Tiger, celebrities front and center at Pebble Beach

By Doug FergusonFebruary 8, 2012, 1:48 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Bill Murray stumbled into the back of a crowded conference room Tuesday just as Tiger Woods was wrapping up his press conference at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The “Caddyshack” star looked more confused than usual.

“Where’s the other guy?” Murray asked.

Murray, as it turned out, was an hour late.

He was supposed to be at the interview table with D.A. Points, his partner last year when they won the pro-am, and perhaps the most overlooked defending champion at a PGA Tour event since Nick Price at Colonial in 2003.

“I got here and I got the program and I looked at the tickets and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Didn’t I win?’” Points said. “And there are pictures of Bill everywhere. I’m driving down the highway, I see a billboard. There’s Bill. There’s Tiger. I’m like, ‘Where am I?’”

It’s the only PGA Tour event Points has won, so he was a little bummed at the oversight.

But he gets it.

“The celebrities obviously make this event larger-than-life sometimes,” he said.

That’s the effect Woods has this week at Pebble Beach.

It’s not unusual for him to start a PGA Tour season along the Pacific coast, though it’s usually at Torrey Pines. And there is a certain magic about Woods and Pebble Beach, which has been a big part of his career even though he has won only twice, both in the same year.

The first was the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it’s a timely memory considering the last two weeks have featured wild comebacks and ugly meltdowns. Brandt Snedeker came from seven shots behind at Torrey Pines to beat Kyle Stanley, who made triple bogey on the final hole; then Stanley came from eight shots back and won in Phoenix after Spencer Levin shot 75.

Woods was seven shots out of the lead with seven holes to play in 2000, and still looked to have no chance until he holed a wedge for eagle on the 15th, nearly holed another shot on the 16th and beat a fast-fading Matt Gogel.

“I was just trying to somehow get in it,” Woods recalled. “All of a sudden, boom! Three shots, two holes, I’m back in the ball game.”

It was even more significant because that was his sixth consecutive PGA Tour win.

Then came the greatest single feat of his career that summer in the U.S. Open, a major where Woods was at the absolute apex of his game. On a course so difficult that no one else broke par, he shot 12-under 272 and won by 15 shots.

Now, the mystique has given way to curiosity.

Woods still draws the biggest crowd and drives attention in golf – Saturday’s round when the celebrities are at Pebble Beach was headed for its first sellout – but no one can be sure what to expect. There is unpredictability about Woods that wasn’t there before.

That, too, might be changing.

Woods began his 2012 season in Abu Dhabi, where he was tied for the lead going into the last day and was outplayed by Robert Rock. What some might see as more evidence that Woods can no longer be the player he was, Woods sees as real progress.

His golf – and his life – has been a series of stops and starts since his last tour win at the 2009 Australian Masters, right before his personal life came crashing down.

The divorce. The new swing coach. The injuries. The new caddie.

Woods had to adjust to a new lifestyle as a divorced father of two children, but equally time-consuming was the recovery from injuries. He finally got that sorted out late last summer, and then he missed two months because he was ineligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

His game has been trending up over the last few months.

Woods took the 36-hole lead in the Australian Open and finished third. He was among the best players on the U.S. team at Royal Melbourne in the Presidents Cup. Then, he ended a two-year drought by winning at Sherwood with birdies on the last two holes.

He was starting to warm up. He stopped for a winter break.

And then in Abu Dhabi, while he didn’t win, he was right back where he left off – contending.

“I think that’s what’s exciting,” Woods said. “Because before …. I didn’t go into those breaks feeling good about where my game was. I was still making changes, still trying to get healthy. It was never really there. This time was different. I went into it healthy, went into it playing well and then was able to build on it over the break.

“Took two weeks off after the World Challenge, didn’t touch a club, and then after that got right back into it and boom – almost won a tournament,” he said. “So things are progressing.”

His last time at Pebble Beach was for the 2010 U.S. Open, when he made a late charge Saturday afternoon to pull within five shots and get into the second-to-last group. He bogeyed five of the opening 10 holes, shot 75 and was never a factor.

This tournament is different.

Woods stopped playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for a number of reasons – Poppy Hills (since replaced by the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula), the six-hour rounds (the field has since been reduced from 180 players to 156) and bumpy greens from so much play that he felt it affected confidence in his putting stroke.

Except for that amazing comeback in 2000, Woods had only one other close call. That was in 1997, when he finished one shot behind Mark O’Meara.

But it’s not about the course this week. And it’s not about the greens, which Woods putts better than most players. It’s about his game, and whether he can get it to where he can contend anywhere against anybody.

“I feel very much at peace where I’m at,” Woods said. “I had to make some changes, and that took time, and I’m starting to see the results of that now, which is great. Everything is headed in the right direction.”

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Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise

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Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.

Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout

''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''

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Spieth looking forward to Colonial after T-21

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:10 am

DALLAS – Jordan Spieth finally got a few putts to drop at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but after a frustrating week he’s looking forward to heading across town.

Spieth shot a 4-under 67 amid soggy conditions at Trinity Forest Golf Club, his lowest score of the week but one that still left him in a tie for 21st at 11 under par. His frustrations had a common theme throughout the week, as he ranked seventh among the field in strokes gained: tee to green but 72nd in strokes gained: putting.

“Felt like I played better than I scored,” Spieth said. “Just burned the edges or barely missed, and I misread a lot of putts, too. Overall just struggled a little bit matching line and speed and kind of getting it all together out here.”

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth remains in search of his first win since The Open in July, but his results in the interim haven’t exactly been a struggle. This marks his seventh top-25 finish in his last nine starts as an individual.

Spieth is in the midst of a busy part of his schedule, and will play his third of four events in a row next week at the Fort Worth Invitational. With runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017 sandwiched around a victory there two years ago, Spieth did little to contain his excitement for a return to venerable Colonial Country Club.

“It’s one of those courses where whether I have my A game or not, I seem to find my way into contention, which is really cool,” Spieth said. “It’s one of four or five places I go into, no matter where the game is at, I’m excited to get started and feel like I have a chance to win.”

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Razorbacks, Fassi scrambling to recover in NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 21, 2018, 12:56 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – We’re not even halfway through this NCAA Championship, and the top women’s player in the country is already worn out.

Indeed, it’s been three rounds of hard work for Maria Fassi as she tries to claw herself and second-ranked Arkansas back into contention at Karsten Creek.

“I haven’t been able to create momentum of any kind,” she said after a third-round 73 left her at 16-over 232, 23 shots off the individual lead and outside the top 90. “I’ve been fighting every single hole. It’s just been exhausting.”

It’s been that way for her teammates, too.

Arkansas entered nationals as one of the pre-tournament favorites. The Razorbacks won the SEC Championship for the first time. They won seven events, including a regional title in which they shot 26 under par on the University of Texas’ home course. They were comfortable knowing that they not only had Fassi, the top-ranked player and a six-time winner this season, but also a strong supporting cast that includes Baylor transfer Dylan Kim and Alana Uriell.

And then the first two rounds happened. The Razorbacks had shot a team score in the 300s just once all season, but they posted two in a row here at Karsten Creek (308-300).

Fassi’s play has been even more of a mystery. In the opening round she shot 81 – with two birdies. She followed it up with a second-round 78, then birdied her last two holes just to shoot 73 on Sunday. She thought she had a smart game plan – taking fewer drivers, putting the ball in play on arguably the most difficult college course in the country – and it just hasn’t worked out.

“I just need to stay really patient, be true to myself and keep fighting,” she said. “I know what I’m capable of doing, and if I play my game it’s going to be plenty good.”

So what’s been the conversation among teammates the past two nights?

“It involved a lot of cuss words,” Fassi said. “We know this is not Arkansas golf. We know this is not the game that we play.”

The top-15 cut line should have been an afterthought for a team as talented as the Razorbacks, and yet they needed a 1-over 289 just to play Monday’s fourth round of stroke-play qualifying.

“Backs against the wall, they had to go get it done and they did an awesome job,” said Arkansas coach Shauna Taylor. “In our locker room we call it ‘Do the Possible.’ It’s doing what you’re capable of doing.”

And now the Razorbacks sit in 11th place, just six shots off the top-8 cut after their two worst rounds all season. They still have a chance to advance.

“You can’t panic,” Taylor said. “We’ve played great golf all year. We’ve put ourselves in a hole and it was time to go to work and dig yourselves out of it.”