An Old Rivalry Set to Resume

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods couldn't even see the flag, but he knew his 4-iron was close to perfect. Thousands of fans who were crammed elbow-to-elbow on a grassy hillock above the 14th green saw the ball bang into the cup, but they had no idea who hit it.
 
Seconds later, when Woods emerged from behind a row of bunkers and high-fived his caddie, the mystery was over.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods holds the 36-hole lead after posting a 7-under 65 in Rd. 2 at Hoylake.
The question Friday was whether the British Open was over, too.
 
Woods put on a clinic with his long irons, none more spectacular than his eagle from 209 yards on one of the toughest holes at Royal Liverpool. It carried him to a 7-under 65, matching his best score ever in a major, and gave him a one-shot lead over Ernie Els.
 
'I was just trying to land the ball on the front edge and let it chase on there and get my 4 and go on,' Woods said. 'It happened to go in.'
 
But when asked whether the tournament was over, Woods tapped the table.
 
'I'm not here with the (claret) jug,' he said. 'We've got a long way to go, man.'
 
Even so, his name atop the leaderboard is a daunting sight at Grand Slam events. This is the seventh time Woods has had the 36-hole lead in a major, and he has never lost from out front.
 
That didn't seem to bother Els. When the Big Easy headed to the first tee, the scoreboard already showed Woods at 12 under par.
 
Instead of getting spooked, Els was inspired.
 
'If he's 12 under, there's some birdies to be made out there,' Els said. 'I had to get my share of them.'
 
Els made birdie on all the par 5s, and picked up two more strokes with shots that were every bit as good as Woods', though not quite as dramatic. One was a bump-and-run 7-iron that stopped rolling 2 feet from the cup on No. 3, the other a 4-iron into 15 feet left of the flag on the 14th. He made birdie from just short of the par-5 18th for his 65.
 
All along, his target was Woods and that posted score of 12-under 132.
 
'I didn't want to back down,' Els said. 'I really was trying to get into this final group. I haven't been in this position for a while. I'd love to play as well or even better on the weekend. Maybe I'll have to.'
 
It will be the first time Woods and Els have played in the final group at a major since the last round of the 2000 U.S. Open, although that was hardly a fair fight. Woods had a 10-shot lead, and wound up winning by 15.
 
But with two days remaining, the British Open was hardly a two-man race.
 
Chris DiMarco, whose mother died of a heart attack July 4, emerged from his slump with a 65 and was three shots behind at 9-under 135. Another shot back was two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who had a 66.
 
Still, it all starts with Woods, who is trying to become the first back-to-back British Open champion since Tom Watson in 1982-83.
 
'Tiger at his best is hard to beat,' said DiMarco, who lost a playoff to Woods in the Masters last year. 'Tiger at a course he likes at his best is really hard to beat. All I can do is go out and try to play the best golf I can play. Anything can happen in 36 holes.'
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson will need a lot to happen. He never got anything going in his 71, leaving him eight shots behind. That still leaves him in better shape than Vijay Singh, who started bogey-double bogey on his way to a 76, missing the cut for the first time in 15 majors.
 
What might make Woods tough to catch is the caution with which he is playing Royal Liverpool.
 
Woods has hit only one driver in two rounds, opting for a 2-iron off most par 4s and a 3-wood on the par 5s with the ground so firm and the pot bunkers lurking on every fairway. That leaves him longer irons into the green, but that was no problem.
 
Nothing was more magical than his 4-iron in the second round, even from short range.
 
Woods' approach to the par-5 fifth hole went over the green and down the slope. He used a 4-iron to scoot the ball up the hill and down toward the flag, the ball stopped 6 inches behind the cup. Then came a 4-iron from 190 yards on the 12th hole that was pure, stopping 12 feet away. Woods missed the putt, but the swing stuck in his memory, and it was instant recall two holes later.
 
He again laid well back of the bunkers -- Woods often spotted short-hitting Nick Faldo some 30 yards off the tee -- and had 194 yards to the front of the 14th green.
 
'I was basically hitting the same shot, just trying to hold the ball in the wind,' he said. 'And I really hit it flush and held it nicely. I hit it on my line -- I was looking at the left edge of the TV tower -- and if the wind blows it over, that's fine.'
 
He watched it as long as he could, then was startled to hear the cheers, and see the British fans raise their arms in unison. It was a muted cheer, nothing like the roar of Augusta National or Bethpage Black, partially because it happened so fast and no one was quite sure who hit it.
 
'It went in?' Woods asked caddie Steve Williams.
 
Indeed, it did. The gallery gave him a standing ovation when Woods was still 50 yards from the green.
 
Back in the fairway, Williams jokingly tried to make Woods carry the bag.
 
'We keep hitting the perfect 4-iron,' Williams said he told him. 'I'll give you the bag, and I'll just carry the 4-iron.'
 
The only blemish for Woods was a bogey on the third hole when he found the rough, and failing to birdie the par-5 18th after pulling his 3-wood into the left rough, making him play well short of the green.
 
Els usually winds up on the short end against Woods. He has finished second to him seven times, far more than any other player, including a playoff loss in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year when Els hit into the water.
 
He knows about Woods' record as the leader, and that pushed him as he played the final nine late in the afternoon.
 
'I didn't want to get crazy aggressive, but I needed to keep the foot on the pedal,' Els said. 'As you know, and as I know, he's quite a good front-runner, so you need to reach out and try to hold him back. He's not going to back down from a lead.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.