Snedeker, Choi share lead; Woods 3 back

By Doug FergusonJanuary 25, 2013, 2:56 am

SAN DIEGO – One week after he began his year by missing the cut, Tiger Woods didn't notice a big difference in his game.

It was everything else about the opening round at Torrey Pines that changed. Relatively calm conditions. Rough that didn't cover the top of his shoes. A course that has been good to him since he was a teenager. And despite his putter not cooperating at the end of his round, a 4-under 68 on his scorecard.

Woods was on the verge of joining defending champion Brandt Snedeker and K.J. Choi atop the leaderboard Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open until missing three straight putts inside 12 feet late in his round.


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Snedeker was bogey-free on the North Course for a 65. Choi birdied three of his last four holes on the tougher South Course for his 65.

Woods, a seven-time champion at Torrey Pines, at least got off the South Course without further damage when he had to lay up on the par-5 18th hole, hit wedge over the green and into a bunker and made a 6-foot putt for par.

''Last week's conditions were a lot more difficult and the fairways were narrow and the wind was howling,'' Woods said. ''I felt like I was doing a lot of good things right last week - unfortunately, only for a few days, but doing a lot of good things right. And I came out here today and basically did the same thing.''

Woods three-putted for double bogey on the fourth hole, though he knew he had a pair of par 5s to make up ground. He did that, and more. He made a 12-footer for birdie, an eagle by holing a bunker shot on the par-5 sixth, and birdie putts on the eighth and ninth holes to get back into the game.

''I made a few mistakes out there, but I made some nice plays as well,'' Woods said.

Phil Mickelson had quite the taxing day with a 72 on the North, which played about 1 1/2 strokes easier than the course that hosted the U.S. Open in 2008.

Snedeker already is developing quite the love affair with this municipal course along the Pacific Bluffs. As a rookie, he was 10 under through 10 holes and had to settle for a 61 on the North Course. He finished third that year. Then, he rallied from seven shots behind in the final round, got into a playoff when Kyle Stanley made triple bogey on the 18th and won on the second playoff hole.

One year later, he was right back at it.

''It's funny, you look at all the golf courses I should play well on, this should not be one of them,'' Snedeker said. ''This is a long, difficult golf course with lots of rough and hitting a lot of iron shots. My strength is driving and putting, so it doesn't really add up well around here. But for some reason, it's been good to me.''

It was even more of a mystery for Choi.

He is not a regular at Torrey Pines and decided not to come last year until he heard from his host family in San Diego that the South Korean community wanted to see him play. Choi put on quite a show. He finally got some height and spin into shots while warming up on the range, and he converted that into the best round on the South.

He ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine - he started on No. 10 - and no shot was more pleasing than a wedge into a light crosswind on the 15th hole that settled inches from the cup.

''Best shot ever on the South Course – ever,'' he said, grinning.

Of the eight players at 66, only Josh Teater posted his on the South Course. Of the PGA Tour events that use multiple courses, few of them are as different as the South and North at Torrey Pines, although the difference in scoring average has been greater in recent years.

Charles Howell III summed it up best after his 66 on the North.

''The real one is tomorrow,'' Howell said.

Howell lost in a playoff last week in the Humana Challenge, and he started his season with a tie for third at the Sony Open. Whatever disappointment he felt in the California desert, he was able to shake off quickly. And he wasn't alone.

Scott Stallings lost a five-shot lead in the Humana Challenge and bogeyed the par-5 closing hole to miss the playoff. He bounced back with a 66.

And there was Woods.

He started his season by missing the cut in Abu Dhabi when he was docked two shots at the end of his round for a rules violation on the fifth hole. He was on more comfortable territory at Torrey Pines, though he says he didn't hit the ball much differently.

He missed birdie putts of 8, 15 and 12 feet on the back nine, along with two par putts from inside 8 feet.

Woods now goes to the North Course to figure out where he is before anyone can get a true sense of how this tournament is shaping up.

''I think he's won here more times than I've won on Tour, so I think he knows the place pretty well,'' Snedeker said. ''I think he's very similar to me. He loves putting on these greens. ... We've got three more days to go. There's 155 guys I'm still worried about besides him, so we have a lot more guys to worry about.''

Woods played with Rickie Fowler, who had a 77 and was tied for last place.

Mike Weir was among those who had a 66 on the North Course and appeared to be in great shape to make his first cut since 2011.

Mickelson's 72 felt even higher considering he was playing with Snedeker, who was firing at flags and holing his putts. A three-time winner at Torrey Pines, his week began with comments about the amount of taxes he is paying in California, followed by two rounds of apologies for not keeping his opinions to himself.

That wasn't a problem for him Thursday.

''I've been playing better than this, and there's no excuses,'' Mickelson said. ''I've got to get my head a little bit more focused on the shots, and I haven't been as focused starting out. Hopefully, I'll be able to turn that around tomorrow and start a little bit more effectively in the future.''


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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.


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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”


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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”



When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”