Remembering Tiger, forgetting Donald

By Randall MellOctober 4, 2011, 2:44 pm

Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for the men’s and women’s games ...

Can Tiger Woods finally find his winning form?

Listen to folks inside Isleworth, where Woods has played more than anywhere else the last two years, and you would suspect he never really lost his edge.

Inside the cozy confines of the posh development’s walls, at least, he could still play like the Tiger of old.

Listen to John Cook and Arjun Atwal talk about their practice rounds with Woods there over the last couple years, and you hear evidence Woods still has what it takes to win majors. They’ve seen the old Tiger we haven’t since the infamous crash. They’ve seen the old shot making and the old confidence at work. They’ve seen it’s all still in him.

And yet Woods’ inability to find his form outside the walls of his former home of Isleworth merely reinforced the belief that his biggest problems were still in his head, not in his swing. For whatever reason, he couldn’t take his best outside Isleworth.

So what are we to make of news that Woods shot a course-record 62 at The Medalist last week near his new Jupiter Island home in South Florida? Is his comfort zone beginning to extend into the larger golf world? Or is this more of the same? Has Woods’ simply found a new safe haven to play the game the way he used to play it?

Woods hasn’t found his winning form on his favorite PGA Tour venues since his game went sideways, and so maybe new venues are just what he needs.

Woods will make his first appearance at the Open and CordeValle Golf Club this week against what may be the weakest PGA Tour field he’s faced since playing the Quad Cities Classic as a rookie in ’96. Just three players among the top 50 in the world rankings are playing this week, and Woods isn’t among them. No. 20 Paul Casey, No. 45 Ernie Els and No. 49 Louis Oosthuizen are the highest ranked players in attendance, but at No. 51 Woods is the headliner as he seeks to find some form before heading off to the Presidents Cup next month.

Does Luke Donald get the respect he deserves as the world’s No. 1?

Donald returns to the Madrid Masters looking to build on his quest to win this year’s money titles on both the European Tour and PGA Tour.

Though Woods would have won the money titles on both tours six times in the same season had he been a European Tour member, Donald’s seeking to become the first to officially do so. Donald is the defending champ in Madrid, where he started his run to the top of the world rankings.

Donald can build on a comfortable lead in the Race to Dubai with another title this week, but he’ll be holding his breath to win the PGA Tour money title with Webb Simpson just $68,971 behind him and Simpson looking as if he’ll make another Fall Series start to try to capture the lead. Donald said last week he’ll be tempted to make another PGA Tour start if Simpson does.

Donald, you sense, wants the money titles as more evidence he’s worthy of the world’s No. 1 ranking.

“I don't know how anyone can argue against the world rankings system,' Donald told BBC Sport at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last week. “I've played better than anyone else over a two-year period, and no one has been as consistent as I have. I've beaten the top players week in week out, and, other than maybe one or two guys, I've earned double the amount of points than most players. Obviously, it has been a great year, and I'm not only at the top of the world, I'm increasing my lead as well.'

Without a major championship, Donald will likely continue to feel as if he’s not getting his full due.

“Yes, there are a few times where I feel a little bit forgotten, but I'll keep pressing on and let my clubs do the talking,' he said.

Will we see a Solheim Cup bounce or hangover this week?

Suzann Pettersen will make her first tournament appearance this week since helping the Europeans win the Solheim Cup in Ireland with her dynamic singles victory.

A hole down to Michelle Wie with three to play, Pettersen turned around her match with a three-birdie finish to defeat Wie and give the Euros a vital point in their victory two weeks ago.

Pettersen is among eight European Solheim Cup team members who will tee it up Friday at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship in the start of the tour’s fall Asian swing. She’s among the contingent looking to use that team victory as fuel for a strong finish this season. Eleven of the 12 Americans in the Solheim Cup will be looking for some healing salve in South Korea this week.

What kind of fuel did Ryann O’Toole get at the Solheim Cup?

O’Toole, the highly scrutinized rookie American, was terrific in her Solheim Cup debut, surpassing expectations with a 2-0-2 record, and yet she left in tears in a difficult finish.

It was almost cruel that the competition came down to O’Toole, who was 2 up with two holes to play in Sunday singles and ended up halving with Caroline Hedwall after getting in trouble behind the 18th green.

What will O’Toole take away from Killeen Castle? The confidence gained going undefeated on such a pressure-packed stage? Or the disappointment of failing to close out Hedwall to secure the American victory? We’ll get a better sense of that with O’Toole playing the LPGA Hana Bank this week.

O’Toole and teen phenom Lexi Thompson should be two of the most compelling LPGA stories heading into 2012.

Healing or hurting? What’s ahead this week for Cristie Kerr?

Less than two weeks after leaving Ireland in tears, Kerr is trying to rebound from a wrist injury in South Korea.

Kerr, unable to play her Sunday singles match because of tendinitis in her right wrist, conceded a vital point to Karen Stupples in the anchor match with the Americans losing the Solheim Cup in a tight finish.

U.S. captain Rosie Jones and assistant captains Sherri Steinhauer and Juli Inkster closely monitored Kerr, who played four matches in two days before being overcome with pain on the driving range before her scheduled singles match.

“Sunday was a very traumatic day for me,” Kerr said in her interview with media at the LPGA Hana Bank on Tuesday. “Very disappointing not only that we lost but that I couldn’t play. I know mentally for the team not having me out there playing was hard. It was just not a good situation all around …

“It’s not anybody’s fault that it happened this way. It’s not Rosie’s fault or Sherri’s or Juli’s or even my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. With my husband’s medical background and seeing the physios and the doctors, it could have flared up on Sunday like that having only played one match a day. So you just don’t know.”

Kerr said she hit balls for the first time since the Solheim Cup on Tuesday. She said she hit just 30 balls but was pain free. She’s been in a protective splint for nine days while being treated with anti-inflammatory medication and therapy.

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Watch: Jesper hits rock, flies bridge, makes par

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 20, 2018, 5:18 pm

It's not often you'll hear an accomplished professional declare that he made one of his greatest par saves on a par-3 course. But Jesper Parnevik can - and did - make that claim.

Playing the Top of the Rock layout on Day 2 of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, Parnevik's tee shot at the 130-yard sixth, his 15th hole of the day, flew the green. It bounced off a rock, caromed over a bridge and landed on dry land. He then chipped over the bridge, but underneath a tree limb, and got his ball within 15 feet from the hole. He then converted the putt.

What made the par save more impressive was the fact that his partner, Jeff Maggert, had already hit his tee shot in the water during the fourball portion of the event. And in a team event, you just can't drop shots.

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McIlroy on winning the Masters: 'It'll happen'

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 4:16 pm

Nearly two weeks after letting a shot at a green jacket slip through his grasp, Rory McIlroy remains confident that he'll still someday find a way to capture what for him has become golf's most elusive prize.

McIlroy had a spot alongside Patrick Reed in the final pairing at the Masters, and he insisted that all the pressure was on his counterpart who was seeking his first career major title. But from his first wobbly tee shot, it was clear that McIlroy was feeling plenty of heat himself as he looked to round out the final leg of the career Grand Slam on a course where he has come up barely short a number of times in recent years.

McIlroy started the day three shots behind Reed, but he never challenged once the pair hit the second nine as Reed beat Rickie Fowler by a shot while McIlroy fell into a tie for fifth, six shots off the pace.

"I got onto that first tee, and I was quite nervous. Even though I was three behind, I still felt like there was a little bit of pressure there for some reason," McIlroy told CNN's Shane O'Donoghue. "I just couldn't get into my rhythm like I could the first three days."

Given time to reflect, McIlroy has adopted a positive outlook on his week in Augusta: another chance to contend on a major stage, another sign that his game is, for the most part, where he wants it to be heading into a busy summer stretch.

For McIlroy, the disappointment was not in failing to win major No. 5, it was in his inability to make Reed work for it during the early stages of their round together as McIlroy failed to mount much of a challenge after missing a 4-foot eagle putt on the second hole that would have given him a share of the lead.

"I was just disappointed that again I didn't put any pressure on the leader. I guess that was my thing," McIlroy said. "If I had just put a little pressure on, it might have been a different outcome."

Instead, McIlroy left with a respectable yet unsatisfying result from the season's first major for the fifth year in a row. Left to wait another 11 months before his next crack at a green jacket, his belief is unwavering that he'll one day join Reed among the tournament's decorated list of champions.

"Look, it'll happen. I truly believe it'll happen," McIlroy said. "I play that golf course well enough. I've five top-10s in a row, I've given myself a chance. It didn't quite work out. But just, the more I keep putting myself in those positions, sooner or later it's going to happen for me."

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.