Woods plays his way into final pairing

By Ryan LavnerAugust 11, 2012, 1:19 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Sand blew out of the waste areas. Claps of thunder boomed from ominous clouds in the distance. Play on the most difficult course in America twice came to a halt.

And when many of the contenders were sandblasted off the leaderboard Friday in the 94th PGA Championship, look who reappeared – once again – atop a major-championship leaderboard: Tiger Woods.

Driving the ball as well as he has all year, and continuing to pour in momentum-saving putts from virtually everywhere (save for a three-putt from 30 feet on the last), Woods was at his shotmaking-best in difficult conditions to secure a spot in the final group of a major for the second time this season.

This time, Woods is hoping the end result is a whole lot better.

“It was tough out there, wow,” he said after signing for a 1-under 71 in mild and blustery afternoon conditions, when the wind gusted to 30 mph and the round took more than 5 ½ hours to complete. “You can’t take anything for granted out there.”

Woods, ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking, now has held at least a share of the lead at some point during each of the past three majors. At the U.S. Open, he shot 75-73 on the weekend and plummeted to T-21. At the Open Championship, he never diverted from his conservative game plan, and a few untimely miscues cost him a shot at an elusive 15th major championship.

Here on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, Woods has demonstrated the kind of ball-striking prowess that largely was missing over the past two years, when he overhauled his swing with coach Sean Foley. Now, Woods said, “I’m swinging it well. The thing is, all year my strength has been my driving (ranks fourth in total driving on the PGA Tour). People probably don’t think so, but the stats – that’s what they are.

“I’ve been driving the ball well all year, and I’ve been putting streaky. Finally I’ve married the two together, and it’s working out.”

Indeed, there is no better tactician in the game than Woods, and when the forecast called for high winds – it blew 20 mph all day, steadily, with gusts even stronger on the holes closest to the shore – it gave him a distinct advantage. He hit high shots, such as his booming drives off the tee. He hit low shots, such as his stinger irons and fairway woods. Hooks. Cuts. Flops. Every shot in his arsenal.  

Said Keegan Bradley, the reigning PGA champion who was paired with Woods on Friday: “It was one of the best rounds I have ever seen.”

And Woods’ putter also began cooperating, unlike during the first two rounds of last week’s event in Akron. Here in Round 1, he needed only 22 putts to get around on these sticky Paspalum greens. On Friday, he took only 11 putts on his opening nine, eventually finishing with 26 total, and remained near the top of the rankings in that category. He was one of only four players to break par on the most difficult scoring day (78.10) in tournament history.

Said Woods, with great delight, “I just grinded my way around this golf course.”

At 4-under 140, Woods is in a three-way tie for the lead with Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson, and will play in the final pairing Saturday with the Big Fijian, 49, who is vying to become the oldest major champion in history.

Pettersson (74), the leader after Day 1, will play with Englishman Ian Poulter (71), and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy and Jamie Donaldson are two shots off the lead.

In this age of parity, 16 different players have won the past 16 major championships – as if Woods, shut out of the majors since June 2008, needed any reminder in the gloaming Friday.

“I’ve been here before,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been in this position many times in my career. Again, we’re only at the halfway point. There’s a long way to go.” 

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Man bites off finger during golf course brawl

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:45 pm

PLYMOUTH, Mass. – A man has bitten off another man’s finger during a fight at a Massachusetts golf course.

WCVB-TV reports a 47-year-old man was arrested at the Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth Friday after he apparently got into a fight with another golfer and bit off a part of his thumb.

The station reports the victim’s thumb had been bitten off to his knuckle and he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The incident happened around sunset.

The attacker was arrested and charged with mayhem. A police dispatcher declined to comment Saturday and Chief Michael Botieri didn’t immediately return a call seeking more information.

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Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.