Will Doral’s Blue Monster spark the return of Tiger’s winning form?
You can rank Doral’s Blue Monster among the venues Tiger Woods has flourished on over the years.
It’s there with Torrey Pines, Firestone, Bay Hill, Cog Hill, Augusta National, Muirfield Village and Emirates Golf Club.
That’s not necessarily a good thing now, however.
While Woods has combined to win 35 times on those courses, he’s on a streak setting personal records for high scores on his most successful venues.
Over the last eight months, Woods has posted his high marks as a pro at Cog Hill (283), Firestone (298), Torrey Pines (287) and Emirates (284). Over the next six weeks, he’s got Doral, Bay Hill and Augusta National to play.
Woods has won three times at Doral. In seven starts on the Blue Monster, he’s never finished outside the top 10.
Woods equaled the tournament scoring record at 24-under 264 when he won at Doral in 2005.
Nobody should be surprised, though, if something kicks in on the Blue Monster.
Just last week, Jack Nicklaus said playing Baltusrol at the U.S. Open in 1980 helped pull him out of the worst slump of his career. He won for a second time at Baltusrol making his return there.
Where does Doral rank among Tiger’s hot spots?
Woods can become the winningest player in the history of Doral’s PGA Tour stop if he claims the title this week.
Woods won at Doral in 2005, ’06 and ’07. That equals Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd and Andy Bean for most PGA Tour titles there.
Though Woods has won more professional titles at Torrey Pines (7), Firestone (7), Bay Hill (6), Cog Hill (5), Muirfield Village (4) and Augusta National (4), he sports one of his better scoring averages at Doral among events where he’s played at least 20 rounds.
Here are Woods’ scoring averages as a pro at his best PGA Tour stops (rounds played in parenthesis):
Firestone Country Club 68.15 (44).
Emirates Golf Club 68.41 (24).
Doral’s Blue Monster 68.42 (28).
Cog Hill 68.56 (48).
Torrey Pines North/South 68.61 (47).
Muirfield Village 69.61 (47).
Bay Hill 69.73 (52).
Augusta National 70.48 (56).
Is Phil Mickelson ready to win again?
Phil Mickelson believes a victory is all he needs to feel like his game is right where he wants it before the Masters.
With the year’s first major just four weeks away, Mickelson’s planning a trip to Augusta National this week to get some Masters’ work in and another trip there the week of the Shell Houston Open.
Lefty needs a victory for more than the extra jolt of confidence it will give him. He needs one to replenish world ranking points. He’s poised to lose even more points than Tiger Woods this week. Mickelson’s victory at Doral two years ago comes off his world ranking points total next week. Woods will lose points he won for tying for ninth at Doral two years ago.
Will the Euros win another big event?
The Europeans are on a dominant run.
When England’s Luke Donald won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago, it marked the fifth victory by a European or European Tour member in the last six World Golf Championships/major championships.
Tracing backward, that’s Luke Donald at the WGC-Accenture, Francesco Molinari at the WGC-HSBC Champions, Martin Kaymer at the PGA Championship, Louis Oosthuizen at the British Open and Graeme McDowell at the U.S. Open. Hunter Mahan scored the only non-Euro victory in that string of WGCs and majors, winning the WGC-Bridgestone.
Are the South Africans poised for another large victory?
Ernie Els and Retief Goosen may have hit 40, but the South African contingent still looks strong.
Els is the defending champ at the WGC-Cadillac Championship this week. He battled fellow countryman Charl Schwartzel down the stretch on the Blue Monster last year. Rory Sabbatini is coming off a victory at the Honda Classic last week, which vaulted him into running to make the International team for the Presidents Cup.
Did you know the top five players on the Internationals’ team point standings are all South Africans? Els, Goosen, Tim Clark, Oosthuizen and Schwartzel top the list. Sabbatini jumped to 18th with his Honda victory.
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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck
After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.
Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.
Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.
Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.
It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath.
Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts
Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.
The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.
"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.
"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."
Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.
Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA
Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET
Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.
After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.
McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.
"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."
McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.
"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."
This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).
"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."
Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead
Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.
Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.
"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."
Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.
While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.
"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."