Honda Classic tops list for favorite moment of 2012

By Damon HackDecember 31, 2012, 1:08 pm

It’s folly to pick a favorite week of 2012 – they were all pretty stout, weren't they? But I’ll make a case for The Honda Classic at PGA National.

That was the week when Rory McIlroy held off Tiger Woods, who happened to throw a Sunday 62 at the lad.

I still remember crouching by the tee box on the 13th hole and watching Tiger bomb a drive into the distance.

“Fairway,” Tiger announced, handing the club back to his caddie, Joe LaCava.

I still remember ducking beneath the gallery ropes on the 18th fairway, where Tiger smoked a five-iron from a hanging lie over water to 8 feet. (I’m not sure how many people on the planet have that shot).

When he rolled in the eagle putt, the roar was loud enough for Rory to hear it on the 13th green. No matter. Rory birdied the hole, saved par from off the green on 15 and 17, won the first of four PGA Tour events on the year, and became No. 1 in the world.

Watching Rory and Tiger trade blows was enough to elevate the tournament to the top of my list, but it was only one of the great memories I have of the week.

On the morning of the final round, I visited the home of Barbara and Jack Nicklaus for a profile on one of the most famous wives in sport.

Jack had a tennis match that morning, but before he left he sat and joined Barbara in some storytelling about long road trips, portable cribs and diaper pails. Frank Sinatra played softly in the background. We could have been back at Ohio State.

Later that day, with his tennis match behind him, Jack popped over to PGA National to give final-round commentary on the NBC broadcast. Barbara was there, too, among the dignitaries who greeted Rory for his trophy presentation in the gloaming.

With his parents watching near the 18th green, Rory stood before the cameras and held the trophy in his right hand and pointed a finger of his left in the air. He wore a bright blue shirt.

Rory then made his way to the giant clubhouse, answering dozens of questions before walking to the locker room to sign 21 Honda Classic flags and kick off his golf spikes at last.

“Well done, No. 1,” Rory’s caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, told him before the player hopped into a courtesy car for a flight to New York.

The sky was black. The week was over. I didn’t expect to see PGA National for the rest of the year.

But three days before Christmas, I pulled onto the property one more time, to the large valet stand where I had talked Knicks basketball with Lee Westwood earlier in the year (Linsanity was gripping New York City in March).

My wife and I, along with our favorite couple, had decided to drive to Palm Beach, the wives for the spa, the fellas for golf (including a session at the Leadbetter Golf Academy; wearing a Golf Channel logo has only added to my desire to improve).

We hit putts on the giant practice green where I’d asked Padraig Harrington in March why so many players loved the championship course. “This is a golf course that asks a lot of questions,” he’d said.

We wolfed down steaks at Ironwood and relaxed at the lobby bar, always the hub of activity at PGA National.

The highlight, though, was our lesson with Bob Hite, a teaching pro from Paducah, Kentucky.

Hite broke down our swings on video. We joked that we were watching a horror show. (At least I think we were joking). We chased the sunset on the Fazio course.

When it was time to leave, we strode through the lobby past pictures of Nicklaus and Palmer and the rest.

There is also a picture of Rory, in the blue shirt, holding that Honda Classic trophy he won in March.

Well done, No. 1.

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Six players named in the race for Tour Player of the Year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 11:26 am

The PGA Tour announced six nominees for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award on Tuesday; although, to many, it won’t be a competition.

Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas have been nominated for the Jack Nicklaus Award.

DeChambeau won three times this season, including the first two playoff events; Johnson was also a three-time winner and had 12 top-10 finishes; Molinari had two victories, including The Open; Rose won the FedExCup, and Thomas had three victories. But if player reaction last week at the Tour Championship was any indication, they are all vying for second place behind Koepka.

Although Koepka only had two victories they were both majors, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, after missing a good portion of the season with an injury.

The Tour also released the five nominees for the Rookie of the Year Award, although that race appears to be a foregone conclusion as well. Aaron Wise was the only member of the rookie class to advance to the Tour Championship and also won the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Voting for both awards ends on Oct. 1.

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Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.

One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?

“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

That much appeared in doubt. 

Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.

Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.

Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.


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“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.

“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.

With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.

“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.

Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.

“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”

Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”

“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”

Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”

It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.

“It won’t be,” he said flatly.

Then he softened.

“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”

But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.


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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.