Par 5 Questions for the Honda

By Randall MellMarch 1, 2011, 7:43 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the Honda Classic ...

Who’s going to pass Tiger Woods this week?

Tiger Woods is losing world-ranking points like a sputtering race car leaking oil.

Rory McIlroy
With a win at the Honda, Rory McIlroy can pass Tiger Woods for No. 5 in the world. (Getty Images)
Woods dropped two spots to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his first-round elimination at the Accenture Match Play Championship last week. He would have been passed by Graeme McDowell even if no tournaments had been scheduled, based on points lost over the two-year rolling period of the point system. Woods is leaking points faster than anyone in the game, and it’s greasing his slide.

Rory McIlroy can pass Woods in next week’s rankings with a victory at the Honda Classic.

At No. 6, Phil Mickelson is breathing down Woods’ neck. With both players taking this week off, Woods is set to lose more points than Mickelson, but not enough to allow Mickelson to pass him in the world rankings. But it will be close, oh so close. In next week’s rankings, Mickelson (6.09) will sit just two hundredths of a point behind Woods (6.11) in average points.

Both players will have a lot to win and lose at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral next week. Mickelson will be losing points he won there two years ago, Woods points from tying for ninth two years ago. They’ll both need to replenish points to avoid more slippage.

It’s a big month for Woods. He has points from six victories over the last two years still counting in his world-ranking totals, but the first of those victories will disappear from his point totals in three weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Are they awarding Race to Dubai points at PGA National this week?

With so many Europeans in the field at the Honda Classic, the start of the Florida Swing has a distinct European feel to it.

The four highest ranked players in the field are Europeans: No. 2 Lee Westwood (England), No. 3 Luke Donald (England), No. 4 Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) and No. 8 Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland).

Seven members of last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup team are in the field, almost doubling the number of American Ryder Cuppers (4).

Seven Europeans among the top 25 in the world rankings are here, just one American (Matt Kuchar).

While there won’t be any European Tour Race to Dubai points awarded this week, it feels like there ought to be.

Is the Honda Classic regaining its status as an elite PGA Tour event?

With five of the top-10 players in the world rankings at PGA National this week, the Honda Classic’s moving up in class.

No regular PGA Tour event’s been host to more top-10 players so far this season.

Twenty-one of the top 50 in the world are scheduled to play Honda, making the tournament the second deepest field among regular tour events played on the PGA Tour or European Tour so far this year. The Northern Trust Open is the only regular Tour event that’s featured more players (22) among the top 50 this season.

Back when this tournament began 40 years ago as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, it was as big and brazen as the entertainer who put his name on it. All of golf’s big stars turned out, and many of Hollywood’s, too. While the tournament hasn’t regained that cache, its profile is improving again with stronger fields, thanks mostly to the highly ranked Europeans who make their way over for the World Golf Championship events at Tucson and Miami.

Will Lee Westwood answer Martin Kaymer this week?

After 17 consecutive weeks at the top of the world rankings, Lee Westwood makes his first appearance as the former No. 1 player in the world.

Westwood can reclaim lost ground this week and seize back the top ranking from Martin Kaymer by finishing third or better with Kaymer off.

There’s reason to believe Westwood will make a strong response this week. In his first and only start at PGA National last year, he tied for ninth.

Will the Golden Bear dictate another outcome?

Jack Nicklaus handed out a lot of beatings in his day, and he’s still doing so as a golf course architect.

Nicklaus redesigned PGA National’s Champions Course in 1990, creating a treacherous trio of holes on the back nine named The Bear Trap. He freshened up the design again in ’07 but was so happy with The Bear Trap’s design he didn’t touch them.

If Florida’s March winds blow as expected, The Bear Trap holes (the 15th, 16th and 17th) could offer more thrills and spills this side of Augusta National’s Amen Corner.

Back at the 1994 PGA Seniors' Championship, Raymond Floyd took a one-shot lead on Lee Trevino to the 15th tee in the final round. One of the surest front-runners in Tour history, Floyd walked away from the 15th green a wreck. He dunked two shots in the water and made quadruple bogey-7. He dunked another ball in the water at the 17th and finished three behind the champion, Trevino.

Back in 2007, the first year the Honda Classic moved to PGA National, Robert Allenby had a chance to win before making bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes on Sunday and missing out on a playoff by a single shot.

The 15th hole is a 179-yard par 3 with a narrow green guarded right by water and to the left by a large pot bunker. The prevailing wind is dead into the player's face.

The 16th hole is a 434-yard par 4 that doglegs right over water to a two-tiered green.

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

While there hasn’t been a Floyd-like disaster for any Honda Classic contender coming down the stretch on a Sunday, there’s a sense calamity’s due, maybe this year.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''