Course Wins Round One at Bay Hill
After the first round it appears as if the course is safe.
Five players set the early pace in Orlando, Fla., and it held up throughout a blustery afternoon, which saw gusts of up to 33 mph.
1997 champion Phil Mickelson, last weeks runner-up Mark Calcavecchia, Steve Pate, Dennis Paulson and Grant Waite each carded 6-under-par 66s to share the first-round lead.
But the ultimate victor in Thursdays first round may have been the par-72 7,208-yard course - in particular, the 459-yard par-4 8th. The hole played at an average of 4.484, easily the toughest of the day. It also allowed more double bogeys than birdies (11 to 7).
Bay Hill's Director of Golf Jim Deaton talks about the set-up of the championship course
Four dreaded others were recorded at the 8th. Its most prominent victim just happened to be the defending champion.
Take a closer look at the 8th hole in our Virtual Tour of Bay Hill.
Tiger Woods was 4-under-par through 16 holes, but tripled the 8th (his 17th hole of the day). He finished with a 1-under-par 71.
Woods hit his approach shot into the water. After a drop, his next shot found the back greenside bunker, where it took him two more shots to reach the green. Tiger then one-putted for a triple-bogey 7.
After his round, Woods walked briskly past the fans and media, forgoing autographs and interviews. His lone comment was to a tournament official, in which he described his play in a couple of salty words.
As for the leaders, Pate was in the first group out on Thursday. Playing at a leisurely pace, he birdied four of his first seven holes to make the turn in 4-under-par 32. The lone blemish on his card occurred at the 8th. Like Woods, he too found the water. But unlike the worlds No. 1, Pate was able to salvage a bogey, and then birdie the par-4 9th.
Following six straight pars to start the back nine, the six-time ' and oft-injured ' Pate birdied the 16th and 17th holes to set the early mark at 6-under.
This is Pates seventh start of the season. Hes missed three cuts and has yet to post a top-20 finish. Last week, he withdrew from the Honda Classic due to a rib injury.
Ive been doing everything extremely average. Nothing well, said Pate. Ive been hurt a lot this year. My back has been messed up. I messed up my ribs. I felt decent at Phoenix. I felt decent at L.A., and I feel decent here, but other than that, I felt horrible.
Pates recent mishap is just another in a long line of injuries that primarily dates back to a 1996 car crash which left him with a broken right hand, wrist and cheekbone. He missed all but three events in 96, but returned to form in 1998 with a victory at the CVS Charity Classic.
He then followed up that season with a 13th place finish on the 1999 money list. That year he finished fourth in the Masters and the Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship. He was also a captains choice for the victorious Ryder Cup Team and named Comeback Player of the Year.
Mickelson began his day auspiciously with a bogey at the par-4 10th, but then proceeded to record four birdies and an eagle over his next six holes.
The first half of the round for everybody was the easier half because we had very benign conditions, said Mickelson. The wind was down and the greens were soft and the pins were very accessible.
The back nine, when the wind picked up - it played differently.
After another birdie at the par-4 1st gave the lefty a share of the lead at 6-under, Mickelson bounced up and down the leaderboard; offsetting bogeys at the second and sixth holes with birdies on the fourth and ninth holes.
I played well. I made a lot of good putts, and two of the holes I bogeyed I ended up missing putts that I thought I hit pretty good, said Mickelson, who took 25 putts in the first round.
Im not disappointed that I had three bogeys. I made a lot of birdies and played well today.
This years Buick Invitational winner was one of the few who survived the par-4 8th unscathed. Paulson wasnt so lucky. Like Woods and Pate, Paulson hit his approach shot into the water. Fortunately for the Nissan Open runner-up, he managed to match Pates bogey.
Just misjudged the winds, said Paulson, who lost the six-way playoff to Robert Allenby in L.A. Hit it straight up in the air and the wind hammered itdropped it in the water.
Despite the slip at No. 8, Paulson tied the tournament record with a 6-under-par 30 on the front nine.
Fellow co-leader, Waite, also had an experience at No. 8, though his was a relatively good one ' at least for him.
I tried to smooth a driver out there and I pulled it, said Waite, who finished runner-up to Woods in his last PGA Tour victory, the 2000 Bell Canadian Open. It hit someone in the gallery. Then I pitched down the fairway and I had 98 yards to the flag and just chipped a 9-iron.
I had about 18 feet, and I had about three- or four-feet of break. Maybe more, five-feet of break and I managed to make that. That was more exciting than any birdie I made. No question.
Waite was one of only four players to complete the first round without a bogey.
Three players are just one shot off the 18-hole lead ' Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Jeff Sluman. Janzen was in contention last week to win his first Tour event since the 1998 U.S. Open, but shot a final-round 75 to tie for 39th.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Only 49 of the 122 players managed to break par in the first round. The scoring average for the field was 72.689.
*The morning wave of 61 players were a cumulative 23-under-par, while the afternoon group was a combined 107-over-par.
*None of the afternoon players shot lower than 4-under-par 68. Sergio Garcia made his way to 4-under, but double bogeyed the par-5 6th (his 15th) and bogeyed the par-4 8th for a round of 1-under-par 71.
*John Daly recorded a triple-bogey 8 at the par-5 6th. Still, it was 10 strokes lower than what he shot on the same hole in the final round in 1998. Dalys good friend Fuzzy Zoeller posted a 10 on the same hole Thursday. Daly shot 77, while Zoeller shot 81.
*Reigning British Amateur champion Mikko Ilonen, believed to be the first Finnish player to start in a PGA Tour event, opened in 6-over-par 78.
*Tournament host Arnold Palmer shot a first-round 13-over-par 85.
Click here for full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup
AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.
Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.
“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.
The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.
“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”
The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.
Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go
AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.
There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.
Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.
Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.
“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”
But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.
The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.
That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.
Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.
Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.
“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.
While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.
For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.
“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.
But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.
Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.
They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.
“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”
Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.
“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”
Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.
It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”
Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head
But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.
One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.
It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.
And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.
Hey, whatever works.
Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'
AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.
Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.
The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.
“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”
Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.
“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”