Bunker Shots Bear Trap - COPIED

By Randall MellMarch 4, 2010, 5:44 am
Blasting into the week ahead, from the Bear Trap, as both stage and star, to something special on the Champions Tour ...

The Honda Classic

Jack Nicklaus may be 70, but he’s still handing out beatings.

Nicklaus won’t be playing when the Honda Classic begins Thursday at PGA National’s Champion Course, but his intimidating presence will be felt in the start to the Florida Swing.
Bear Trap
A sign warns players of what they will face down the stretch. (Getty Images)
Nicklaus redesigned the Champion Course in 1981, remaking the original George and Tom Fazio design. Nicklaus’ fingerprints are all over the 15th, 16th and 17th holes, famously known as “The Bear Trap.” When Nicklaus returned to toughen up the course before the Honda Classic moved there three years ago, he decided the Bear Trap needed no sprucing.

“It will stand the test,” Nicklaus said at the time. “I don’t care if they make golf balls go a thousand yards. The Bear Trap will stand the test no matter what the equipment is.”

The Honda Classic will feature one of its strongest fields in recent years with four of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking in the field, but local fans have learned they can count on a triumvirate of stars every year, no matter which PGA Tour pros show up.

The Bear Trap’s 15th, 16th and 17th holes are as much stars as stage.

The 15th hole is a 179-yard par 3 that wouldn't be much more daunting if prison guards stood watch in towers there. A par under final-round pressure will feel like golf's version of a stay of execution, birdies like a governor's pardon. The only protection this hole lacks is a barbed-wire perimeter. The narrow green is guarded right by water and to the left by a large pot bunker. The prevailing wind is dead into the player's face with club selection ranging from a 6- to 8-iron, depending on the strength of the wind.

The 16th hole is a 434-yard par 4 that doglegs right over water to a two-tiered green. This hole is an ageless, square-jawed sentinel that won't be overpowered, even in this era of long-hitting titans. Only a fool will hit driver here. The approach is dead into the prevailing winds, requiring a mid-iron.

The 190-yard, par 3 17th hole is a twin menace to the 15th. There's water around more than half the green with the prevailing wind quartering left-to-right and into the player's face.

The 18th hole offers some drama with realistic shots at birdie, though it’s an ornery par 5 that yields lots of bogeys and worse.

Stance: PGA National Resort & Spa should feel like home away from home for Europe’s top players. The continent’s biggest stars are taking over the resort. Four of the top 10 players in the world will play the Honda this week, and they have something considerable in common: They’re all European. England’s Lee Westwood (No. 4) and Paul Casey (No. 6), Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (No. 9) and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (No. 10) lead the field.

Takeway: Camilo Villegas makes his home in Jupiter, Fla., just a few miles up the road from PGA National, but he’ll be making an especially long commute to this week’s event. He’s flying home to his native Colombia early in the week to help host pre-tournament functions for the Nationwide Tour event that will be played there this week. He received an excused absence to skip the Honda Classic Wednesday pro-am to help his country as host but plans to fly back in time to tee it up in the first round at PGA National. Villegas has a good history at the Honda, tying for second in a four-way playoff that Mark Wilson won in 2007, the first year the event was played at PGA National.

Bunker shot:
Ernie Els bears watching this week. He won the Honda Classic two years ago and calls the area home now. Els moved his family to the Bear’s Club in Jupiter after winning there. He’s off to a promising start this season. He hasn’t shot a round higher than 70 in three stroke-play events. He tied for 12th at the Sony Open, tied for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied for 10th at the Northern Trust Open. Something large may be imminent for the Big Easy.

The Toshiba Classic

The Champions Tour is off to a special start.

You only need look at the money list to see how special.

Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson are 1-2-3 respectively.

They’re all in the Toshiba Classic field this week at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club, where play begins Friday.

Stance: If you were going to design a start to the new Champions Tour season, you couldn’t do much better than what we’ve seen. Watson beat Couples in a dramatic duel in the season opener in Hawaii, Couples bounced back to win in the year’s second event in Naples and Langer holed out from a bunker at the final hole to win in week No. 3 in Boca Raton. All three events came down to final shots at the final hole.

Takeaway: Couples vs. Watson. Who could tire of that? Another showdown is possible again this week with both players in good form.

Bunker shot: Did you see how high Langer leaped into the air after holing out from the greenside bunker to beat John Cook at the end of the Allianz Championship last week? If you wondered how hard these guys still grind to win, you got your answer. Langer didn’t show that much joy when he won his two Masters titles.

Around the rest of the world . . .

European Tour: Australian Andrew Dodt will be looking to win back-to-back events when he plays the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.

Nationwide Tour:
The inaugural Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open will mark the Nationwide Tour's first tournament in South America.
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Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

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Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.