Practice Finally Paying Off for Price

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 23, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Nick Price is straight Old School. You can tell it when he reminisces about going head-to-head with Seve Ballesteros in the Lytham Open. You can tell it when he refers to the WGC-NEC Invitational by its old moniker, the 'World Series.' You can tell it by the way his gives well-thought-out answers, instead of standard two-sentence sound bytes.
 
And you can tell it most of all just by looking at his feet.
 
Nick Price still wears white shoes. Straight white. Nothing sporty, nothing designer ' with only black soles to provide a contrast.
 
In a time when players make the fairway their own personal runway, Price sticks out in his simplicity ' by being a solid among fancy and sometimes garish patterns.
 
The grounds at La Costa Resort and Spa arent conducive at the moment to keeping Prices mode of biped transportation in pristine condition. Its awfully wet and muddy, which is why officials decided to give the playing grounds and extra day to dry out before starting the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
When play finally commences Thursday, Price will meet another man who occasionally sports the Billy Johnsons, when he faces Tiger Woods.
 
The match-up will feature a pair of former world No. 1s ' players who have combined for 91 PGA Tour and international victories, and 11 major championship trophies.
 
Price, of course, is much further down the road in his professional career than Woods. Hes 48 now and is a good decade removed from when he challenged Fred Couples, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman for elite status.
 
Hes also ranked 64th in the world, which, thanks to the absence of Ernie Els, means he now has to take on the two-time defending champion. If he hadnt drawn Woods, however, it would have been reigning world No. 1 Vijay Singh. And had anyone else pulled out, it would have been Phil Mickelson or even Retief Goosen.
 
If you look at my predicament, he said, its jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, so it doesnt really matter.
 
So, he might as well go up against one of the best one-on-one players in golf history ' a man who has a 21-3 career record in this event to go along with three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur and three straight U.S. Amateur titles.
 
Im pretty excited about it, actually, he said. I dont have an awful lot to lose. I feel that if I play solidly and dont make any mistakes and make four or five birdies, I think well have a good match ' 18-hole match play is very unpredictable.
 
Just ask Woods. Though he has won this event each of the last two years, he was bounced from the opening round by Peter OMalley in 2002 and narrowly escaped a similar fate last year to John Rollins.
 
And he anticipates another difficult opener this time around. After all, O'Malley and Rollins aren't quite as credentialed as Price.
 
'I'm playing a three time major championship winner. It's going to be a good fight, and it's going to be a lot of fun,' said Woods, who first played alongside Price in the first round of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
 
Logic would have it that one would rather meet Woods in the first round than in the later stages, before Woods can pocket momentum and start his steamroll. Price doesnt see it that way.
 
Tiger is Tiger. I dont care whether you play him in the first or last round; youve got your work cut out for you, Price said. For me, I would like to have two or three rounds under my belt and have a little more confidence.
 
Confidence is something Price was near empty on the last few years. He was putting the best in his life ' thanks to some technical assistance from Scotty Cameron, but his ball-striking ' the talent on which he made his name and his bank ' was frustratingly suspect.
 
The past few years, its been very frustrating, he said. I kept telling my caddie and my wife, if I putted like this when I was hitting the ball so well, I probably would have won 50, 60 tournaments.
 
Point blank: practice was not making perfect. If anything, practice was making the even-tempered Price ' a man who should wear a white hat to go along with his white shoes ' irritable and almost apathetic on the inside.
 
My game started going south a little bit in 2003. I started saying thats what is supposed to happen when you get to 46 or 47 ' your game is supposed to slide, its not supposed by be as sharp, he said. But I felt watching Jay Haas last year and the year before, that I could get it in myself to go to the practice tee more often and I could elevate my game. But, of course, when I did that, it didnt happen.'
 
My iron game wasnt quite as crisp. My driving wasnt quite as accurate. And what made it more frustrating was the more practice I did ' that didnt help, he added. It just sort of kept it at a certain level, instead of sort of getting better. It just seems that recently now when Ive been practicing, Ive seen a spike in the way Im playing.
 
Now my long game seems to be coming home, and if I continue to putt like I have done, hopefully this will be a year to look forward to.
 
With confidence having recharged his batteries, Price expects to compete more on tour than the 15 times he did a year ago. And he fully expects to be more competitive, as well.
 
I am looking forward to playing, honestly, I really am. Its the first time in probably three years that Ive actually got some desire to go out and practice and compete again, he said.
 
Unlike his Day 1 counterpart, Price is no longer motivated by ruling the golfing world or adding to his major collection, which stands at two PGA Championships and one British Open. Hes been there, done that. Hes a certified Hall of Fame member, and someone who wont hesitate to skip out on a mid-summer major to spend time vacationing with his family.
 
Golf has always meant a lot to me, but its never, ever been the absolute end of all ends, he said.
 
Price has always referred to himself as a realist. And he has but one real goal in mind for 2005.
 
Make the Presidents Cup team, he said. Thats a huge motivating force for me this year, to make it in the top 10. And if I dont accrue enough (points), to show (International team captain) Gary Player that Ive played well enough to warrant an invitation.
 
Not that hes abandoned the notion of earning his first title since the 2002 MasterCard Colonial.
 
If I start playing well ' if I continue to show the form in my game and it improves, then winning will be an option. If I putt well and keep doing what Im doing, I think I have a chance to win again this year.
 
And maybe, for a least one day, hell be able to open up a bottle of that old magic come Thursday.
 
I hope so, he said in as simple a fashion as his white shoes. I hope so.
 
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    M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

    LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

    Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

    Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

    Marina Alex was second after a 68.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

    Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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    Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

    By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

    He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

    ''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

    Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

    They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

    Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

    Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

    It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

    Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

    The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

    Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

    ''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

    The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

    ''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

    The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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    Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

    By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

    It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

    Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

    When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

    It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

    Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

    Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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    Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

    Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

    ''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

    On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

    ''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

    Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

    ''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


    Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

    ''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

    Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

    First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.