Tournaments gearing up for Woods return

By Doug FergusonMarch 10, 2010, 1:22 am
DORAL, Fla. – Not long after Tiger Woods returned home and starting practicing, the PGA Tour began checking with tournaments to make sure they were prepared to handle the hype over the world’s No. 1 player getting back to golf.

That even includes tournaments he has never played.

“Historically, he hasn’t played the week before the Masters,” said Steve Timms, tournament director of the Houston Open, which is the week before the Masters. “But these are unusual times. We’re prepared from a security and media standpoint. We’ve been watching the media closely, and we’ve had some weird ones.”

Timms, like other tournament directors, has been in touch with PGA Tour officials about who is applying for media credentials.

The more immediate focus is in Florida. Woods hasn’t played at Innisbrook since Kelli Kuehne was his partner in 1996 at the old JCPenney Classic. Long before Woods was exposed for cheating on his wife, there had been increasing speculation that he was considering the Transitions Championship one of these years, although this doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Even so, tournament director Gerald Goodman said Tour officials contacted him last week.

“They described it as talking to all tournaments,” Goodman said. “They gave no indication that they knew anything, they were just wanting to be thorough. They asked us if we had room for media. We’re a large resort on a thousand acres. There’s plenty of room.”

Scott Wellington didn’t need a phone call to start planning. He’s the tournament director of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where Woods is a six-time champion (including last year) and lives a short drive away.

Wellington said the Tour shared information from its experience at the TPC Sawgrass, where Woods spoke publicly Feb. 19 for the first time since his car accident the morning after Thanksgiving. Some 300 media came to a nearby hotel to cover the event.

Bay Hill is not the largest property, although it typically has a large media turnout because it is two weeks before the Masters.

“We’ll accommodate to the extent we’re able to,” Wellington said. “But it’s like a balloon. It can only get so big. We’ve discussed ‘Plan B’ scenarios, and we’re prepared to react as best we can. Obviously, it would help to get as much advance knowledge as we can.”

Woods typically does not enter a tournament until a day or two before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline, although there are indications from his management team that more notice will be given in this case.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw described the phone calls as typical conversations the tour has with its events on subjects ranging from media coverage to charity to television. In this case, another topic was added – the return of Woods.

“We’ve not indicated that we have inside knowledge,” Votaw said. “We just want them to be aware so they’re no scrambling.”
MR. HARRINGTON GOES TO WASHINGTON: Padraig Harrington can’t think of a better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – at the White House for a party hosted by President Barack Obama.

Ireland’s three-time major champion says he has been invited to the White House on March 17 for an annual St. Patrick’s Day party that the president hosts for the Irish taoiseach.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Harrington said, who shared his good news with no prompting. “I want to meet one of the most charismatic people in the world, and the most influential leaders in the world. And he’s a golfer. I quite enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.”

But he’ll take it easy on the celebration.

“I have a tee time the next day,” Harrington said.

In what is sure to be a busy week, the Irishman plans to play that week in the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.
ENGLISH LESSON: Of the eight English players among the top 75 in the world ranking, four of them are PGA Tour members. All but one of those four – Justin Rose – has won in America.

Ian Poulter was the most recent at the Match Play Championship, with Paul Casey winning a year ago and Luke Donald a two-time winner. Rose is 0-for-154 on the PGA Tour and can only hope he’s next.

“I played good enough golf to win out here,” Rose said after his third-place finish at the Honda Classic. “I’ve been close a few times. I would have hoped that one of them would have got in the way by now. Sometimes winning just gets in the way without you trying too hard.”
PINEHURST MAKEOVER: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have been hired for a restoration project at Pinehurst No. 2 that has nothing to do with the U.S. Open returning in 2014. The course will not be significantly lengthened, only one tee box will be changed, the course will have minimal mowed rough and the fairways will be widened.

Coore and Crenshaw will return natural and strategic character to the course, with work set to begin in the fall. The changes include a return to sandy waste areas, native wiregrass and natural bunker edges on the Donald Ross design.

“It is not our intent to radically change this golf course,” Coore said. “We’re trying to uncover it, not recover it. We’re trying to take what Ross left and perhaps bring it back to the character and definition of what was once here. In short, we’ll bring the strategy back, and reinstate its character.”

The course closes from Nov. 15 until March 2, and the majority of the work is expected to be done by then.

“We’re not doing this for purely environmental reasons, nor are we doing this project as preparation for the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open championships,” said Pinehurst president Don Padgett II. “We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do, as stewards of this historic course.”
DIVOTS: Larry Thiel, who for years was executive director of The International, has joined the Bob Hope Classic as tournament chairman. ... Seven former major champions are in the field at the Puerto Rico Open, including Tom Kite. ... A Massachusetts couple bid $28,500 to play in the Houston Open pro-am with U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and ESPN radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. Shell Oil added $20,000, with proceeds going for the V-Foundation for Cancer Research. The couple’s bid also includes airfare and hotel.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are No. 47 and No. 48 in the world ranking, separated by .0000275 points.
FINAL WORD: “Three rounds is a good thing. They don’t need to kill us out here.” Fred Couples on playing the Champions Tour.
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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.