Woods Makes 120th Straight Cut

By Associated PressMarch 27, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Whether he's in first place or last, Tiger Woods prides himself on giving his best effort. That effort was good enough to keep him around for the weekend once again. On a day when Kevin Sutherland and Jerry Kelly took the lead at The Players Championship, Woods made almost as big a splash by picking up his game to simply make the cut, extending his record streak to 120 straight events.
'I play the same way whether I'm shooting 82 or 62,' Woods said Friday after shooting 3-under-par 69 to finish at even par. 'There might be others who don't play that way. I play that way all the time.'
Woods goes into the weekend nine strokes behind the leaders, a seemingly insurmountable margin to most, but not to him.
'I was trying to shoot 66 and get to 3 under,' he said. 'That's where I thought I needed to be to win the tournament. Now, I've just got to go out, shoot a good, solid number and get myself where I need to be.'
Sutherland holed an 80-foot bunker shot on his way to a 69 for his first 36-hole lead in eight years. Kelly worked his way through a mixed bag of an afternoon that included rain, wind and also some pretty calm weather on the Stadium Course, to shoot 66.

Ernie Els shot 69 in the morning to finish two shots back at 7 under, and first-day leader Adam Scott finished in even par to leave him at 7 under, too. Another stroke back are Vijay Singh (68) and Padraig Harrington (70), part of a leaderboard dotted both with stars and lesser-knowns.
'Just being in contention is nice,' said Phil Mickelson, who is four shots back at 139.
Mickelson saved his day on No. 18, when he drove into the water, but hit his drop to 10 feet and made the putt to save par.
Meanwhile, the highlight of Kelly's round came on No. 6, where he punched a chip out of deep grass to five feet to save par.
'The round-saver,' he called it.
It helped him to the second-round lead here for the second time in four years. In 2001, he led after both the second and third rounds, but finished fourth. He claims he's a different player now, having refined a swing that used to give him trouble.
'The difference between then and now is I was relying on timing, and I had no clue whether a good shot or a bad shot was going to come out,' Kelly said. 'Now, if I do what I know I have to do, a good shot is going to come out.'
Sutherland made four birdies, although it was his ability to avoid disaster after a bad drive on No. 14 that might have saved his day.
He drove into rough so deep that he had a hard time even identifying his ball. He wasn't sure he could advance it 15 yards, but it came out hot, through the fairway, into a bunker and behind a tree.
He wound up holing a 12-foot putt for bogey.
'That was huge,' he said. 'Making that putt was like making a birdie putt as far as momentum goes.'
Despite the successes of Sutherland and Kelly, much of this day was about Woods and whether he could keep his streak going. The world's top player muted much of the suspense right away, hitting a 5-iron to 10 feet for eagle on his second hole, the par-5 11th, then making birdie on 12 to move to even par.
He insisted the issue of missing the cut wasn't foremost on his mind.
'I'm always doing the same thing,' he said. 'I go out and give it everything I've got. Some days, it's pretty good. Others, it's not so good.'
Woods wasn't the only one who needed a good round to stick around. Defending champion Davis Love, ailing with back problems during the first round, felt better Friday and shot 68 to make the cut with a stroke to spare.
'I wouldn't say I kicked it into another gear,' he said. 'I just went back to playing the way I'd been playing.'
Another drama being played out is that of John Daly. He needs to finish 19th or better to qualify for the Masters. After extending his bogey-free streak to 27 holes, he struggled on his last nine, making four bogeys en route to a 73. He goes into the weekend tied for 21st at 2 under.
'It's a matter of just trying to concentrate on each hole here,' Daly said. 'The outside goal is to get in the Masters, but I can't think about it when I'm playing here.'
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Players Championship

  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Els: Tiger playing well validates his generation

    By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Tiger Woods has come close to looking like the player who ruled golf for the better part of 15 years, and Ernie Els is happy to see it.

    Never mind that Els was on the losing end to Woods more than any other player.

    He speaks for his generation of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and others. Els keeps hearing about the depth of talent being greater than ever, and he has seen it. But he gets weary listening to suggestions that Woods might not have 79 PGA Tour victories if he had to face this group.

    ''I'm just glad he's playing like I know he can play to validate me – validate me, Phil and Vijay,'' Els said. ''We weren't bad players. This guy was a special player. To see him back, playing special stuff again ... is great for the game.''

    Generational debates are nothing new.

    Every generation was better than the next one. Then again, Jack Nicklaus used to lament that Woods was lacking competition from players who had more experience winning majors, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

    Mickelson, Els and Singh combined to win 12 majors. Els says Woods won 14 on his own because he was that much better.

    Does it get under his skin to hear fans rave about this generation's players?

    ''It doesn't (tick) me off. Can you imagine how it must (tick) Tiger off?'' he said. ''He was leaps and bounds the best player. People forget very quickly, and then you see special players like we have now, the younger generation. But I know what I played against. You can't take anything away from anybody.''

    Doug Ferguson is a golf writer for The Associated Press

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    Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

    The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

    “I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

    Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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    As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

    “I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.