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Woods' actions, words give reason for excitement

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2018, 12:55 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Listen to what Tiger Woods said Sunday after finishing the Honda Classic.

Forget his even-par 70.

Forget his 12th-place finish, his best in a PGA Tour event in 30 months.

Forget his 128 mph swing speed, which ranks him ahead of so many of the fastest, strongest and longest young players in the game today.

Forget all of that and listen to what he said leaving here . . .

“The last couple days, it felt easy to play tournament golf,” Woods said.

That’s the real story here this week.

That is the giant stride Woods made here this week. It’s the giant dose of hope he created with the Masters six weeks away. It’s the giant promise he generated in reawakening the possibility that he really may not be done making history.

It felt “easy” to play tournament golf again.

There’s a mountain of achievement in those words, because this game has looked so damn hard and painful for him to play for so long.

What we saw this week was encouraging, but what we didn’t see was almost as encouraging.

No wincing in discomfort.

No doubling over in pain, no limping.

In just his third PGA Tour start after his fourth back surgery, a fusion that left a lot of us thinking we might never see him play again, Woods is way, way ahead of even his own schedule.

Listen . . .

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Woods said of coming back this year. “My expectations have gone up.”

So have everyone else’s.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


There was something special in this week’s performance that will make too many of us rush too far ahead, but that was the story this week. Tiger speeded things up. He dramatically changed the narrative around him with his unexpected run into contention.

He made those six weeks until the Masters suddenly seem like enough time to get himself ready to compete for a green jacket again.

That seems crazy given where he was a few short months ago, but listen . . .

“I'm just building towards April,” Woods said. “I'm trying to get myself ready for that, and I feel like I'm right on track for that.”

Tiger got himself on track on an extremely penal golf course at PGA National, in blustery winds that magnified misses and exposed imprecise ball striking.

Woods didn’t win this week, but he finished third in driving distance at 319 yards per drive.

His driver may not be perfect, but it’s no longer a liability. It’s a weapon again.

His iron play got a whole lot better this week. He was first in proximity to the hole this week. Yeah, nobody hit it closer. He was 10th in hitting greens in regulation.

He hit 14 greens in regulation Sunday, most in a round since he tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in the summer of 2015. His 12th-place finish overall here, by the way, was his best since then.

The short game’s still looking good. He was T-11 in scrambling.

His putter didn’t allow him to take advantage of all those improvements. He was 18th in strokes gained putting.

Mostly, Woods got beat by the Bear Trap this week. He dumped a shot in the water Sunday at the 15th, cutting his shot too much into the wind there. It was his second rinsed shot there this week, leading to his second double bogey there.

Woods was 8 over through the Bear Trap’s trio of holes (Nos. 15-17) for the week.

He was 8 under everywhere else.

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open last week, where he was so wild off the tee and with his iron play, the question this week was whether he could simply make the cut.

He didn’t win this week, but he changed the nature of the questions about what may lie ahead for him.

Listen . . .

“I know it's been a long time, but I remember how to do this,” Woods said.

Joey LaCava, Woods’ caddie, knows how the expectations will change now.

“I see strides, good positive things going forward,” LaCava said. “I didn’t want to panic when he didn’t play well at LA last week, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but it’s nice to see him moving forward. I think he hit the ball better every day this week.

LaCava said Woods seemed to get tired in the middle of Sunday’s round. He said being gym fit and golf fit walking 72 holes are different things. It’s another area where Woods can get better.

Mostly, LaCava liked how Woods reacted with his name climbing the leaderboard going into the weekend.

“It’s nice to see him get the juices flowing and get amped up a little bit and hit the ball farther,” LaCava said. “You can see a difference in mentality.

Woods could feel it.

Just listen . . .

“I had control of my game,” he said.

There’s so much promise in those words.

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Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

Bernhard Langer did not.

The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

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Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

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Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”