Season officially underway for Tour's biggest stars

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2014, 11:29 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The PGA Tour season began five months ago. The new year is two months old. And yet there's something about the Honda Classic that makes Tiger Woods and a collection of stars feel as though it's all about to get underway.

''I think once we get to Florida, I think we're all thinking about our way to Augusta,'' Woods said.

Six tournaments remaining before the Masters, the first major of the year, and this is now serious business. It shows in the strength of the field at PGA National, with seven of the top 10 players from the world ranking.

The last time Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott competed in the same tournament was the BMW Championship near Chicago last summer.

That's how it was a generation ago, when some of golf's top players either rested or played overseas early in the season, and then showed up in tropical conditions at Doral to start the official road to Augusta National.


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Woods has plenty of work to do based on his early performance – a missed 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines in his lone PGA Tour start this year, followed by a dismal performance by his standards at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he tied for 41st.

He conceded that he spent most of his winter break working on his body instead of his golf. Since returning from overseas earlier this month, Woods said he has spent most of his time working on his short game.

Woods isn't the only player coming off a substantial break.

Scott, the defending champion at Augusta, hasn't competed since the Sony Open in Honolulu. He spent the following week on the Big Island, surfing and playing a few casual rounds with his buddies, then killed time on the couch or doing anything not related to golf until it was time to get back to work.

He plans to play three of the next four tournaments.

''After three weeks I kind of felt like I needed to start swinging again and started to get the itch, but I think I timed it pretty well because I've had a nice couple weeks of intense practice before getting here and a week of playing with some mates before that,'' Scott said. ''I feel like I've had a nice preparation, but this is a very tough test, and it's probably not the ideal one to float back in off after an extended break.''

PGA National looks to have as much blue (water) as green (grass), and the course is converted into a par 70 at 7,140 yards for the Honda Classic. Michael Thompson won last year at 9-under 271.

It wouldn't seem to favor Mickelson, who has not played PGA National since he was an amateur.

Mickelson missed the last two weeks because his kids were on spring break, spending some of that time skiing and some of that playing golf. He did not want to fly out from California for one tournament next week at Doral, so he added the Honda Classic.

''The greens are really immaculate,'' Mickelson said. ''If you get hot with a putter, you can make a lot of putts. But I do like the golf course. I've always liked Nicklaus-designed golf courses. I know this course he renovated or redesigned years ago, and it's a wonderful test of golf, and I think that's a real credit as to why such a strong field continues to come here.''

This is only the third time Woods has played the Honda Classic as a pro. He rallied with a 62 in the final round in 2012 to finish behind McIlroy, and then struggled off the tee – particularly on the sixth hole – a year ago when he tied for 37th.

McIlroy has his own set of memories from PGA National, not all of them good. Even though he won in 2012 to become No. 1 in the world for the first time, he followed that by playing 26 holes last year before walking off the course with his game in disrepair and his business affairs not much better.

McIlroy said it was a mistake to quit, something he won't ever do again. But the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland is in a better frame of mind this year. He is comfortable with his equipment. He's engaged. He has settled into his own management (though he still is going through a legal battle with his old firm). And he is playing like the guy everyone expected to be the biggest threat to Woods.

''I'm in a better place,'' McIlroy said. ''And I feel like when my game is in a good place, everything else can sort of fall in line with that. It makes me feel more comfortable about everything.''

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.