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How the time flies: Tiger returns to Riviera

By Rex HoggardFebruary 13, 2018, 8:33 pm

LOS ANGELES – Cypress, California, is about an hour drive in L.A. traffic south of Riviera Country Club.

But for a teenaged Tiger Woods, it must have felt like a different world.

Throughout the early 1980s and into the ’90s, Woods’ father, Earl, groomed his soon-to-be world-beating son at the Navy Golf Course near his childhood home. A testament to his time is still kept on the Navy’s Destroyer Course, the “Tiger Tree” next to the 18th fairway where the teen would land monstrous drives.

By the early ’90’s, Woods had established himself as a local legend, a golf prodigy whose renown had grown beyond Cypress and the Navy course. He first ventured to Riviera to play a junior event and on Tuesday recalled playing the drivable par-4 10th hole with a persimmon-headed driver.

“No one really went for it because at the time I first played here as a junior, most of the professionals were first using persimmon and balata balls; the balls weren't going very far,” he recalled. “Obviousl the game's changed. Today I hit 3-wood, landed on the green and it went over.”

Woods made his Tour debut here in 1992 as a 16-year-old amateur, and still refers to the event as the Glen Campbell, which the tournament used to be called until the early 1980s. Although he long ago moved east to Florida to begin his pursuit of history as a professional, this place is home. Or at least as close to home as the Tour gets.

Woods’ career is a collection snapshot moments at places like Augusta National, Torrey Pines and Muirfield Village, where he’s won with historic regularity. Alas, Riviera is not one of those places.

Woods is winless Genesis Open after 11 tries, his most at-bats in a PGA Tour event without win. It’s why many think Woods stopped playing the L.A. event in 2006, even if that is likely an oversimplification.

“I love the golf course. I love the layout. It fits my eye, and I play awful,” said Woods, whose best finishes at the Genesis Open are a pair of runner-up showings in 1998 and ’99. “It's very simple. It's just one of those weird things. It's a fader's golf course for a righty. A lot of the holes, you hit nice soft cuts, and I used to love to hit nice soft cuts, and for some reason I just didn't play well.”


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But the times have changed for both Woods and the Genesis Open. His foundation, renamed the TGR Foundation on Tuesday, began running the event last year. It's an event that has benefitted in recent years from victories by the likes of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

It’s cool to be in L.A. again, and for Woods, it’s convenient. It’s been five years since Tiger played a full Tour schedule and after undergoing fusion surgery on his lower back last April, his most recent comeback is in full swing, following his tie for 23rd last month at Torrey Pines. Riviera was a perfect second chapter in that story, even if the course has had his number, and even if it's a little different.

“This is a whole new game. Everything's bigger now,” said Woods, who played a nine-hole practice round on Tuesday. “The bunkers are deeper; they seem to be bigger. The greens have gotten more pin locations than I remember. So I've got to do a little bit more homework tomorrow in the pro-am.”

There is no denying Woods is in the field this week to support his foundation, but there is also no denying some nostalgic significance considering where he now finds himself in his career.

It was just four months ago at the Presidents Cup, where he served as a vice captain, that Woods seemed to acknowledge his competitive mortality.

“The pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven't hit a golf shot yet,” he said in late September at Liberty National.

Woods covered the same ground on Tuesday but this time with a sense of optimism born from his play at Torrey Pines and at the Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth place in an 18-man field.

Although he’s never been prone to bouts of sentimentality, and he probably won’t make the drive down to Cypress to visit the old Navy course and recall those early years, there is a significance to his start this week that’s impossible to ignore.

Woods flew to California with Justin Thomas, the 24-year-old reigning player of the year and FedExCup champion, who inadvertently forced a moment of retrospection.

“He asked me when did I play in this tournament as an amateur. I said, ‘Yeah, I was 16, 1992,'” Woods smiled. “He said, 'That was the year before I was born.' I'm sorry, but that really put things in perspective really fast.”

It’s no surprise that Woods’ return to Riviera also puts an eventful few years into similar perspective.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.