Woods opens Australia title defense with 69

By Doug FergusonNovember 11, 2010, 11:35 am

JBWare MastersMELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods played 14 holes before finally missing a green in the opening round of the JBWere Masters, which would seem like the ideal start to defending a title for the last time this year.

Trouble was, he couldn’t get a putt close to the hole, which was not the first time that happened this year.

Woods had to settle for a 2-under 69 on Thursday, leaving him four shots behind a trio of players who competed before far fewer fans and had far less trouble on the greens at Victoria Golf Club.

“That was probably the highest score I could have shot,” Woods said.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods struggled with his putting Thursday, making only three birdies. (Getty Images)

Adam Bland and Alistair Presnell, roommates on the Nationwide Tour, each had a 6-under 65 in the cool morning before the greens became crisp under a warming afternoon sun. They were joined late in the day by Daniel Gaunt, whose career took a sudden turn for the better this year, considering he was working in a golf shop this spring.

“Rock bottom,” said Gaunt, a feeling Woods knows all too well.

The JBWere Masters represents the 82nd worldwide victory for Woods, and also his most recent. That was a year ago at Kingston Heath, where his return Down Under after an 11-year absence brought the kind of crowds reminiscent of a major, all of them eager to see the world’s No. 1 player.

That was 12 days before his car accident in the middle-of-the-night led to revelations of womanizing. Woods returned to defend his title as the No. 2 player in the world—he lost his top ranking to Lee Westwood two weeks ago— who is trying to retool his swing.

Typical of his year, it was the putter that held him back.

Woods hit it in all the right spots, which at Victoria means below the hole. But he rarely had enough pace on his putts, and his lone bogey came on a three-putt from 45 feet that he left about 8 feet short. On the final hole, he avoided a similar mistake by holing a 7-footer for par. It left him in a tie for 17th and with few worries.

“I could have easily been 4, 5, 6 under,” Woods said. “I don’t know what the guys are going to do this afternoon, but I’m right there.”

Presnell was on the verge of earning a PGA Tour card late this summer until his game went into a funk at the worst time, and he failed to finish among the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list.

He still knows what it’s like to compete on a big stage, though – he qualified through the Australasian Tour for a World Golf Championship at Doral, tied for sixth and made $214,300. He also got into the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week.

“It was a massive thrill,” he said.

Imagine how it felt for Gaunt, who this spring was working in a golf store trying to pay the bills and wondering if it was time to give up on golf as a career. Then came an exemption to a Challenge Tour event in England, which he won, and he went on to earn his European Tour card for next year.

Gaunt now feels as if he belongs, whether it’s on the Challenge Tour or in a field that includes Woods, Robert Allenby, Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy and Camilo Villegas.

He already is 1 up on Woods. Gaunt qualified for the British Open last summer at Turnberry, shot 67 in the second round and made the cut on the number. Woods didn’t make it to the weekend.

“I now feel I should be there,” he said.

Gaunt used to be a member at Victoria, as was Ogilvy, although it didn’t help the former U.S. Open champ Thursday. He struggled to a 72, as did the other marquee names in the field. Garcia made double bogey on his opening hole for a 73, while Villegas shot 71. Allenby, who played with Woods, three-putted his opening two holes from inside 18 feet and had five three-putts in his round of 73.

Woods feels as though he is making progress with his revamped swing under Sean Foley, who is home in Florida. He showed more signs in the opening round, managing his way around the tight, bush-lined fairways by missing only two fairways.

One of them came with a driver on the par-5 18th hole, forcing him to chip out and eliminating a good chance at birdie. The other was with a 3-wood on the eighth hole, where he went bunker-to-bunker and made par.

Most pleasing was a driver that he hit hard and with a slight fade, the perfect shape for the par-5 17th that plays 601 yards. Woods hit a 2-iron to 30 feet for eagle, and narrowly missed the putt.

Woods otherwise hit a collection of 2- and 3-irons off the week to play short of the bunkers, and he had plenty of looks at birdie. Three times on his outward nine, he missed from inside 8 feet. He made those putts on his back nine, twice for par.

“I hit the ball well all day,” Woods said. “It was just a matter of getting committed to hit the ball a little harder on my putts. I was in all the right spots. But they’re really slow up the hill and really quick going down, and I didn’t make the adjustment.”

From there, it was off to a luncheon and clinic for sponsors, along with a practice session.

The trio of leaders were allowed to dream about the gold jacket that goes to the winner, the one Woods wore a year ago.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.