Worlds Best Gather at Wachovia

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 3, 2005, 4:00 pm
When Tiger Woods better days are behind him, well look back and reminisce over all the wonderful things he accomplished. Well think about the six straight U.S. Jr. Am and Amateur Championship titles. Well think about the 1997 Masters and the entire 2000 season and the Tiger Slam and maybe even the 2005 Grand Slam.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods continues to try and find his groove with the driver.
We wont think very much, however, about the 2004 Wachovia Championship ' even if it provides one of the greatest examples as to whom Tiger Woods is as a competitor.
To put it bluntly: Tiger was terrible ' at least off the tee. He hit the ball pretty far, averaging over 309 yards per measured driver. He just didnt hit it very straight.
Seventy-two players made the cut last year at Quail Hollow Club; only two hit fewer fairways than Woods. Tigers ball only nestled in the short grass 24 times in 56 opportunities.
Consequently, he managed to hit only 59.7 percent of his greens in regulation, which left him tied for 64th in the field in that department.
And just where did Mr. Woods end the week? How about a tie for third; just one stroke out of a playoff. He even held the midway lead. His eventual defeat marked the first time he had failed to convert a 36-hole lead into victory in his last 19 tries on tour.
What Woods showed that week was grit and determination ' and that most tour events are a glorified putting contest.
Sampling the 17 stroke-play events contested on tour this season, only one player has finished outside the top 25 in putting the week he won. That was Fred Funk, who captured The Players Championship by finishing the tournament first in driving accuracy and first in greens hit in regulation. He was 60th in putting.
Players have averaged about 13th in the field in putting the week they won.
By comparison, weekly winners average roughly 14th in the field in greens hit in regulation, 17th in driving distance and 41st in driving accuracy.
A year ago, Joey Sindelar earned his first tour title in 14 years by beating Arron Oberholser in a playoff at the Wachovia Championship. And it came because of an unusually productive week with his putter.
Sindelar hasnt cracked the top 100 on tour in seasonal putting average since 1999. He was 182nd last year.
But during that winning week at the Wachovia, Sindelar was seventh in the field in putting.
Two years ago, in the inaugural Wachovia Championship, David Toms was his usual solid self on the greens, finishing the tournament fourth in putting on his way to victory.
Five for the Title:
Tiger Woods
This tournament features a major-quality field, with 18 of the top 25 players on the Official World Golf Ranking in attendance. Three of the top four players are represented with the inclusion of Woods (No. 1), Vijay Singh (No. 2) and Phil Mickelson (No. 4). Woods is making his first start since his memorable Masters victory. As mentioned, he tied for third in his Wachovia debut a year ago. And he may again have to rely on his scrambling ability and natural talent to contend at Quail Hollow. Per usual, Woods is rolling his rock quite well, as he is comfortably in the top 10 on tour in putting average. His driving accuracy, however, is still suspect. He is outside the top 150 on tour in this category. This is one of three tournaments (Byron Nelson and Memorial) that he is likely to play before he continues his Grand Slam quest at the U.S. Open.
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson is teeing it up for the first time since slipping the green jacket onto Tigers shoulders at Augusta National. He tied for fifth in his maiden Wachovia appearance last year. And if putting proves to be a determining factor then Phil should factor into the final outcome. Mickelson is tied for sixth on tour in putting average. Thats why he already has three victories to his credit this season (FBR Open, AT&T Pebble Beach and BellSouth Classic) and three other top-10 finishes.
Vijay Singh
Yeah, we know were not going out on much of a limb here by listing the top three-ranked players in the field among the five favorites to win this week; however, there is a reason they are all in the top four in the world: because they are constantly in contention. With the exception of the MCI Heritage, at least one of these players has been in the field each week on tour this season. Of these 16 tournaments, they have combined to win eight times. And it could have been more, if Singh could have closed the deal at The Honda and Bay Hill, where he both times finished runner-up. Singh took the silver medal at this event in 2003 and tied for 10th last year. If there is one con among Vijays many pros, its that he has to compete against both Woods and Mickelson this week. Singh has 15 tour wins in less than 2 seasons, but only two of them (2004 PGA Championship and 2003 Funai Classic) have come with those two particulars in the field.
Adam Scott
This tournament features a strong international contingency, including 12 Australian-born players. Leading the way is Adam Scott. The 24-year-old Aussie has never competed in this event, but he defeated another stellar international field in his last start at the Johnnie Walker Classic. Should he prevail, he would become the first non-American to win a PGA Tour event on this course. When Quail Hollow hosted what is now known as the Booz Allen Classic (formerly the Kemper Open), Americans ran the table from 1969-79. They have continued the trend with Toms and Sindelar taking the first two titles in this event.
Scott Verplank
Verplank does just about everything well. He leads the tour in driving accuracy, is in the top 70 in greens hit in regulation, and is in the top 20 in putting. He only averages about 270 yards off the tee, but he always seems to play difficult golf courses well. Quail Hollow has been likened to a major championship venue, and though Verplank has never won a major ' or won any event since 2001, he is playing well of late. He tied for second at The Players Championship, tied for 20th at the Masters and tied for 10th at the MCI Heritage.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more players to keep an eye on
*Kirk Triplett, who seems to have an affinity for Quail Hollow. Triplett tied for fifth in 2003 and then fired a tournament record 8-under 64 in the first round a year ago, before eventually settling for a tie for 15th.
*Lucas Glover, who tied for 10th in this event on a sponsors exemption last year. Glover has been pretty much all or nothing this season. In nine starts, he has five top-10s and three missed cuts. He tied for third last week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
*Davis Love III, who played collegiate golf down on Tobacco Road. The North Carolina Tarheel hasnt performed up to his lofty standards this season, but a top-10 finish may be in the cards this week ' thanks to his name. Two years ago, Charles Howell III tied for seventh here. Last year, Notah Begay III tied for fifth. If its not Love IIIs turn this year, then perhaps its Tommy Armour IIIs or Joey Snyder IIIs, both of whom are in the field.
*Jay Haas, who will try and follow in Sindelars footsteps and end a lengthy winless drought. The 51-year-old Wake Forest product hasnt won on tour since the 1993 Texas Open. Prior to last year, Sindelar hadnt won since the 1990 Hardees Golf Classic. Haas has made the cut in each of his previous two Wachovia starts.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship
  • Getty Images

    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.”

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.