Scott can relate to current youth movement
Rory McIlroy shot a 62 at Quail Hollow to break the course record by two shots. Ryo Ishikawa shot a 58 to break the record of any course on a major tour and win The Crowns in Japan.
McIlroy turned 21 on Tuesday. Ishikawa, 18, graduated from high school two months ago. And to keep with the timing, 16-year-old Matteo Manassero is making his professional debut this week in the Italian Open. He made the cut at the Masters.
Adam Scott wasn’t sure which amazed him more.
“I wouldn’t have broken 90 at Augusta when I was 16,” he said. “I’m not just saying that as a throwaway line. I mean that. I wasn’t anywhere near that level at his age.”
Scott wasn’t too shabby, however. He turned pro when he was 20 and earned his European Tour card in eight starts. Over the next decade, he reached as high as No. 3 in the world and has won 15 times around the world, one of those The Players Championship when he became its youngest champion in 2004 at age 23.
Scott was born the same year as Sergio Garcia, who reached No. 2 in the world and counts The Players among his 18 wins worldwide.
McIlroy, Ishikawa and perhaps Manassero might be the next crops of kiddies, and Scott sees a trend.
“Every generation learns from the one before,” he said. “Tiger won early and Sergio learned from that, and he did it early. I was doing it at a fairly early age. Now you have Rory and Ryo. They’ve learned from guys like Tiger. Look at Ryo. He’s 18 and he’s been doing this for three years. He’s already played a Presidents Cup. That’s hard to get your head around.”
That begs the question: Who did Woods learn from?
Scott recalls Woods playing Augusta National as an amateur with Greg Norman, not to mention Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
“I think he learned from the best of his time,” Scott said. “He’s a special athlete who always had an extra sense. From what I remember hearing from Butch Harmon, Tiger soaked up information from everybody.”
CHANGING SIDES: Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot in the water on the island-green 17th at Sawgrass during a practice round Tuesday.
Not to be alarmed. He was hitting right-handed, and this time, there wasn’t a tree in his way.
Mickelson practiced with two-time Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson, and they decided to switch clubs when they got to the most famous hole at The Players Championship.
“He and I had a little contest,” Mickelson said. “He was going to hit it lefty, I was going to hit it righty, and neither one of us hit the green. I at least reached the water. Dustin struggled with that.”
ISLAND SOD: Because of the harsh winter in Florida, the condition of the Players Stadium course is not as good as it has been. The fairways and greens are running well, although there are splotches of green.
On the famous island green at No. 17, there is a patch of sod from where the grass did not come in. That means the back left hole location might not be used this week.
“A couple more chances for a hole-in-one, I guess,” Jim Furyk said.
He was referring to the front of the green, where players can land the ball in the ridge and allow it to funnel back to the cup. The back left location is considered the toughest, as players must make sure they hit it beyond the ridge without going too far into the water.
“It’s enticing,” Furyk said. “It makes you want to fire at it, even though you shouldn’t. I actually won’t miss it, to be dead honest.”
The other area of concern is chipping from around the greens, where the lie can be bare. J.J. Henry was behind the 13th hole when he chose to bump a 2-iron instead of chipping.
Phil Mickelson has opted for the putter.
“It reminded me a lot of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2005 when there was a very bare area around the green and a lot of sand, and you weren’t able to get a wedge underneath it,” Mickelson said. “I found myself putting a lot from off the green, which I expect to do here just because you just can’t get a wedge underneath the ball.”
TIGER TIMES: As expected, Tiger Woods will be teeing off Thursday afternoon from the first hole. That’s only significant because it means he will start on No. 10 on Friday morning (8:18 a.m.).
The 17th hole is the rowdiest at The Players Championship, especially on Friday afternoon when fans have had plenty to drink and are at their most vocal. When Woods gets to that hole Friday, it will be just before 11 a.m.
He had the early-late rotation last week at Quail Hollow.
Over the last 10 years at The Players Championship, this is only the third time Woods has had the late-early rotation. He will be playing with Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan.
POULTER ON THE MEND: Ian Poulter says he is back at full strength after injuring his knee playing basketball.
“Happy days,” Poulter said Tuesday on the range at the TPC Sawgrass. “The knee is good, the fluid is fully dissipated, full strength. There are no issues.”
Poulter, who won the Match Play Championship in February for his first American victory, pulled out of New Orleans because of his knee. He had been playing basketball with his son in the driveway when a few friends showed up, and they went at it for an hour.
“Guys in the NBA only play 48 minutes,” said Poulter, a regular at Orlando Magic games. “What was I thinking?”
DIVOTS: This is the first time Tiger Woods has played the week after missing the cut. … Camilo Villegas and his younger brother, Manny, will be playing together on the PGA Tour for the first time in the St. Jude Classic. Manny Villegas has received a sponsor’s exemption. … Bob Estes showed up Tuesday wearing trousers that look as though they were made from his grandmother’s quilt. He got them from John Daly, the “Loudmouth” variety. “If John can’t be here, someone should wear them,” Estes said with a laugh. But he won’t wear them during the tournament rounds. … Tiger Woods has never held the lead at The Players Championship except for after the final round in 2001, the only time he won.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy (No. 13) was the highest-ranked player to win a tournament where Tiger Woods missed the cut.
FINAL WORD: “The first time I won here was the first year that I stopped trying to make a 2 on that hole and just accepted 3 as being a good score, even though I’ve got a wedge in my hand.” – Phil Mickelson, on the island-green 17th at the TPC Sawgrass.
Van Paris' historic week at U.S. Am ends in Rd. of 32
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Standing to the left of the 16th green Thursday, Jackson Van Paris clasped his hands behind his head and grimaced as Mason Overstreet ended his historic week at Pebble Beach.
It was little consolation to him afterward, of course, but earlier this week Van Paris, 14, became the second-youngest competitor to win a match at the U.S. Amateur.
The only player younger? Bob Jones. In 1916.
“I learned that I can hang with all these players,” said Van Paris, who lost to Overstreet, 3 and 2, in the Round of 32. “I can play with these guys. I played with two of the best players in the field and hung with them for the majority of the matches.”
After qualifying for match play, Van Paris took Australian Dylan Perry – the 30th-ranked amateur in the world – the distance and then holed a chip shot on the final green to prevail, 1 up. His second-round opponent was no slouch, either: Overstreet, a junior at Arkansas, was the 2017 NCAA individual runner-up.
Overstreet is 6-foot-1 and sturdily built, and he took advantage of his lengthy by pounding it past the tall and skinny Van Paris. On the ninth hole, Overstreet caught the downslope in the fairway and had only a wedge into the green. With his body still developing, Van Paris maxes out at 270 yards off the tee. About 60 yards behind his opponent, he hit 5-iron into a firm green that had about a 10-foot circle to get it close. Overstreet made birdie, took a 2-up lead, went 3 under for his first 12 holes in windier conditions and easily won the match.
“Mason played great, and he’s a really good player,” Van Paris said, “but I felt like it was nothing I couldn’t handle.”
Those in junior golf circles know all about Van Paris, a rising sophomore who lives about five minutes from Pinehurst No. 2 and is already one of the top prospects in the Class of 2021. A two-time AJGA winner, he’s verbally committed to play college golf at Vanderbilt, alongside his friend Gordon Sargent, the beginning of what he hopes is a dream team during his four years in school.
The Commodores’ affable coach, Scott Limbaugh, the facilities and the team’s recent success were key factors in his early decision, but so were the academics. “I’d rather get a 99 on a test than top 10 in a tournament,” he said.
Tuesday was the first day of school at O’Neal High School, a college prep school in Southern Pines. Before his match, the students and teachers sent him a photo of them holding up a “Let’s Go, Jackson! Go Low!” sign in front of the school. Once Van Paris knocked out his first-round opponent, he was flooded with texts, emails and Snapchats. One note in particular stood out: The head of the school joked that Van Paris’ absences the rest of the week were unexcused.
Asked what he’ll tell his classmates when he returns to school, Van Paris said: “That I went to the coolest place in the U.S, played the coolest golf course in the country, played the biggest amateur tournament in the world and got 17th.”
His experience at the U.S. Amateur – where he competed against players who were at least four years older – was nothing new for Van Paris. He’s been playing up since he was 6.
“He’s always wanted to play against the best players he could find,” said Van Paris’ father, Todd. “But now that he’s old enough to play against his peers, it’s been a different dynamic – he’s not the underdog, he’s the favorite. It’s going to be an interesting transition.”
Todd Van Paris said that his son has grown about six inches and added about 40 yards over the past year. He’ll only pack on more muscle over the next few years, shortening the distance gap between him and players like Overstreet.
Van Paris’ goal Wednesday was to win both of his matches and reach the quarterfinals. Then he’d be fully exempt into next year’s U.S. Amateur … at Pinehurst No. 2, just down the street from his parents’ house.
“I know that he’s proud of what he’s accomplished this week,” Todd Van Paris said, “but I guarantee you that he thought he could win the tournament. He really thought he could do it. That’s what makes him special.”
After opening up, Lexi shoots 'comfortable' 68
Lexi Thompson looked at ease, smiling and laughing in a solid start in her return to the tour Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, where she felt the benefit of her month-long break.
“It was very relaxing out there,” Thompson said. “I felt very comfortable where my game was at. I just tried to go out and let my game show and not put too much pressure on myself.”
Thompson, 23, the defending champ, opened with a 4-under-par 68, four shots behind Angel Yin, the early leader. Thompson skipped the Ricoh Women’s British Open two weeks ago to take a “mental break” and address emotional struggles that built up through last year’s highs and lows.
In a news conference Wednesday, Thompson was candid sharing the challenges she has faced as a prodigy who has poured so much of herself into the game, and how she has recently sought the help of therapists in building a life that isn’t all about golf.
“I’m not just a robot out here,” Thompson said in heartfelt fashion in her news conference. “I need to have a life.”
Thompson said she took almost two weeks off without touching a club after her last start at the Marathon Classic.
After Thursday’s round, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz asked her about her decision to share her struggle.
“It was very hard for me to take the break, because I didn’t want to show that weakness, but at the same time it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge you need that kind of break, and to take time for yourself,” Thompson said. “Especially when you are in the spotlight like this, it can get hard, to just live your life for you, and figure out what makes you happy.”
Thompson is the highest ranked American in the world at No. 5 in the Rolex rankings. She was the Golf Writers Association of America female Player of the Year last season and also claimed the LPGA’s Vare Trophy for low scoring average, but it was still the toughest year of her career. She watched her mother battle cancer and dealt with the death of a grandmother. She also endured tough competitive blows, losing the ANA Inspiration after being hit with a controversial four-shot penalty in the final round. At year’s end, she lost out on a chance to ascend to world No. 1 and win the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year award after missing a short putt on the final hole in the season finale.
Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham
Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.
Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.
Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.
Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.
Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.
Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.
"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."
Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away
Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.
Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.
"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"
But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.
"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”
Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.
"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."