More Horse Than Course
Tiger Woods owns the tournament.
The Bay Hill Invitational has become a boon for Woods, who can make history this week by becoming the first player on any tour to win the same tournament five straight years.
From the time his streak began in 2000, Woods is 65 under par at Bay Hill and has won his four titles by a combined 20 strokes. A year ago, he had a vicious stomach virus that gave him the dry heaves throughout the final round, and he still doubled his lead and won 11 shots.
It would be easy to explain his success with one of golf's oldest adages: There are horses for courses.
Just don't overlook the horse.
'I've never bought into that,' Fred Couples said. 'Davis Love has won Hilton Head 100 times. Mark O'Meara has won Pebble Beach 100 times. Tiger has won Bay Hill 100 times. They're just really good players.'
Couples was a little off on the math, but his point is well-taken.
Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., winds through tree-lined fairways and has the smallest greens on the PGA Tour. It is hardly considered a power hitter's alley, yet Love has won there five times.
O'Meara has won five times at Pebble Beach, and he still holds the 72-hole scoring record of 20-under 268 in 1997, the year he held off Woods and David Duval.
Jose Maria Olazabal, whose driving is the worst part of his game, has won all four of his regular PGA Tour events on courses that would seem to favor good drivers -- Firestone (twice), revamped Torrey Pines and Castle Pines.
Jim Furyk, known for his accuracy with the driver and steady play, is a three-time winner at Las Vegas. Couples, a power player in his prime, won twice at Riviera and was runner-up two other times.
'What happens is that when players win a tournament, they have such a belief that on Sunday, whether their game is on or off, they believe, 'Hey, I can do this.' That mental aspect gives them an edge,' said O'Meara, who also won a California State Amateur at Pebble.
Still, it would be foolish to suggest the course is not a factor for Woods.
He had three-year winning streaks at two other tournaments, Memorial and the NEC Invitational at Firestone, both suited for guys who hit the ball long and high.
And he clearly has an advantage over the shorter hitters at Bay Hill, especially the last two years when the greens were rebuilt and became so hard that players wondered what blend of concrete Palmer mixed with the grass.
'If you can drive the ball down there and keep it in play, it just makes it so much easier going to the greens with shorter clubs,' Woods said. 'And if you look at most of the guys who have had a chance the four years I've won, most of the guys are longer hitters.'
Love finished four shots behind in 2000, and Phil Mickelson gave Woods the stiffest challenge a year later, losing by one shot when Woods birdied the 18th hole. Mickelson also came close to catching Woods in 2002, until he went for the green on the par-5 16th -- under the trees and over the water -- and came up short.
Last year it really didn't matter who finished second with Woods winning by 11.
But ask Woods why he has won Bay Hill four straight time, and he talks primarily about what he sees and feels.
'I'm sure Davis will say that the golf course (Harbour Town) sets up well to his eye. You hear that a lot,' Woods said. 'You'll hear Riviera with Freddie, the whole golf course sets up to his eye. That's why this golf course, I've had success on it. I don't feel uncomfortable on a lot of the shots. On top of that, I've won here five times.
'The more you win, the more it breeds confidence.'
Woods wasn't looking ahead to Sunday, rather looking behind to the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur at Bay Hill, the start of another one of his amazing streaks. Woods is the only player to win three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs.
Not many would be surprised if he were to win Bay Hill again.
'I don't see anything stopping him from winning his fifth tournament,' O'Meara said. 'He's fired up. He wants it. But it's not going to be a pushover. These guys don't lie down for Tiger Woods.'
Love is coming off runner-up finishes in his last two tournaments, losing to Woods in the finals at the Match Play Championship and to Todd Hamilton's 8-iron into 4 feet last week at the Honda Classic.
Vijay Singh is coming off a two-week break and has the classic game for Bay Hill.
And if Bay Hill is only for power hitters, this should be right up Ernie Els' alley. The Big Easy won at Bay Hill in 1998 when he put 13 strokes between him and Woods over the final 36 holes played Sunday.
'I don't want to think about Tiger winning five,' Els said.
'But it's a hell of an achievement, especially in modern-day golf. He's set so many records already, and this will be another one that will stand -- if he does it -- for a very long time.
'You know, he's an amazing player.'
Indeed, Woods is quite a horse.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech
INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas matched the Brickyard Crossing record with a 10-under 62 on Thursday in the Indy Women in Tech Championship, making birdie on the final three holes for a two-stroke lead over fast-starting Angel Yin and Japan's Nasa Hataoka.
Yin birdied eight of the first nine holes in her morning round for a front-nine 8-under 28 - one short of the LPGA Tour's nine-hole record. It matched the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.
Salas eagled the par-5 second in the afternoon and added three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. She birdied Nos. 12 and 14 before reeling off three more in a row to close, waiting out a late 77-minute suspension for an approaching storm.
Salas matched the course record set by Mike McCullough in the PGA Tour Champions' 1999 Comfort Classic.
Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.
Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''
The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.
Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.
Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.
Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals
After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.
Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.
But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.
Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."
The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.
Lyle honored with sand sculpture at Wyndham
Jarrod Lyle passed away last week at the age of 36 after losing his third battle with cancer.
And after a PGA Championship filled with tributes to the Australian, the Wyndham Championship found its own way to keep his legacy alive at the North Carolina Tour stop.
Next to the Wyndham Championship and PGA Tour logos carved into the sand on site at Sedgefield Country Club is Lyle's name and the "Leuk the Duck" mascot. The duck has become synonymous with Challenge, an organization that supports kids with cancer.
Fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby posted the display on social media:
Lyle was also remembered in a more traditional manner on the first tee, where his bag and trademark yellow bucket hat were prominently displayed.