Herman leads Honda by 1; McIlroy 8 back

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2015, 11:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Playing in America for the first time this year, Rory McIlroy's first shot was a 2-iron out of play.

A relentless wind with gusts that approached 35 mph provided a rude welcome to just about everyone Thursday at the Honda Classic except for Jim Herman, who somehow made it around PGA National without a bogey for a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead.

McIlroy managed to salvage a tough day with by holing a 30-foot birdie putt and two-putting for birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-over 73. It was his highest score to par since he opened with a 3-over 74 at The Barclays seven months ago. And he didn't seem too bothered.

The world's No. 1 player was competing for the first time since he won in Dubai a month ago. And he wasn't alone. He played with Dustin Johnson, who birdied his last two holes for a 77, and Phoenix Open winner Brooks Koepka, who shot a 78.


Honda Classic: Articles, videos and photos


''The conditions were obviously very tricky from the start,'' McIlroy said. ''From the first hole, it was always going to be a day like that. I feel like I salvaged something out of the round the last couple holes, but it was just a day to keep trying, not to give up and know that anything around level, 1-, 2-over par still isn't out of it.''

Only 19 players managed to break par. Only three holes - both par 5s and the downwind ninth - played under par. Seventeen players had a front-nine score of 40 or higher.

Herman didn't mind the wind, though he moved to South Florida more than a decade ago and was surprised earlier in the week when there was hardly any wind at all. Even with a 65, it still wasn't easy. He twice saved par from the fairway and rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.

''I don't mind it blowing,'' Herman said. ''I feel like I can control the golf ball pretty well with my iron game. So yeah, it was OK that the wind was blowing.''

Brendan Steele pitched in from about 35 yards to save bogey on the 14th hole, a key moment in his round of 66. Martin Flores, Kapalua winner Patrick Reed and Padraig Harrington were at 67. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer was among those at 68.

Harrington would seem to feel at home in these conditions. On a day when the gusts were relentless, they still would be considered a wee breeze in Ireland. Except that the Irishman has spent the last four weeks in gorgeous, calm weather on the West Coast.

''If I had come from Ireland, I probably would be thinking it was a nice day,'' Harrington said. ''But having played the last four weeks over here, even I was struggling and questioning and doubting myself out there. I found it very difficult.''

McIlroy found that out immediately.

Even starting on the easier first hole, the wind fooled him and took his 2-iron far to the right and toward the driving range. Just like that, he was 2 over.

He found the water left of the green on the par-3 fifth hole for another double bogey, and came within a foot of big trouble on the 14th. His tee shot went left toward some houses and stopped about 18 inches from the out-of-bounds stakes. He made bogey to fall to 5 over with four holes remaining.

Walking to the 15th tee, the power group of the day had put up some shocking numbers.

Johnson, who contended at Riviera and Pebble Beach, was 9 over for his round. Koepka was 5 over. Collectively, that made the group 19 over.

''Walking from 14 green to 15 tee, I said to Brooks, 'Let's just make a couple birdies on the way in, try and get something out of it,''' McIlroy said. ''Luckily, I was sort of able to do that. But it was tough. When nothing is going your way and you don't really have anything to feed off, you don't see many good shots and guys ... we're all struggling. It was a grind out there. We'll all go home and put our feet up and get ready for tomorrow.''

No one could remember the last time they faced such wind, which wasn't that strong for South Florida. There was virtually no wind in Hawaii this year, or even at Pebble Beach. It was a stiff start to the Florida swing.

Reed had the best score of the afternoon wave, when the wind was at its strongest.

''When I hit 6-iron normally 200 yards and I'm pulling 6-iron from 170, it's tough,'' Reed said. ''The main thing was just to stay in my golf swing and just be comfortable and try to be confident that's the club to hit from those distances. I feel like I did a good job.''

Phil Mickelson opened with a 71 and was relatively pleased, though that was hard work. He hit into water hazards three times on the front nine.

''I really enjoyed the challenge of the day,'' Mickelson said. ''It's fun to be back out competing, and I had a good day with the putter.''

Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”