Choi in Charge in Tampa
And for the second straight day the rains came and left 43 players to finish up their rounds on Saturday morning.
Choi, looking for his second win of the year, had three bogeys in his first seven holes, two more than he had all of Thursday.
But a birdie on the 10th set the tone for the inward nine, as he added three more coming in for a 3-under 68 that got him to minus-11 for the tournament.
Pampling also carded a 3-under-par 68 to keep Choi's advantage to just two as they head into the weekend. His highest finish on the PGA Tour is a seventh place at thre Honda Classic.
Perez, a strong candidate for rookie of the year and currently 35th on the money list, was 4-under for the day and 8-under for the tournament before rain halted play as he was on the 17th hole.
Glen Day birdied the 18th to hold third place in the clubhouse at minus-7.
Donnie Hammond used a 5-under 66 to move from 25th up to fourth.
Tour veterans Mark Brooks and Lee Janzen are in a small group at 4-under.
Ty Tryon, who shot a 2-over 73 on Thursday, had a solid round going until the rains came. The young rookie who's battled illness most of the season was bogey-free to go along with five birdies and sat in a tie for 11th at 3-under.
Play is set to resume at 8:00 AM ET Saturday with the projected cut set at 1-over par.
Full-field scores from Tampa Bay Classic
Promise kept as Poulter - and his fire - return to Ryder Cup
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – In December 2016, in one of his lowest moments as a pro, Ian Poulter sat on stage at a PGA of America dinner and fielded questions from the audience.
One of the queries was this: What’s left for you in golf?
“I feel I’ve got more wins in me,” he replied that day. “And I’m going to make the team in Paris.”
That much appeared in doubt.
Earlier that year, Poulter underwent foot surgery and missed the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Relegated to a vice-captain role, he could only watch as the Europeans got dismantled and saw their three-match winning streak come to an end.
Poulter’s own game suffered, too. Before the injury he’d already slipped outside the top 75 in the world – his lowest position since 2003 – and his freefall continued into early 2017, when he plummeted all the way to No. 207.
Then came a surprise runner-up finish at The Players that helped him secure his PGA Tour card for the next season, and then, at age 42, he enjoyed one of his best years. In April he won the Houston Open for his third PGA Tour title (and first since 2012) and then posted solid finishes at The Players, U.S. Open, Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Though he lacked the necessary points to qualify for the European team automatically, he was as much a lock for a captain’s pick as a healthy Tiger Woods on the U.S. side.
“There’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you once were,’” he said. “But that’s been a goal for the last 20 months. It’s been something that has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.
“It was difficult being a vice captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past, and I wanted to help the team in any way I could. But I felt like this time around, I really wanted to make the team. I’m pretty proud.”
Poulter and Sergio Garcia are the heartbeats of the European side, veterans have who seen everything in the Ryder Cup, who have plenty of pull in the team room, who know how to handle the most stressful situations.
With a 12-4-2 record, no European Ryder Cupper has a better win-loss mark than Poulter. At Medinah, he seemed to single-handedly bring the visitors back from the dead, teaming with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy to win three matches, then capturing a point in singles, as well, as the Europeans matched the largest final-day comeback in tournament history.
“He’s a legend,” said European teammate Tyrrell Hatton.
Poll any U.S. team member, and Poulter is still the guy they most likely want to beat – not necessarily because he’s the best player on the European side, but because his success seems to fuel his teammates.
“I take it as a huge compliment,” Poulter said. “It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.”
Poulter was the first European player out on the range on Monday – he didn’t qualify for the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship – and captain Thomas Bjorn joked that Poulter “wanted to go midweek last week, if he could.”
“He looks forward to this,” Bjorn said. “We all know Ian’s history and feelings about the Ryder Cup. He wanted to get out there. He’s that type of guy. He’s certainly ready to go.”
Some brave reporter asked Poulter whether he’s preparing for this to be his final home Ryder Cup, whether he’s trying to “drink it all in.”
It was a reasonable question – he will be 46 during the 2022 matches in Italy – but Poulter stared a hole through him.
“It won’t be,” he said flatly.
Then he softened.
“I’d like to think I’ve got more in me, I’ll say that,” he said. “I think how I’ve played this year is hopefully the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. The reason I answered it that way is I don’t want to think this is my last hurrah.”
But if it is, well, you can guarantee that Europe’s fieriest player will try and go out in a blaze of glory.
Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.
He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.
Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.
“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”
The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.
To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.
Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.
“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said.
“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”
To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.
Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”
Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50
With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.
Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.
The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.
According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.
There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.
There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.
All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.
The question this week is whether it’ll matter.
The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.
Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.
“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”
Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.
“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.
“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”