Woods closes chapter on California childhood

By Doug FergusonDecember 3, 2013, 6:34 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Of all the memories from Tiger Woods' roots in Southern California, it's easy to overlook the time he made an appearance in the Tournament of Roses parade.

OK, so he wasn't the grand marshal. And he had just turned 18.

Woods, coming off his first U.S. Amateur title, rode on the Chiropractic Centennial Foundation float that required seven tons of flowers to build. He wasn't the only celebrity on the float on Jan. 2, 1995. Also riding were singer Lee Greenwood, Hall of Fame baseball player Joe Morgan and Olympic champion speedskater Cathy Turner.

The majestic float was toward the end of the order, trailed only by the Icelandic Horse Adventure Society and the International House of Pancakes.

For sure, there were far greater moments with a golf club in his hand.

Woods was only a toddler when he first went head-to-head with Sam Snead. It was only two holes, and Woods made bogey on both of them. Now, he is only four victories from breaking Snead's record for career PGA Tour victories.

Woods made his PGA Tour debut at Riviera in the 1992 Nissan Open when he was a 16-year-old junior in high school. He might have made the cut if not for a growth spurt during the week that made the shaft in his driver too short. More on that later.

He never won what he often referred to as his ''hometown event'' at Riviera. He made up for it by winning five times at Sherwood Country Club, and that doesn't include his win over David Duval at the illustrious ''Showdown at Sherwood'' in what amounted to Monday Night Golf.

Woods returns to Sherwood this week, in effect closing a chapter on golf in the area he always called home.

The Tiger Woods Learning Center, a superb complex that recently received a Golden Bell Award for excellence in education, remains his tie to Southern California. And the Tiger Woods Foundation headquarters will stay in Irvine.

But he stopped playing Riviera in 2006 after he narrowly made the cut. The only regular event in California that Woods still plays is in Torrey Pines, a two-hour drive from his hometown of Cypress in Orange County. The only time Los Angeles area golf fans could see him play was the World Challenge, a holiday event that attracts an 18-man field of players from the top 50 in the world.

This is the last year at Sherwood. Woods is moving the event to Isleworth, his old home in Central Florida. Then, it could be headed to the Bahamas.

When he won the Canadian Open in 2000 with that 6-iron out of a bunker and over the water, his late father, Earl, said that day, ''In every tournament, he'll hit shots that people will be talking about for 30 years.''

One thing is certain - Woods leaves a trail of stories behind. Here are five from his time in Southern California.

TIGER VS. SLAMMIN' SAMMY

Woods was just starting kindergarten when he was invited to join Snead at Calabassas Country Club just north of LA. They played two holes, starting with a par 3. Woods hit into a creek fronting the green, and Snead suggested he just pick it up and drop it.

''That kind of ticked me off, so I decided to play it out of the water,'' Woods once recalled. ''I knocked it on the green and two-putted for my 4.''

THE DEBUT

Woods missed his first seven cuts on the PGA Tour, starting with the 1992 Nissan Open in his debut at age 16. He opened with a 72 and was in reasonable shape to make the cut until what his father said was a growth spurt. Woods shot 75 the next day and headed back to high school.

''I was hitting the ball good the first few days of the week, but then I suddenly outgrew my club shaft,'' Woods said a year later.

His father said they didn't figure out what happened until the tournament was over.

''He was in a growth cycle, and those teenage muscles just grew overnight,'' Earl Woods said.

THE END OF RIVIERA

A beautiful afternoon off Sunset Boulevard turned nasty without warning, and Woods was on his back nine at Riviera without rain gear in 2006. He bogeyed two of his last three holes for a 74 to presumably miss the cut - until three more players dropped shots coming in and Woods made the cut on the number.

He was to be paired Saturday with J.B. Holmes, a big-hitting rookie who had just smashed his way to victory in Phoenix. The next morning, Woods was a no-show. He withdrew because of the flu, and he has not been back to Riviera since.

THE POWER MOVE

It was baking hot in August for the ''Showdown at Sherwood'' in 1999, a nationally televised exhibition against David Duval, who had returned to No. 1 in the world. Because it was not an official PGA Tour event, the caddies wore shorts.

A PGA Tour rules official ordered them to change into pants. Duval's caddie complied. Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, did not. The rules officials made it clear to Williams that if he did not change into trousers, it would be the last time he caddied on the PGA Tour.

Woods, listening to this conversation, interrupted by saying, ''Guess I'll be playing in Europe next year.''

Williams wore shorts. Woods won the match. And it wasn't long before shorts were approved for caddies on the PGA Tour.

THE WIN

Of the five wins at his World Challenge, none was more meaningful than in 2011. One shot behind with two to play, Woods birdied his last two holes to beat Zach Johnson. It was his first win since his personal life came crashing down, a span of 26 official tournaments over 749 days.

''If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward,'' Jim Furyk said that day, ''he's going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.''

Woods won three times the following year, five times this year. For his swan song at Sherwood, he is No. 1 in the world.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”