Three Tied Tiger One Back

By Associated PressMarch 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Bay Hill InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Soft greens and benign conditions must have made players wonder if they were really at the Bay Hill Invitational on Thursday. All it took was Tiger Woods near the lead to remind them.
Trying to become the first player on any tour to win the same tournament five straight times, Woods got off to a solid start by missing only one fairway in a round of 5-under 67 that left him one shot out of the lead.
'I haven't won yet,' Woods said when asked again what would it mean to win five years in a row. 'Hopefully, I have a chance this year. I've set myself up. I have three more rounds -- a long way to go.'
And there are so many talented players around him.
Chad Campbell and Darren Clarke each navigated Bay Hill without a bogey in their rounds of 66, while Shigeki Maruyama joined them late in the afternoon when the greens became slightly firmer.
John Daly also joined the chase, returning from a freak hand accident to shoot 68.
'This course has not been kind to me in the past,' said Daly, whose adventures at Bay Hill include an 18 on the par-5 sixth hole in 1998 and an 87 in the final round in 2000. 'It's just good to play at Arnie's tournament, and to play well for a change.'
Tournament host Arnold Palmer received ovations at every turn, despite an 88, his highest score ever. His legion of fans had some good golf to cheer, as Campbell played with the King for the first time.
'Showing off, trying to impress him,' Campbell joked. 'I was real excited about coming out to play today. It's a pretty memorable experience. We owe him so much.'
Campbell, who ended last year by winning the Tour Championship, was efficient as ever. He chipped in from 45 feet on the tough par-3 second hole, and closed out his round with good iron shots into 12 feet on Nos. 7 and 8.
'I didn't give myself any trouble,' he said.
Clarke had to scramble a couple of times. He holed a 20-foot par putt on No. 6 after a poor chip from behind the green, and got away with a chunked approach on No. 18 by chipping to 5 feet for another good save.
Maruyama had seven birdies, narrowly avoiding trouble on the 18th hole when his 8-iron just cleared the water.
'Almost water,' he said, wiping his brow. 'Scary.'
Nationwide Tour player of the year Zach Johnson, Mercedes Championships winner Stuart Appleby and Jerry Kelly joined Woods at 67. The best round of that group probably belonged to Kelly, who not only played in the afternoon, but spent Wednesday night in the hospital with food poisoning.
Daly was in a large group at 68 that included Vijay Singh, Brad Faxon, Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott, while Mark O'Meara, Davis Love III and British Open champion Ben Curtis were among those at 69.
Still, most of the attention was on Woods.
Maruyama used a translator for most of his interview until he got to the question about Woods trying to win Bay Hill for the fifth year in a row.
'Possible,' he said, breaking into a wide grin. 'Very possible.'
Woods overpowered the par 5s, as usual. He made birdie on all four of them, and had eagle putts twice. But what set this round apart was his driving, which continues to be strong after a bad year off the tee.
He never hit into the rough in the first round, although the one fairway Woods missed came at No. 3 when he pulled his 3-wood into the water and made bogey.
Woods followed with a 320-yard drive that set up an easy birdie, and he had the outright lead most of the morning with a flop shot from deep rough on the par-5 12th that cleared the bunker and caught the right edge of the cup.
'You just expect it,' Baddeley said of Woods' name being on the leaderboard at Bay Hill. 'That's unusual if you don't see his name on the board. All I can do is worry about my little golf ball, and whoever shoots the lowest score is going to win.'
The last four years, that's been Woods.
The 67 was his best start since he opened the Funai Classic at Disney in October with a 66.
Still, no one is saying that the tournament is over, as Colin Montgomerie once suggested when Woods opened with a 69 four years ago (and eventually won by four).
Heavy rains earlier in the week allowed for softer conditions on the normally brick-hard greens, and more than 70 players were at par or better. The forecast is for continued sunshine the rest of the week, so Bay Hill figures to get even more difficult with each round.
Divots: Ernie Els, in his first PGA Tour event since winning the Sony Open, shot 73. ... Maybe it was more than just a coincidence that Daly, Craig Parry and Todd Hamilton were grouped together the first two rounds. All three won this year with incredible shots on the final hole -- Daly hitting a 100-foot bunker shot to within 4 inches at Torrey Pines; Parry holing a 6-iron for eagle in playoff at Doral; and Hamilton an 8-iron to 4 feet to win last week in the Honda Classic. ... Curtis appears to have settled on Jupiter, Fla., as his second home. Curtis, who lives outside Columbus, Ohio, had been leaning toward the Naples area, but he and his wife are good friends with Fredrik Jacobson, one of many Swedes living in Jupiter.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Bay Hill Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Bay Hill Invitational
  • Getty Images

    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

    Getty Images

    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

    Getty Images

    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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

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

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

    Getty Images

    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.