Canadian Curse

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 7, 2000, 4:00 pm
A tournament sellout. Six-and-a-half hours of televised coverage. The feel of a major championship. All for Tiger Woods. But despite the red-carpet treatment, you'll pardon Mr. Woods if he doesn't feel welcome at the Bell Canadian Open.
Woods, whose only missed cut in 93 professional starts came at the 1997 Canadian Open, shot a rather mundane round of even par 72 to place him seven shots off the first-round lead at the Glen Abbey GC in Oakville, Ontario.
Leading the way after Day 1 of Canada's National Open is Kevin Sutherland. Sutherland shot an early 7-under-par 65 to grab a one-shot lead over Cameron Beckman. J.L. Lewis, Brian Watts, Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik are two back after all opened in 5-under-par 67.
This isn't new territory for the elder of the Sutherland brothers. The 36-year-old, whose younger sibling, David, also plays on the Tour, knows what it's like to lead after 18 holes of an event. He just doesn't know what it feels like to lead after 72 holes.
For the third time in his five-year PGA Tour career, Sutherland holds the top spot through round one. He did so for the first time at the 1998 Buick Classic. He finished tied for seventh. He did so for the second time at the 1999 Greater Hartford Open. He finished tied for 17th.
If Sutherland can continue the prolific putting he showed on Thursday, he may just capture his first career PGA Tour victory. Sutherland, who began his first round on the par-37 back nine, reeled off four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 18th for 6-under-par 31.
'I putted phenomenally well today,' said Sutherland, who took 27 putts in the first round. 'When you're putting well, it keeps the round going, keeps the momentum going.'
Sutherland kept that momentum through to the front nine, though it only bore one birdie. Still, Sutherland didn't drop a shot over his final nine holes to produce his lowest score in his last 74 rounds played.
Putting has also been a friendly companion to Garcia as of late. The 20-year-old Spaniard, who defeated Woods in a head-to-head match play event two weeks ago and tied for fourth at last week's Air Canada Championship, took just 23 putts en route to his round of 67. At one point, Garcia climbed his way to 7-under for the tournament, but bogeyed the 6th and 8th (his 15th and 17th holes of the day) to finish at 5-under-par.
'The putter is a lot better than what it was,' said Garcia, who, coming off a two-win 1999, is in search of his first worldwide victory of this season. 'I'm hitting the irons better than last year, and the driver too, but the putter was keeping me from contending.
'I'm playing better than last year. I just wasn't putting as well. Now, I'm starting to putt better.'
The putter wasn't kind to Tiger on Thursday. Though he needed only 27 swipes to make it around the Jack Nicklaus-designed track, Woods suffered a number of lip-outs.
Tiger was 3-under through his first eight holes, but a bogey at the par-4 9th sent his round into a tailspin. Woods double bogeyed the par-4 11th, when his approach shot from 110 yards found the water surrounding the green.
Tiger hit only two of nine greens in regulation on the back nine for a 2-over-par 39.
Yet despite his back nine troubles, Woods managed to birdie the par-5 18th to secure his 32nd round on the PGA Tour at par or better.
'That's just the way it is sometimes,' said Woods, whose last round over par came in the first round of the GTE Byron Nelson Classic, May 11.
So, it's back to the drawing board for Woods, right? Wrong. It's back to bed. For the first time this year, Tiger will have a Friday morning tee time, going off at 7:57am ET.
'I'm gonna go home and get some rest,' Tiger said. '(I'm) still under the weather a bit.
'As bad as I felt over the ball on the back nine today, to be even par, I feel pretty good,'
Sutherland's feeling pretty good himself. He hasn't played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, but he's had a good excuse. Kevin and his wife, Mary, (mostly his wife) gave birth to their first child on August 28th.
'Yeah, we had a baby last Monday,' said Sutherland. 'My wife said `Why don't you go play golf this week,' so I said, `Okay.'

'I committed (within) the last 45 minutes.'
Parnevik was close to not competing this week either. Unhappy with his performance over the weekend at last week's Air Canada, Jesper considered not making the trip from British Columbia to Ontario. Last week, Parnevik led after two rounds, but wilted into a tie for 11th after rounds of 70-74.
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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

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Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1
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Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

“It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.