Immelman Leads Tiger Tracking

By Associated PressApril 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. --Trevor Immelman watched one last shot turn out better than he expected Saturday in the Masters, each one keeping him atop the leaderboard and Tiger Woods farther behind.
Immelman was headed for double bogey or worse on the 15th hole until his ball somehow stopped on a steep slope toward the pond, allowing him to escape with par. On the 18th, he barked instructions to his ball'Sit down, he pleaded'only to see it stop 30 inches away for a final birdie and a 3-under 69.
That gave him a two-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker, two players in their 20s who will get their first taste of major championship pressure in the final group at Augusta National.
Perhaps more importantly, Immelman stayed six shots ahead of Woods.
Under the easiest conditions at Augusta in three years, Woods had to settle for a bogey-free round of 68 that was probably the worst he could have shot. He has never won a major when trailing going into the final round, and he has never won a PGA TOUR event when trailing by more than five shots after 54 holes.
If I had made a few more putts, Id be right there, Woods said. But Im right there anyway.
That depends on the four guys in front of him, none of whom has ever won a major.
It starts with Immelman, who was at 11-under 205 on a damp, cloudy afternoon that included a 40-minute delay because of rain.
Snedeker steadied himself after three straight bogeys around Amen Corner, getting those shots back over the final five holes, including a 10-foot birdie on the 18th for a 2-under 70 that put him in the final group.
Steve Flesch was the best Lefty in his pairing with Phil Mickelson, also finishing with a birdie for a 69 to reach 8-under 208. Paul Casey, among four players who had a share of the lead, shot a 69 and was another shot back.
Casey has the most experience on this kind of stage, having played on two Ryder Cup teams. He atoned for a sloppy bogey on the 15th with an 8-iron to 6 feet for birdie on the 16th, one of only four in the third round.
Flesch wasnt even expecting to be at the Masters, qualifying late in the year by winning two PGA Tour events against weak fields to finish among the top 30 in the money list. Now, he is only three shots back with 18 holes to play.
Standing on the 18th green before making his 4-foot birdie putt, Flesch gazed at the large leaderboard.
I was curious like everyone else'what did Tiger shoot today? he said.
It was the first time in a dozen rounds at the Masters that Woods broke 70, but he had reason to expect much more. The third round began under a light drizzle and was stopped for 40 minutes when storms rolled through eastern Georgia. That made the course soft and long, the greens receptive. With no wind, it was ripe for a charge.
But all Woods could muster was one birdie putt outside 10 feet. Two other birdies came on par 5s when he was putting for eagle, another with a wedge inside a foot on the 17th. Woods missed four straight putts inside 15 feet on the front nine that could have turned his fortunes, and an 8-foot birdie on the par-5 15th.
This is the highest score I could have shot today, Woods said. I hit the ball so well and I hit so many good putts that just skirted the hole. But hey, I put myself right back in the tournament.
Six shots is a lot to make up in the final round at the Masters. No one has done that since Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman in 1996.
His hope might come from the inexperience atop the leaderboard. Woods was the only player within seven shots who has won a major.
Theres such a long way to go, Immelman said. There are so many great players out there. If I rest on a two-shot lead, Im not going to do very well. Ive just got to have positive thoughts and give it my best shot.
Gary Player is the only South African to win the Masters, the last of his three victories coming 30 years ago.
Immelmans lone mistake came on the par-3 fourth, but he was solid the rest of the afternoon and surged ahead with two spectacular shots and one incredible break.
He hit a low pitch across Raes Creek that hopped once and skidded to a stop 2 feet behind the cup for birdie on the par-3 13th for the outright lead. Then he went two shots ahead with an 8-foot birdie on the 14th.
It all looked as though it might wash away on the 15th in a moment reminiscent of Fred Couples in 1992, when a tee shot on the par-3 12th was held up by a blade of grass. That break carried Couples to his lone major title.
Immelman hit a sand wedge that spun back, caught the slope and rolled quickly off the front of the green. Perhaps there was just enough rain to keep the slope soft. The ball slowed to a trickle, then stopped. One more turn, and it would have been in the water.
I was begging for it to stop as soon as it could, Immelman said. I knew there was a chance it was going to go in the water. I must say, I couldnt quite believe it when it stayed up.
He chipped to 5 feet and saved par.
Immelman recalls watching the Masters at home in South Africa when Couples dodged a double bogey, but he quickly pointed out a few major differences.
This is the 15th hole of the third round, and his was the 12th hole of the final round, Immelman said. I was extremely fortunate that my ball stayed up there, but theres still a long way to go in this tournament.
Snedeker, playing his first Masters as a pro, nearly let his big chance get away with an errant tee shot on the 11th, a tee shot that sailed over the 12th green and an approach into Raes Creek that led to bogey on the 13th.
But he followed with consecutive bogeys inside 10 feet, and another one on the 18th to get into the final group.
Im going out there to play good golf and see what Ive got, Snedeker said. This is the ultimate test for us.
It could be a test in other ways. Behind the clouds was a front that was expected to send temperatures into the low 60s and bring 20 mph winds, the scariest conditions on a course where even a breeze can play tricks.
That might be what Woods needs to keep alive his fading hopes of a calendar Grand Slam.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Leaderboard - The Masters
  • Video - The Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

    List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

    “Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

    “I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

    The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

    “He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

    Getty Images

    Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

    Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
    (1) D. Johnson (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm (4) J. Spieth
    (32) K. Kisner (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed
    (38) A. Hadwin
    (48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li
    (52) B. Wiesberger
    (60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel
    Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
    (5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day
    (30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
    (18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen
    (46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner
    (53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn
    Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
    (9) T. Fleetwood (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
    (26) D. Berger (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
    (33) K. Chappell (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
    (58) I. Poulter (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
    Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
    (13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar
    (29) T. Finau (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher
    (39) T. Pieters (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda
    (61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson
    Getty Images

    Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

    By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

    The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

    Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

    Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

    Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

    The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

    Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

    That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

    Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

    Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

    “Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

    Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

    Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

    The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

    With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

    Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

    Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

    It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

    “It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

    Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

    Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

    Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

    Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

    The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

    The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

    Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

    They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.

    Getty Images

    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

    Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

    Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

    Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

    Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

    Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

    Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

    Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

    Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

    Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

    Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

    Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

    Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.