Getty Images

Grateful Woods is back - in contention

By Randall MellApril 5, 2018, 9:29 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods tapped in for par at the 18th, plucked off his hat and saluted all the patrons giving him yet another standing ovation Thursday at the Masters.

He flashed his high-voltage smile, the one you expect after a memorable round.

Yes, he opened with a 73, but it might have been the most grateful he has ever been posting a round over par.

He wasn’t going to hide how much he loved being back here.

“I played a major championship again,” Woods said. “But, also, I got myself back in the tournament.”

Woods relished his return to one of the game’s great stages after missing the last eight major championships because of back injuries. He acknowledged how much he appreciated being back at Augusta National after missing the last two Masters, three of the last four.

If you want more evidence Woods is a different man, a “miracle” man grateful he can play pain-free golf after a back fusion, you got it here Thursday. He was visibly touched by the outpouring of support he got all the way around Augusta National.

Patrons were crammed at least five and six deep along the ropes at every hole.

“The crowds have been incredible,” Woods said. “It has been awesome this entire comeback.”

Woods got a standing ovation first thing in the morning when he stepped on the driving range. Patrons poured out of the clubhouse when he made his way toward the course. He got an ovation arriving at the practice putting green and again when he stepped onto the first tee.

As Woods noted, his smile at day’s end also came because of a much-needed late rally.

At round’s start, he looked like a guy who hasn’t made a cut in a major in three years. He scattered the gallery hooking his first tee shot into the woods. He hooked his tee shot through the trees at the ninth, and he scattered patrons knocking shots into the gallery at the 13th and 15th holes. Amidst all of that, he hit his tee shot at the 12th in the water.

Woods was asked if he was feeling more nervous than normal making this return.

Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

“The nerves really were just normal,” he said. “I wasn't flying high. I wasn't jittery. I wasn't any of that stuff. I was very confident in what I was doing.  And I hit some good shots early - unfortunately they just didn't continue.”

Woods needed to hole an 18-foot bogey putt at the 12th to keep from going 4 over par there.

“I could have easily let the round slip away from me, but I got it back,” Woods said. “I'm right back in this tournament.”

That’s the old Tiger, the voice of the guy who won four green jackets, the last a dozen years ago. That’s the guy so many lined up to see Thursday, wanting to see one of his epic runs.

This place would have ignited with an early run like that. This place felt like a powder keg waiting to go off, but there were more groans than cheers until late in the round.

While Woods was grateful for all the support, it might have cost him a shot at the 11th. After driving right in the tree line, he helped clear a path through the crowd. Unfortunately, he said, spectators raced back into the path too quickly after he hit his second shot.

“It was a great shot there,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, people ran out and it clipped them. Otherwise, it's just short right of the green, an easy up and down from there, where I was trying to leave it.”

Woods made bogey.

Woods rallied late, stuffing an 8-iron to 8 feet to make birdie at the 14th and then carving a 9-iron to 15 feet at the 16th to make another birdie.

Woods was just five shots off the lead when he walked off the course. If he had played the par 5s better, he would be even closer. He played them in even par, marking just the fifth time in 79 rounds at the Masters that he didn’t make birdie or better on a par 5.

“A 73 is fine,” Woods said. “By the end of the week, this will be a pretty packed leaderboard, the way the golf course is set up. They have it right where they want it.

“It's really hard to run away, but it's also really easy to lose it out there. By the end of the week, there will be a bunch of guys with a chance to win this tournament.”

If you were wondering, Woods said that was an ibuprofen he was taking at the turn. A reporter asked about it.

“My surgeon says to take it all day,” Woods said.

The rest of the field might need them if Woods gets these patrons going. A powder keg of emotions promises to blow if he gets himself in contention on the weekend.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.