Woods ready to return to competition ready for new year

By Doug FergusonJanuary 26, 2011, 11:51 pm
Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines felt like the start of any other season on the PGA Tour, except when he awoke at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and realized he had plenty of time on his hands.

Gone was the crack-of-dawn tee time in the pro-am that had belonged to him for so many years, a product of being the No. 1 player. He was 68th on the money list last year and no longer gets first pick of the best tee times.

“I get to sleep in a little bit,” Woods said. “Got up at 3:30 this morning not knowing what to do.”

He isn’t the defending champion, even though Woods hasn’t lost at Torrey Pines since 2004. Then again, he hasn’t played since 2008 because of knee surgery, followed by an imploding personal life last year.

Woods said he is looking forward to the Farmers Insurance Open, which can be interpreted so many ways.

It’s a new year, and he would just as soon forget about the last one. Woods failed to win anywhere in the world for the first time in his pro career while going through a divorce brought on by his extramarital affairs.

He also feels that he has restored a sense of balance to his life, and he’s eager to see how that will translate to golf.

“I think in order to play this game at a high level, it helps to have a clear mind,” Woods said before going out for his 11 a.m. pro-am time on the South Course. “I’ve played at the high levels before in the past without a clear mind, but it helps to be consistent. It helps having your life in balance. Certainly, my life is much more balanced than it was in the past. That’s exciting for me. I think it’s exciting for my kids, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Woods and Phil Mickelson are the top attractions, as always, even though it’s odd to promote them as No. 3 and No. 5 in the world. Mickelson’s distractions last year weren’t self-inflicted. He had to cope with arthritis the second half of the season, and now can resume is workouts and other preparations.

“I’ve been antsy to get back and play,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t finish the year the way I wanted to, and I wanted to try to make 2011 the year that I thought 2010 was going to be.”

He also expects a different look from Woods. Mickelson played with him in the final round in Chicago last year, and noticed the speed in his swing starting to return.

“I expect that he’ll be the Tiger that we’ve known for over a decade, unfortunately,” Mickelson said with a grin.

Woods said he’s fresh going into a new season for the first time in about six years, although his two-month break was not pain-free. He had a cortisone shot in his right ankle two days after the Chevron World Challenge, which he said kept him out for a week.

Even so, there wasn’t much else on his mind besides golf.

“It’s nice to have an offseason where I wasn’t in pain and recovering from something,” Woods said. “I’ve had so many darn surgeries and everything. Granted, I had a cortisone shot, but I was fine in a week. I haven’t had an offseason like this. It’s always been trying to somehow, ‘Can I get myself to start up again?’ This was nice to actually practice and build.”

Now it’s time to evaluate his game. And there’s no better to measure the progress than Torrey Pines.

His seventh win as a pro on this public course along the Pacific Bluffs was perhaps the most famous, the 2008 U.S. Open. He made a 12-foot birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate, and beat him in 19 holes the next day.

Not by coincidence, Woods will be playing with Mediate (along with Anthony Kim) the first two rounds. The PGA Tour this year is moving around some of the pairings to create story lines.

Mediate expects to see the Woods he did that day at Torrey.

“My opinion, if he gets it and starts driving his ball where he’s looking, the game is over,” Mediate said. “It doesn’t matter who is there. Call it what you want. I’ve seen it. I’ve been around it. I’ve studied it. If you put him in the fairway, as good as he putts, as good as his short game is, good luck. If he can get the ball back on the fairway, Tiger will become Tiger again.”

More than hitting fairways is making putts, and Woods had his worst year on the greens last year. He still might not have won, but he probably would have at least come close, and he didn’t do that last year until his final tournament at the Chevron World Challenge.

Woods blew a four-shot lead – the first time he had lost a lead that large – and was beaten in a playoff by U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. But what Woods recalls most about that day was being tied for the lead on the last hole and hitting an 8-iron to inside 3 feet for a birdie. He just wasn’t counting on McDowell rolling in a 20-foot birdie of his own.

“The whole year last year, golf-wise, came down to one shot, and that’s what I’m so proud of,” Woods said. “I needed to hit the 8-iron with that kind of shot, and I pulled it off. That one shot was it. That was cool.”

As for the putting?

Woods said he was too distracted to work on his short game. The divorce took some four months of his season, and practice was devoted to a swing gone awry. He tried to fix it himself before hiring swing coach Sean Foley in August.

Where he goes from here remains the mystery.

He remains at 14 majors, still four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus. That pursuit looks a lot harder than it did a year ago. Woods did not take the bait on whether he was out to prove the cynics wrong.

“I’ve heard it before,” Woods said. “I’ve gone through stretches where I haven’t won. I’ve had it happen in my career before, and I’ve been through this before. All I have to do is keep working and stick to the game plan, just like I have in the past. I think my record kind of speaks to that.”
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.