Handle With Care

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 21, 2010, 11:41 pm
Tiger Woods

MEA CULPA: Tiger Woods spoke publicly Friday for the first time since his Thanksgiving Day accident, delivering a 13-minute statement at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Woods did not accept questions and was surrounded by some 40 supporters in attendance, including his mother but not his wife, Elin.

BackspinWoods admitted to affairs. He apologized. He took full blame for his actions. He vowed to be a better person. He said all the right things. Some found him sincere, others thought him arrogant. Some believed his words heartfelt, others believed them too scripted. The only two things that no one could argue were: Woods was headed back to rehab and we have no idea when he's returning to golf. Other than that, draw a line, choose a side and come out swinging because it seems there's no middle ground and no shortage of opinions when it comes to Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods
ALL OR NOTHING:  The Golf Writers' Association of America elected to boycott the Woods statement reading despite being allowed three pool spots. The 27-member board voted not to attend after being informed that no questions would be allowed. [Full disclosure: I am a member but not a member of the voting board.]

BackspinIt seemed like the right move at the time, but after learning that Woods was headed straight back to rehab it felt more like just listening was the proper take. For all I know, the GWAA board still would have boycotted the event, but the Woods camp should have been more forthcoming with all the facts. The time for questioning will come when Woods is done with therapy and is ready to return to competition – whenever that may be. But even then will he answer personal questions when they are asked? Judging by his tone and comments Friday it doesn't seem likely, which only adds to the intrigue, because those questions are locked, loaded and ready to be fired.

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter earned his first career PGA Tour victory by defeating fellow Englishman Paul Casey, 4 and 2, in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Poulter, a three seed, needed 19 holes to escape his opening-round match against Justin Leonard, but found the sledding much smoother further down the road. He smoked Sergio Garcia, 7 and 6, in the semifinals and never trailed after the third hole of the 36-hole final, handing Casey, a two seed, his second consecutive runner-up finish in this event.
Poulter's victory moved him to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking, giving England three players [Lee Wetwood and Casey] inside the top 6. The format was apropos for his maiden Tour triumph, as he owns a 5-2-0 career Ryder Cup record with a 2-0-0 mark in singles. Colin Montgomerie's European team is looking better and better each week. Instead of a watch, Monty probably wears a clock like this on his wrist. 

PRICKLY SITUATION: Tiger Woods may not have been in the field at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but players still spent plenty of time being asked about him this past week. Most had little to say, other than offering a little support [Ben Crane] or taking the I'm-not-worried-about-him-I'm-worried-about-me approach [Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia]. Though, some were more critical, like Ernie Els, who called Woods 'selfish' for making his statement during the middle of the event. Though, in Els' defense, he did not know at the time that Woods was headed back to rehab the next day.

BackspinOf course, everyone – from players to communication specialists to celebrities – was asked to weigh in on Woods' statement. As previously mentioned, reactions ranged from overwhelmingly positive to overtly negative. But nothing was more entertaining than listening to two of Woods' alleged mistresses cry over him not apologizing directly to them. These 'ladies' actually believe they deserve sympathy and some form of retribution. There's a better chance of cutting open Rush Limbaugh and actually finding a heart than Woods apologizing to a mistress on camera.
WGC-Accenture Match Play

Per usual, the WGC-Accenture Match Play saw a number of 'upsets' early and often. The top four seeds were bounced after the first two rounds, with the overall No. 1, Steve Stricker, exiting on Day 1 in an overtime loss to Ross McGowan. It was also the first time in the event's 12-year history that no American made it to the semifinals.
Given the volatility of this event and the events that transpired 1,981 miles away in Florida on Friday, the Accenture people have to be satisfied with the outcome of this year's tournament. Stewart Cink and Retief Goosen reached the Elite Eight, while Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter all advanced to the Final Four. This was arguably the most collective star power these matches have ever had over the weekend, with the highlight coming in a 24-hole, two-day marathon between Casey and Villegas in the semis.  
Ai Miyazato

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Ai Miyazato won the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand by one shot over Suzann Pettersen. ... Cameron Beckman won the PGA Tour's opposite-field Mayakoba Golf Classic. ... John Daly made the cut in Mexico and was tied for 17th after three rounds. He finished with a 10-over 81. ... Bernhard Langer birdied the final hole of regulation and then eagled the first hole of sudden death to defeat John Cook at the Champions Tour's Allianz Championship. ... Camilo Villegas defeated Sergio Garcia, 5 and 4, to win the consolation match in the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Miyazato chipped in on the final hole to complete a closing 9-under 63 and overcome a six-shot Sunday deficit. ... Beckman has three career PGA Tour victories and none have qualified him for the Masters. ... Daly is officially on the board now with $7,308, tied for 211th place on the Tour money list. ... Langer said he was inspired by a Bible verse his daughter gave to him Sunday morning, Psalm 29:11. ... They should do away with the consolation match. It's just two sad saps who don't even care about the $110,000 difference in prize money for which they are lacklusterly playing.

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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

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.

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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.