Tiger Triumphs Again at Augusta
With six of the top seven-ranked players in the world in contention, Tiger Woods surprisingly eased into the green jacket for the third time.
Woods wasnt spectacular, but didnt need to be in shooting 1-under 71 to successfully defend his title in the 66th Masters Tournament. Woods, who recorded his first of now seven major championships here in 1997, finished the 2002 edition at 12-under-par 276.
'It was tough going out there,' said Woods, who accepted the 42-inch long jacket from Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson - a ceremony usually performed by the defending champion. 'I worked my butt off this week.'
Retief Goosen finished three back after a frustrating round of 2-over 74. Phil Mickelson (71) earned his sixth career top-3 in a major by finishing solo third at 8-under.
I dont think finishing third is anything to be disappointed about ' obviously, I would have like to have won my first major, said Mickelson.
Only one player broke 70 Sunday - Shigeki Maruyama (67) - at Augusta National, which was lengthened by 285 yards and toughened from a year ago.
The 26-year-old Woods is the seventh player to win this event at least three times, and joins Jack Nicklaus (1965, 66) and Nick Faldo (1989, 90) as the only repeat winners. In accomplishing these feats, he also collected $1,008,000.
Woods has now converted 54-hole leads into 72-hole victories 23 of 25 times in his career. He started the final round tied at 11-under with reigning U.S. Open champion Goosen. Vijay Singh (No. 7) was alone in third, two back. Mickelson (No. 2), Ernie Els (No. 3) and Sergio Garcia (No. 5) were all four back at minus-7.
The stage was set for one of the most intoxicating finishes in major championship history. And early Sunday, fact and fantasy fused.
Els and Mickelson each birdied their first two holes to cut their deficits in half. Roars reverberated through the tall Georgia pines, sending fans into a frenzy.
But before the needle could pin on the excitement meter, it dropped faster than an aging prizefighter.
Woods birdied the second and third holes to move to 12-under. Goosen, meanwhile, bogeyed the first and parred the next two to lose three strokes in three holes. He made it four for four with a three-putt bogey at the fourth.
Mickelson missed the green at Nos. 4 and 5 and bogeyed both. Singh played the front in level par; Garcia went out in 1-over 37 and never factored, posting a 75. And Els failed to capitalize on his fast start. The two-time U.S. Open champion played holes 3-12 in even, and found the water twice at the par-5 13th for a triple-bogey-8. He ended with a 73, tied for fifth at minus-6.
I tried ' just made a terrible swing on 13 and that cost me the tournament, said Els, who hit his tee shot into the left pines on the dogleg left. I got greedy ' tried to hit a 3-wood (off the tee), hook it around the corner. Its not the shot to play anymore. I knew that before I started the tournament.
Woods teased the field with a profanity-producing tee shot at the par-4 fifth. He hooked a driver, but it avoided disaster by hitting a tree and caroming into a clean patch of grass. He purposely hooked his next shot, around the pines and onto the front of the green. However, he three-jacked for his first bogey since the 14th hole Thursday.
Still, Woods led Singh by two shots at 12-under. He then crushed all competitors, hope of a meaningful back nine by chipping in for birdie at the par-3 sixth.
He parred Nos. 7-10, and bogeyed the par-4 11th, but still maintained a three-shot cushion entering Amen Corner, as Singh lost a shot at 11 as well.
The 2000 champion also bogeyed the par-4 14th, and, similar to Els, plunked two in the drink on the par-5 15th for a quadruple-bogey-9. He carded a gory 5-over 41 on the back nine to go from potential multiple Masters victor to an also-ran. He shot 76 to finish seventh, seven back.
Woods hit only one red-letter shot down the stretch ' an approach to a foot on No. 15. And even though he came home in 1-over 37, he never lost his nine-hole advantage of three.
'It's awfully special. For some reason, this one seemed a little harder (to win),' said Woods. 'It's been a long week, with the weather and the weather delays.'
Play was suspended Friday due to torrential downpours. Nearly half the field, including Woods, who had to play 26 holes, was forced to complete their second and third rounds Saturday.
Thunderstorms were in the forecast Sunday, but stayed away - and thankfully so. The play proved sloppy enough without the storm.
Full Coverage from the Masters Tournament
Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond
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.
“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.”
Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic
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.
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.
DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history
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.”
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.
Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi
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.
''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.