Rough No Joke at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 15, 2006, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods and the rest of a star-laden field at the Bay Hill Invitational can expect to see some extra length at Arnold Palmer's course.
 
Only this has nothing to do with yardage, typical of so many courses trying to challenge big hitters.
 
It's the length of the grass.
 
Palmer was positively beaming Wednesday morning when he talked about the Bay Hill Club being in the best shape it has ever been, especially rough that was thick enough for grazing.
 
'Of course,' Palmer said, turning to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, 'the PGA Tour is trying to accommodate the players, continue to cut it down.'
 
'It's going to be like that, is it?' Finchem jokingly replied.
 
The rough is no joke.
 
Tour officials recently set the mower height to 3 1/2 inches, which Palmer accepted because he doesn't think it will make stray tee shots any easier to hit.
 
Woods played for the first time in a year during his pro-am round and couldn't agree more.
 
'It's certainly a little more lush than we're used to seeing,' he said. 'I think it's hit or miss whether you get a good lie, because the rough is a little bit higher and thicker this year.'
 
So high and thick that he can't advance a 9-iron?
 
'I can hit 9-iron out,' Woods said. 'How far? It's a different story.'
 
Woods will be trying to continue building his momentum toward the Masters when the Bay Hill Invitational starts Thursday under what is expected to be dry conditions. He already has won three times in five starts this year, two of those on the PGA Tour and once in Dubai on the European tour.
 
Bay Hill brings good vibes, a place where he won four straight times until his streak was broken in 2003. He also won the first of three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles at Bay Hill, despite hitting his drive out-of-bounds on the 18th with a 1-up lead, winning in extra holes.
 
'It's one of those golf courses that fits your eye,' Woods said, a phrase he also throws around at Torrey Pines, where he won this year for the fourth time. 'Not too many golf courses you play all year that you have that happen, but this is certainly one of those for me.'
 
Another one is three weeks away at Augusta National, where Woods will be going after a fifth green jacket. He played Augusta on Sunday with Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, and said the extra length on six holes made the home of the Masters as tough as advertised.
 
But the Masters can wait.
 
First up is competing against a top-heavy field at Bay Hill, which includes Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia. The only player missing from the top six is former Bay Hill champion Phil Mickelson.
 
Els won Bay Hill in 1998, blowing past Woods and Davis Love III while playing with them in a 36-hole Sunday. That was his only chance to win here, and the Big Easy isn't sure why.
 
It didn't take him long to notice the thick grass lining the fairways, and Els had no complaints.
 
'If you hit the ball a long way, you should be reasonably accurate,' he said. 'Not one player on tour has the philosophy of just going out and hitting all over the place. It might work out that way, but we try and aim and get it in the fairway and give yourself the best opportunity to make birdie.'
 
It looks that way at times, especially considering the driving statistics.
 
Woods is hitting 47.9 percent of his fairways, which puts him at No. 179 in driving accuracy. The feeling is that big hitters blast away, believing it's easier to hit the green with a wedge in the rough than a 7-iron from the fairway.
 
But that isn't always the case.
 
Woods had a solid week off the tee at Doral, even if the statistics don't bear that out. He rarely missed the wrong side of a fairway, sometimes dribbling into the first cut or barely into the rough, but usually leaving himself the perfect angle to approach the pin.
 
He and his caddie, Steve Williams, went over his drives and found that Woods was in the first cut 13 times.
 
'If you add that into the fairway mix, it's not that bad,' Woods said. 'So it depends on your perspective. I feel like I'm driving the ball much better now than I was earlier in the year, because things we've been working on are starting to come together.'
 
Whether he can escape the rough at Bay Hill remains to be seen.
 
Palmer said the course is no different from what he plays with members. The greens are quick without running at warp speed. The fairways have ample room, although they aren't as generous as a resort course.
 
'The members play the same golf course as the pros, with that one exception -- the rough is going to be 4 inches,' Palmer said. 'We topped it at 3 1/2 , and we're not cutting it anymore.'
 
Kenny Perry won a rain-soaked Bay Hill Invitational last year at 12-under par, a winning score that Palmer found reasonable. If scoring gets out of hand, he still has a few options.
 
'We'll watch the scores this week, let the rough grow up a little bit, let the greens get a little faster and a little harder, and see what happens,' he said.
 
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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    But the also comment fits the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it'll be fatigue, maybe it'll be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is  too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”