Notes Tiger vs Lefty in Set Up

By Associated PressJune 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Padraig Harrington assessed his game as ``shabby'' heading into the U.S. Open. In other words, he's right on course for a good week.
As is his custom, the 33-year-old Irishman found himself struggling a bit Tuesday, hoping to cram in enough work before the first round to contend again in this event. He has three top 10s in seven previous starts.
``I'm the sort of person that on a Tuesday is kind of trying to gather everything together,'' Harrington said. ``I always look to my weaknesses before I start a tournament and try and get them up to strengths. That's always the same feeling every tournament, certainly every major, is that I'd like another week.''

Not that he would change anything.
``Yeah, I've won when I've played shabby nearly every event,'' Harrington said. ``I usually play very well when I'm in that form.''
His season started off well enough, with his first PGA Tour victory coming in the Honda Classic. Since then, he's fallen into a bit of funk, and a tie for ninth in New Orleans is his best effort in five starts since. Harrington missed the cut last week at the Booz Allen Classic.
Still, he would like nothing more than to become the first European to win the Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
``To be honest, the courses in Europe are being set up with about 22-, 24-yard fairways like this and the rough is intended to be heavier than it is here,'' Harrington said. ``You know it's going to happen sooner or later. We're going to get a few wins in the U.S. Open.''
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson take different approaches to their preparations for majors. Both seem to work.
Much as Jack Nicklaus did in his prime, Woods prefers to take the previous week off and practice. Mickelson usually plays in a tournament to get himself ready, believing he'll concentrate better the next week.
``I think it's a matter of personal preference,'' Mickelson said. ``I found that playing the week before, I was in a better frame of mind competitively, fresh and sharp, and when Thursday comes, I've only had three days of competitive golf off, as opposed to 10 or 11. So that seems to get me a little more focused on the round at hand.''
Last week, Mickelson finished in a tie for 29th at the Booz Allen Classic at Congressional Country Club, while Woods spent the time in Pinehurst. And the way Woods sees it, committing to a tournament might deprive him of a chance to get better, even if he has to travel halfway across the country to see swing coach Hank Haney.
``I think it's a personal preference, because I know if I play a tournament, if you get a rain delay and get rained out, I mean, there goes a whole day of practice,'' Woods said. ``I can always either practice at home, (and) if there's rain coming, I can fly to Dallas and practice in Dallas with Hank. If you play a tournament, you're locked in.''
With temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity, the weather was quite steamy Tuesday at No. 2. It's supposed to be just as warm Wednesday, with cooler temperatures expected by the weekend.
Either way, it won't be a problem for Chris DiMarco, who endured similar conditions last week at the Booz Allen along with the rest of the field.
``It couldn't be any hotter than it was last week,'' he said. ``You just have to stay hydrated. I think I drank a bottle of water a hole last week, and I didn't go to the bathroom once. It was sweating out of you. You just deal with it.''
DiMarco has dealt with the pressure that comes with a major very well in the past year, losing in playoffs in the past two. He hasn't won on tour since 2002 but still is having one of his best seasons -- he's seventh on the money list.
And not even a stiff neck slowed him down. When he arrived at the Wachovia Championship in May, he nearly was forced to withdraw with the injury, but he was able to compete. The pain eventually subsided, and he pronounced himself fit for the Open.
``It actually helped me,'' DiMarco said. ``I used to crack my neck all the time, and since that week, I haven't had to crack it. I was always worried I was going to snap my spinal cord, so I don't worry about that anymore.''
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    Country singer Owen shoots 86 in debut

    By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

    Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

    Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

    Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

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    Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

    While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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    New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

    By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

    After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

    The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

    "I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

    The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

    "I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

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    Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

    Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

    "Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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    McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

    By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

    VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

    Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

    The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

    McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

    Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

    ''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

    ''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

    McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

    After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

    Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

    Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

    Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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    Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

    By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

    After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

    The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

    "I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

    Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    "I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

    Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

    Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

    "I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."