Woods in Players hunt for first time in years

By Joe PosnanskiMay 11, 2013, 12:09 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Here, in a nutshell, is what it is to be Tiger Woods: All week people keep asking him about why TPC Sawgrass has caused him so much agony through the years.

What is it about this course and this tournament that gives you heartburn, Tiger? Do you ever wish you could sneak on the course on the middle of the night and build a mall on top of it, Tiger? If you had a choice between playing TPC Sawgrass or wrestling two alligators at the same time, which would you choose, Tiger?

This has been the constant drumbeat, all week, how TPC Sawgrass has kicked Tiger Woods around like some crunched up Diet Coke can on the side of the road … and how Tiger Woods feels about being the crunched-up Diet Coke can.

So it was almost jolting when Woods – after shooting his second 67 in two days – casually reminded everyone that, you know, he has actually won here.

No, check that, he’s won here twice.

And he’s also had a few other great moments here too.

“I know how to get around this golf course,” Woods says with a smile on his face.

Well, of course he’s won here. He’s won everywhere, man, he’s won everywhere.

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Here, at this course that hates him, he launched himself into the national consciousness. Here, at 18, he won his first U.S. Amateur – coming back from five shots down in the final 12 holes to beat Trip Kuehne in one of the most gripping and mesmerizing performances in that tournament’s history.

Here at this course, in 2000, he shot 9 under as a 24 year old and reached a playoff in The Players Championship. He was already so dominant a player that it was considered huge and shocking news when he lost to former PGA champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year Hal Sutton in that playoff.

Here at this course, the very next year, he won The Players Championship and hit one of the most famous shots in golf history, the impossible 60-foot putt on the 17th hole that NBC’s Gary Koch called “better than most” as it rolled toward and then into the cup.

Remember: Tiger Woods has been answering questions all week about how much he HATES this place.

But this is the splendor of Tiger Woods’ golf career. It is true that, compared with most other courses, TPC Sawgrass has given Woods a rough time. Twice in the last three years he has withdrawn from The Players Championship. He only has one top-10 finish here since winning The Players in 2001. But in Tiger Woods’ world, even the bad places are good. Even the unhappy courses have beautiful memories. That’s how incredible his career has been.

Which leads to the most fascinating question about Tiger Woods at age 37: What keeps him so engaged? He’s rich beyond the very limits of the word. He could not be more famous. He has played golf better than anyone before him. What is it that makes him stalk every putt and grind out every shot? What is it that sends him to the range for hour after hour after hour to completely reshape and reinvent his game? This is no joke by the way, this part of reinventing his game. We all know how Woods has entirely changed his swing. But Woods says his chipping style is now entirely different from a decade ago.

“You don’t chip like you did 10 years ago?” a reporter asked Woods incredulously. Woods, 10 years ago, had one of the great short games in the history of golf. He really doesn’t chip the way he did then?

“Nope,” Woods said.

“You got rid of that?” the reporter asked.


“That’s quite an achievement.”

“Thank you,” Woods said, sly smile on his face.

What is it that keeps him coming into the press tent to answer the same questions that he wasn’t especially interested in answering the last 20 times?

Sure, it’s easy to say that no matter how much money you make you always want more and no matter how many titles you win, you always want to win another. It’s easy to say that Woods is hungrily chasing Nicklaus’ record for most major championships, and he remains four behind (18-14*) and that deeply motivates him – that mythical but indisputable title as the greatest golfer who ever lived.

*Some people would consider The Players Championship to be the fifth major … if you count those, Nicklaus would actually expand his lead over Woods to six, 21-15, because Nicklaus won three Players, Woods has won one.

On the other hand, some people think the Memorial – Nicklaus’ own tournament – should be the fifth major. Nicklaus won the tournament twice. Woods, however, has won it five times already. So, if that counted, Nicklaus would only be leading 20-19.

Of course, the whole thing is silly – four majors are plenty.

Yes, surely, Woods is motivated by history and his place in it. But there is something more. There must be something more. It seems to me there is something about Tiger Woods – something about the best athletes – that is unquenchable. My friend Mel Stewart, who won the gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 1992 Olympics, says only half jokingly that he gave so much of his life to swimming that, in the process, he became part fish.

There’s something to that – some part of Tiger Woods that simply must be under the duress of competition and simply must succeed. No, this isn’t his favorite course. This isn’t a major, despite the PGA Tour’s efforts. The prize money will just dissolve into his riches. The title, if he wins it, will be tacked on to his 100-plus professional wins – ranking somewhere below the U.S. Opens and Masters and British Opens.

But he’s hungry anyway. Why? I don’t know if competing makes Tiger Woods “happy” as we generally understand the word, but I think it’s engrained in him. I think there’s just a part of Tiger Woods that only comes alive on weekends when his name is near the top of the leaderboard.

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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.”

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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.