Advantage Tiger

By Jason SobelAugust 1, 2011, 10:32 pm

When Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf at last year’s Masters Tournament after a lengthy self-imposed hiatus, it was speculated that the lords of Augusta National would ease him back into competition by grouping him with a few buddies.

Maybe old pals like Mark O’Meara and Fred Couples. Perhaps newer allies in Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan.

Instead, tournament officials gave him exactly what the situation called for, placing him in a threesome with Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi – two players with little extenuating prior relationships with Woods, meaning they were neither great friends nor were they competitive enemies.

Too bad the PGA Tour didn’t learn from that decision.

Golf Channel learned on Monday that in his first appearance since withdrawing from The Players Championship three months ago, Woods will be paired with Darren Clarke during the first two rounds of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Not only are the two men very good friends, but their friendship has made headlines recently, as Clarke acknowledged he received text messages from Woods offering advice prior to the final round of last month’s Open Championship and congratulations after his victory.

Which means this pairing can’t be seen as anything but pandering to Tiger in his return to competition.

With “featured groupings” sprinkled into the opening two rounds at every PGA Tour-sanctioned event this year, the folks in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., offices have finally conceded that not all tee times are of the computer-generated, random variety. Rather than specifically place Woods with a player with whom he has little prior relationship, though, officials have offered him a favorable partner in longtime buddy Clarke.

How tight are they? In a 2007 interview with Golf Digest magazine, Clarke said of Woods: “He's a good guy. A real good guy. With everything he's achieved, he hasn't changed since the first day I met him. He called me ‘Double F’ when we first met, and he still does.” As to what that nickname stood for, he claimed, “There will be asterisks all over the place if you print this.”

There’s nothing wrong with players competing alongside buddies – and with so many close relationships throughout the PGA Tour, it would be impossible to weed out any such pairings on Thursdays and Fridays.

In this situation, though, with all eyes of the golf world affixed squarely on Woods, the PGA Tour made a poor choice in pairing him with a friend.

Of course, officials could have gone the other way, too.

The most enticing potential partner for Woods would have been Adam Scott, who now has ex-Tiger caddie Steve Williams on the bag full-time. Such a matchup would have brought fireworks to Firestone, as the two men who were once so close are apparently no longer on speaking terms.

Even though interest in the event may have been sparked by such a pairing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the PGA Tour balked at placing them together.

Nor should it be a shock that Woods didn’t draw golf’s newest superstar in Rory McIlroy, or his career-long rival in Phil Mickelson, or his vengeful enemy in Rory Sabbatini.

Instead, the PGA Tour should have taken a cue from the folks at Augusta by placing Woods in a pairing that serves no competitive advantage nor disadvantage; one that would be neither socially acceptable nor unacceptable from Tiger himself.

The way it is now, it appears as if there’s been a wink-wink, nod-nod agreement in place. As a way of basically thanking Woods for returning at one of its premier events, he was offered a cozy pairing that should help his comfortability level.

This decision will set well with both Woods and Clarke this week, but it should remain more than a bit perplexing for the rest of us.

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Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round four behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.

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The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a closing birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.