculation that Mercedes-Benz, which took over sponsorship of the winners-only event in 1994, would be leaving after this year and the SBS announcement is a boon as golf continues to buck economic headwinds.
We wish all of our commitments were for 10 years, said Finchem, who added the current agreement with Kapalua Resort expires next year but that the Tour is well down the road on an extension.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 11:54 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' We have to come clean. A few weeks back we had to see what all the fuss was about and created a Twitter account to follow the exploits of e-superstar Stewart Cink. Unfortunately we were a tad early to join Cinks army.
Nike Golf, which sponsors Cink, offered a new driver to the 150,000th person to sign on to follow the five-time Tour winners on and off-course comings and goings on Twitter, pardon the poor pun, as a sort of tweet.
Cink said a report on ESPN got him interested in Twitter and his oldest son introduced him to the medium. As for content, Cink said he tweets less about golf than he does just random happenings.
Got lost on the way to my condo the other night and put it on there, he said.
Oh, the glamorous life of a Tour pro.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 10:42 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The 17th island hole claimed its first victim of The Players this year.
The seventh player to reach the hole Thursday morning was the first to rinse a shot at the famed hole in the first round.
With the tees back and the par 3 playing to 147 yards, Charlie Wi hit his shot deep and over the green at a pin tucked back-left. He went to the drop area, hit his next shot to 7 feet and made the putt for bogey.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 7, 10:04 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' It's no secret that Tiger Woods is struggling to hit fairways off the tee, just ask anyone on TPC Sawgrass' 14th hole.
After hitting his tee shot well right of the fairway, Woods slammed his fairway wood into the ground, swung the club angrily into his bag and muttered something unprintable to himself.
As if on cue, he split the fairway at his next hole with the same fairway wood.
No one self-corrects better than Woods.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 9:45 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' They call it army golf in 'Shag Bag's' four-ball, Tiger Woods probably calls it a pain but it has become the norm for the world No. 1.
Through three holes Thursday Woods has missed fairways left (No. 10) and right (Nos. 11 and 12).
Despite the two-way miss it has been his putter that has slowed him early. He has missed birdie putts from 15, 11 and 12 feet.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 7, 9:31 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Adam Scotts in search of a much needed boost of confidence.
Five years after winning The Players Championship, Scott arrives at the TPC at Sawgrass having missed four consecutive cuts, marking the first time he has missed more than two in a row since joining the PGA Tour in 2003.
As high as No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking just last summer, Scott has slid to No. 29.
Scott made as much news for his woes off the course over the last year as he did on it in his native Australia. He was in headlines for dislocating his knee cap, breaking his hand, enduring a breakup with his long-time girlfriend and being linked with actress Kate Hudson.
Hes had problems with his knee, where he got to favoring it and got a little out of sorts with his swing,' Harmon said. 'He's back to feeling healthy again. He's back to being Adam again. He's had a couple good (practice) sessions. Its just important for him to have a solid round (Thursday) and see some good things happen to get his confidence back.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 6, 5:35 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Former President George H.W. Bush arrived at TPC Sawgrass earlier this afternoon ' with his herd of Secret Service ' and will receive the PGA Tours Lifetime Achievement Award at 5 p.m. on the 18th green.
President Bush, saddled with a bad back, chatted with numerous players, including U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, then went out to the infamous 17th hole to watch a few groups pass through. After taking photos with several players, Bush, with the help of a standing ovation, was driven away back to the clubhouse to prepare for the afternoon festivities.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 6, 3:31 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' NBC-TV analyst Johnny Miller walked three holes with Phil Mickelson on Tuesday.
Miller confirmed suspicions about how Tour players are assessing the Tiger Woods they're seeing since Woods returned from knee surgery.
'Phil said that `Now Tiger has to putt well to win by one, and we like it that way,'' Miller said in a teleconference Wednesday.
With Woods struggling with his driver, Miller says Mickelson's not the only Tour pro thinking that way.
'That's the feeling on Tour now, `Tiger is still Tiger, but he has to putt well to beat us, and he might beat us by just a shot. The game's on now.''
' Randall Mell
Posted May 6, 11:23 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Its been a tough couple of weeks for Oliver Wilson.
The Englishman learned that his father had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and was sidelined briefly after Doral when he had his four wisdom teeth removed.
On Wednesday at The Players, his first tournament back after a three-week trip home to be with his father, Wilson played one hole before an old neck injury flared up.
I played one hole . . . it was a good hole, said Wilson, who planned to get treatment and be ready for the first round of his first Players on Thursday. Theres a muscle tear in my chest and that causes tightness in my neck. Ill get it worked on and be ready to go.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 6, 11:28 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Jeff Klauk will tee it up for the first time at The Players Championship, but you can hardly call him a rookie at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course.
Klauk estimates he has played about 1,000 rounds on the course. He was 10 the first time he played it.
He's the son of Fred Klauk, who retired last year after 22 years as superintendent at the TPC at Sawgrass.
'I think Jeff feels very comfortable out here,' Fred said.
Jeff didn't just play the course growing up. He worked it as part of the maintenance crew. It wasn't his idea. At 18, after getting a $350 speeding ticket for going 57 mph in a 30 mph zone going through Hilton Head, S.C., Jeff took a job under his father to work off the fine.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 6, 10:48 a.m. ET


Seve Ballesteros' condition keeps improving.
After making his first public appearance last week since surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor, the five-time major champion told a Spanish radio station late Tuesday that he is 'already 90 percent' recovered.
In a statement on his Web site,, Ballesteros was positive. 'This week I shall start my fifth chemo course. The results of my last tests at La Paz Hospital in Madrid showed I was on the right path. I will go on working to get better each day.'
' Erik Peterson
Posted May 6, 9:45 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The last time Sergio Garcia was in the headlines was following the Masters when he lashed out at Augusta National, saying that he wasnt a big fan of the venerable venue. Sixteen hours later he retreated, saying that he spoke out of frustration and that his comments were not intended to be aimed at the green jackets.
El Nino was asked Tuesday here at The Players about those comments and specifically asked if he felt if any criticism directed toward him was justified.
It just caught me at the wrong time and I just said the wrong things, I guess, he said. But you learn from all those things.
I am the way I am. And for good and for worse, what you see if what you get. The same way that my personality helps me a lot, sometimes it hurts me. Its just a matter of learning how to control it a little bit and just try to do the right thing.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 5, 5:16 p.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Padraig Harrington continues to be one of the most thoughtful interviews in professional sports.
The three-time major champion huddled with the media here Tuesday at The Players and discussed issues that ranged from his wifes birthday, to the golf course, to player obligations, to his performance this year.
Harringtons mobile phone rang early in the meeting and he insisted on answering. It was wife Caroline on the line from back home in Ireland. Im in a press conference, Ill call you in a bit. Love you, he said.
Its her birthday, Harrington then told the scribes. Its not good to hang up on her birthday.
Summing up the golf course in a word he used, Exciting.
The golf course is a big part of this event, Harrington said. I think its because of the way things can happen down the stretch. Seventeen is a perfect example. Its not a difficult birdie, but its a very difficult par.
' Jay Coffin
Posted May 5, 11:51 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' In defeat, Tiger Woods is not one of the more jovial interviews in the game, all of which makes the world No. 1s exchange with CBS Sports David Feherty on Sunday at Quail Hollow that much more entertaining.
Feherty: How does a week like this make you feel? For Bubba, he had a really good chance to win. But hes going to feel like he had a really good week this week. Do you feel like a loser?
Woods: Well, I did. I was. I wasnt even first loser either.
Feherty: Well, there you go. Its difficult to think of you as a loser. But hey, youre a loser. And good luck next week.
On Tuesday at The Players, Woods was asked about the exchange: Well, its typical. David kind of lost his train of thought. He kind of goes off in tangents and thats certainly one of the tangents he went off on. . . . I thought it was actually pretty funny.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 5, 11:01 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Brandt Snedeker withdrew from The Players on Tuesday, the third consecutive WD for the former Rookie of the Year.
Snedeker pulled out of last weeks Quail Hollow Championship and Zurich Classic with a strained rib. In 2005 he cracked a rib while playing the Nationwide Tour and aggravated the injury during the Masters. He returned to Nashville, Tenn., last week to work with two physical trainers for the Tennessee Titans but wasnt healthy enough to play TPC.
He was replaced in the field by Jason Dufner.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 5, 10:05 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Now that we've established Hank Haney is still with Tiger Woods, despite wide-spread media reports to the contrary, the next troubled member of the Woods camp is his driver shaft.
Woods switched to a new shaft for the first round last week at Quail Hollow before switching back to his old shaft.
On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass there was a Nike Golf representative trailing every of Woods' shots. Stay tuned.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 5, 9:18 a.m. ET


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Viewing tip No. 78: want to get a good look at Tiger Woods without 30,000 of your closest friends gathered about? Get up early.
Less than 200 fans trailed Woods early Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass. Woods teed off a bit later than normal, just past 7 a.m., with Nick Watney. Maybe kids and age are making his normal dawn patrol a thing of the past.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 5, 8:54 a.m. ET


FARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' For all the controversy surrounding recent U.S Open set-ups that have bordered on impossible, it's no surprise that at today's Media Day press conference most questions were directed at the USGA's set-up man, Mike Davis.
'The golf course is brutally difficult,' Davis said of the 7,426-yard par-70 layout at Bethpage Black.
But for those who crave the excitement of a well-holed birdie, there is a silver lining... sort of.
Davis predicts more putts will be holed this year than at recent Opens due to the relatively flat, perfectly smooth greens. No. 15, however, is the exception to the rule.
'I've woken up in cold sweats thinking about the green at No. 15,' Davis admitted. 'It's by far the most severe on the golf course. We're going to have to watch it like a hawk.'
With greens expected to measure 14.5 on the Stimpmeter, and the USGA hoping conditions are warm and dry, don't be surprised if No. 15 ends up being the most talked about hole of this year's championship.
' Erik Peterson
Posted May 4, 5:34 p.m. ET


FARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Mike Davis believes that the penalty for hitting into a greenside bunker on the PGA Tour is not stiff enough. But make no mistake, the vast, deep bunkers at Bethpage Black, site of this year's U.S. Open, are not your average bunkers.
'We really do try and make the bunkers hazards,' said Davis, senior director of rules and competition for the USGA. 'The players are not going to want to get in the bunkers at Bethpage. As far as U.S. Open venues go, these are probably the most challenging we have.'
The USGA will purposely make the sand play very soft and fluffy, adding to the difficulties the players will encounter at Bethpage. 'Well, I'm going to have to stay out of them,' said defending U.S. Open champ Tiger Woods. 'They're going to be like Augusta's. They make them more fluffy and cakey. They're hard to get out of because they take away guys' ability to spin the ball.'
' David Allen
Posted May 4, 2:45 p.m. ET


Quail Hollows closing three, dubbed the Green Mile, took a toll last week ' heres a stat, Tiger Woods played the trifecta in 4 over par without a birdie ' and statistically Nos. 16,17 and 18 in Charlotte, N.C., are the most brutal non-major final turn on Tour.
Two of Quail Hollows final three (Nos. 17 and 18) ranked among the Tours toughest 50 in 2008 and the stretch played more than a stroke over par (1.058) last year, compared to a .655 over par average at Bay Hill and .461 over at TPC Sawgrass in 2008.
But then statistics can only explain so much. Just ask any player who has stepped to the 17th tee on the Stadium course with nothing but Lake Dye and a VW-sized green standing between himself and Players glory.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 4, 2:10 p.m. ET


FARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' If the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black was 'The People's Open,' then Tiger Woods is clearly 'The People's Champion.'
All three of Woods' U.S. Open titles have come at public venues, including the '02 championship at Bethpage. And Woods grew up playing on public tracks throughout Southern California. Asked on Monday to compare Bethpage Black to most of the public golf courses the general public sees, Woods joked, 'I don't think it plays every day like we saw it (in 2002). If it did, I don't think anyone would play golf anymore.'
Woods used two words to describe the 7,426-yard track (it played at 7,214 yards in '02), 'long' and 'difficult.' 'It's a big ballpark,' said Woods, who was the only player to finish under par (-3) in '02. 'It's long, but it's fair. It was right out in front of you. You had to come and get it.'
' David Allen
Posted May 4, 12:55 p.m. ET


FARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' A limited number of tickets for the 2009 U.S. Open will go on sale to the general public on Thursday, June 11, at 10 a.m. at the U.S. Open Will Call facility at Bethpage State Park.
About 1,000 to 1,500 tickets per day became available due to lower than expected corporate hospitality sales. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis while quantities remain. Prices are $400 for Weekly Grounds Ticket packages, $100 for daily Championship Round Tickets and $40 for Daily Practice Round Tickets.
' David Allen
Posted May 4, 12:34 p.m. ET


They call the Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports, Shag Bag would beg to differ. Not that this weekends Derby wasnt a blast, particularly if you took a flier on Mind That Bird, but there are plenty of two minutes in golf that get the blood pumping.
  • Sergio Garcia (circa 2002 U.S. Open) milking his grip as the New York galleries blast the Spaniard for his laborious pre-shot routine
  • Sean OHair picking a club at Quail Hollows 17th hole on Sunday. With all that water looming the wiry champion had to overcome a lot of baggage to pull that shot off
  • Phil Mickelson on the 72 hole at Winged Foot
  • Tiger Woods caddie Steve Williams after a photographer snaps a shot in the middle of his mans backswing
  • The hang time on one of Bubba Watson's or Dustin Johnsons tee shots
  • Any two minutes of John Dalys life
    ' Rex Hoggard
    Posted May 4, 10:33 a.m. ET


    It was barely 8 a.m. Monday morning of The Players week and already people in the office were discussing its merits as a major championship.
    This is one of the most redundant times of the year, as this debate always re-surfaces.
    The Players is a very good tournament with a great field. It's a nice bridge connecting the Masters to the U.S. Open. But that's as close as it comes to being a major.
    Here are two ways to tell The Players is not a major: Tiger Woods has only won it once; Sergio Garcia has won it once.
    ' Mercer Baggs
    Posted May 4, 9:13 a.m. ET

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