Fans ready to welcome back Woods
He found that intriguing.
Then the talk shifted to the sex scandal that has dogged the world’s best player for months, and Ramos lost all interest.
“I honestly think this: Golf fans, they don’t care about that anymore,” the 28-year-old Ramos said, waiting for his turn to start at Greynolds Park. “Let’s see him play. Leave the other stuff alone, man. Lay off.”
If there was one thing most recreational players on the ranges and courses of South Florida could agree on Tuesday, it was that they just want to see Woods play again and have talk finally end of extramarital affairs and rehab stints that have surrounded the 14-time major champion since November.
Some like him, some don’t, and others like him less now than they did before Nov. 27. That’s when he fled his house in the middle of the night and ran his Cadillac SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree.
But just about all those who agreed to discuss Woods on Tuesday said they’ll be watching his every move at Augusta National.
Welcome back, Tiger.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a Tiger guy, per se, but I’ve always admired his golf skills and he’s probably going to end up being the greatest golfer who ever lived and played,” said Daniel Manichello, who was hitting on the range at Miami Shores Country Club. “The stuff that’s gone on, that’s between him and his family. That’s where it should be kept.”
Manichello was going to watch the Masters, anyway. He’s a year-round follower of golf, someone who drives around listening to golf news on his satellite radio, which is how he learned of Tuesday’s news before hitting a bucket of drives.
Still, Woods’ return means he’ll watch this year’s Masters even more closely.
“Makes it more compelling for television and for fans,” Manichello said. “If he plays up to his abilities, the guy’s incredible. The shots that he pulls off and stuff like that, it makes it more entertaining. And this year and last year when he was out with the injury, nobody’s really stepped up into the spotlight.”
Sue Ferguson-Pagan, a Scottish vacationer and one of the few women who were willing to speak with The Associated Press about Woods on Tuesday, was puzzled on why the Woods saga has attracted so much attention. A former reporter, Ferguson-Pagan said she thought the entire episode has been media driven.
“He’s a superb golfer and I’m just sorry that he’s been so publicly exposed for his failings,” Ferguson-Pagan said, slinging her bag over her shoulder for an afternoon round. “Just because he’s a superhuman golfer doesn’t mean to say that he’s going to be superhuman in other areas. Leave him alone.”
It’s unclear what effect Woods’ latest absence has had on the game, because he actually didn’t miss many tournaments in which he would have played. Doral, though, was one of those tournaments.
When Woods teed off on the Blue Monster in 2009, the gallery stretched nearly 300 yards up the course. While crowds were again sizable at Doral for the weekend rounds of the CA Championship this year – especially following Phil Mickelson, Camilo Villegas and 2010 winner Ernie Els – it was nothing like what greeted Woods a year ago.
“It was kind of empty,” Alfredo Behar said. “The security was a lot less beefed up, I’ll tell you that much.”
Behar, 32, isn’t a Woods fan. He roots for Mickelson, mostly. And Ramos, his friend, isn’t much of a Woods fan, either.
“He always acted like he was better than you,” Ramos said.
They both think they’ll see a slightly different Woods when he returns.
“Tiger’s a little arrogant, I think,” Behar said. “He can’t win every tournament. It’s impossible to win every tournament. I would have loved to see his comeback at Doral. He would have been all right in Miami. Miami’s a very liberal town. And, as a matter of fact, some people would tell you they like him better now.”
Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.
The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.
Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.
''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''
Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.
McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.
''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.
Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.
''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''
Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.
Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.
The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.
''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''
Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.
Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.
''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''
Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.
''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.
The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.
Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.
Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.
Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game
ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.
“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.
Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.
“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”
Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.
Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.
“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.
McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68
ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.
In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.
“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”
McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”