Tiger at 40: Where does Tiger go from here?

By Rex HoggardDecember 17, 2015, 12:00 pm

(Editor’s note: This story originally ran on Dec. 17)

COVERING THE WALLS of Arnold Palmer’s Latrobe, Pa., office is a vivid history of the King’s career: letters from presidents, scorecards, snapshots with celebrities. Tucked into a dark corridor almost as an afterthought is the Sept. 1, 1969, issue of Sports Illustrated.

It was the 11th time Palmer’s familiar face graced the cover of Sports Illustrated but unlike the other occasions this time was riddled with mixed messages. The headline said it all: “Farewell to an era: Arnold Palmer turns 40.”

Palmer, who turned 40 on Sept. 10th of that year, was winding down his 15th season on the PGA Tour and his first, at least to that point, without a victory.

The implications of the headline, and the accompanying story, were clear – one of the game’s most charismatic and compelling players was nearing the end of his career. It was a message Palmer begrudgingly understood but didn’t like.

Asked recently if the SI cover inspired him to prove he still had the game to compete, Palmer flashed his familiar smile and left no room for ambiguity: “Absolutely.”

Palmer would win twice before the end of the 1969 season and add six more titles to his resume before slipping gracefully into his golden years.

Tiger at 40

Dec. 16: Who is Tiger Woods?

Dec. 16: Why Tiger still matters

Dec. 17: Tiger's future in his 40s

Dec. 17: The Tiger effect on youth

Dec. 30: 'Golf Central' birthday special

In many ways, Palmer admitted, that SI cover and the general sense of finality that surrounded his 40th birthday motivated him, gave him something to prove despite a career that already ranked among the game’s best. Tiger Woods will face a similar situation later this month when he turns 40, a milestone that has been met with a mixture of skepticism and sentimentality.

Earlier this month at his own Hero World Challenge, even Woods seemed willing to accept the reality that time and too many trips to the surgeon’s table had caught up with him.

“I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy,” Woods said. “For my 20 years out here I think I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a pretty good run. But I'm hoping that's not it. I'm hoping that I can get back out here and compete against these guys.”

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a competitor who, as poet Dylan Thomas once penned, plans to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” know that Woods has come by this new measured perspective honestly.

He underwent microdiscectomy surgery in March 2014 and missed nearly four months on Tour while he recovered. When he returned to competition in 2015, he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open when his glutes wouldn’t "activate," and he had a second microdiscectomy in September after missing the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive year.

There was a third “follow-up procedure” in October, although the details of this surgery remain unknown, and when he resurfaced to host the World Challenge he said his golf activity had been limited to nothing more than walking.

“There is no timetable. So that's the hardest part, that's the hardest part for me is there's really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards,” Woods said. “It's just taking it literally just day by day and week by week and time by time.”

IT'S IN THAT CONTEXT that Woods’ 40th birthday has become a much more nuanced milestone. While there is no shortage of players who enjoyed success well into their 40s, few if any began the final decade of their careers with so many unanswered questions.

Whatever comes next for Woods depends entirely on how his back responds to three surgeries in two years, but there is a litany of examples of players who were competitive at the highest levels well into their fourth decade.

Mark O’Meara, one of Woods’ earliest confidants and a neighbor when the two lived in the Central Florida enclave Isleworth, turned 40 shortly after Woods turned pro in 1996.

In a cosmic twist of time, it was Woods’ early success, particularly at the 1997 Masters, that prompted O’Meara, who turned 40 in January of ’97, to work harder when many of his contemporaries were easing quietly into their pre-Champions Tour years.

“He motivated me a ton. I probably wouldn’t have won those two majors had he not come into my life,” said O’Meara, who won four times in his 40s including the 1998 Masters and Open Championship.

John Cook was also part of that Isleworth crew that converged just as he was entering his 40s, a milestone that is often complicated by competing interests outside of golf that can dull one’s competitive edge.

“Being around Tiger and being around Charles Howell kind of kept Mark [O’Meara] and I young,” said Cook, who won on Tour twice in his 40s. “We just watched the greatest player, it kept us motivated. It kept us wanting to play.”

Where Woods will find his will to move forward is, like his current medical diagnoses, something of a mystery.

For the better part of two decades the finish line has always been Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, the last of which came at Augusta National when the Golden Bear was 46.

“He’s still got his eye on the prize. It’s the record. He’s said it ever since he was a kid - he wants that record,” Cook said. “I don’t think he’s satisfied with the last four or five years. The year he had [2013] was really good, but no majors. That’s what’s it’s all about.”

But that Jack-or-bust mentality has been somewhat softened in recent years. Former swing coach Hank Haney said this year on Sirius XM PGA Tour radio that catching Nicklaus was never Woods’ primary goal.

Earlier this month at the World Challenge, Woods talked about eclipsing Nicklaus on the all-time Tour wins list, with only a passing reference to the game’s ultimate litmus test for greatness – 18 major championships.

Perhaps Woods’ current medical plight has prompted him to reassess what’s possible. Perhaps he was never zeroed in on Nicklaus’ record – although at this point it does seem like a revisionist spin on diminishing returns. Either way, Tiger’s mind, if not his body, doesn’t appear to be entirely at ease with the idea that his time may have passed.

“I really do miss it. I miss being out here with the boys and mixing it up with them and see who can win the event. That's fun,” Woods said.

If a paradigm of hope is what Woods needs, there is no shortage of examples he can pull from. In his last start of 2015 – the Wyndham Championship, an 11th-hour addition to his schedule to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs – he lost to 51-year-old Davis Love III.

Love and Woods have grown closer since the creation of last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup task force and Love has become something of a voice of reason when it comes to Woods’ future.

“If he just plays, you know he’s going to get better,” Love said. “Give him from the first of February to the end of the FedEx Cup [Playoffs], where he’s healthy, 16 tournaments, he’ll play really well.”

It’s become the ultimate qualifier – if he’s healthy.

For the most part, Nicklaus didn’t deal with the assortment of injuries that Woods has, but his record in his 40s, when he won five times, including three of those 18 majors, should give Tiger a reason to be optimistic.

Or, he could look to Phil Mickelson, his primary rival throughout much of his career who added four Tour titles to his resume since turning 40 in 2010, most notably the 2013 Open Championship which set up a late-in-career bid to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open.

“I'm 45. I still love golf and appreciate the fact that I'm able to play at the highest level and do what I love to do,” Mickelson said in June. “Some people don't want to do it that long, and I understand. It's each individual's own preference.”

OF COURSE, THE ULTIMATE arbiter of success past 40 would be Vijay Singh, who collected 22 of his 34 Tour titles in his fourth decade, including the 2004 PGA Championship.

Singh, who at 52 finished inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list last season and has shown no signs of taking his game permanently to the greener pastures of the Champions Tour, had a singular motivation when he turned 40: “I just wanted to win,” he said.

But even in Singh there is a cautionary tale as Woods plots his course into the next decade. While the Fijian blazed a new trail for 40-somethings there was a physical toll. He averaged more than 25 events on Tour after turning 40 – a number Woods didn’t approach even before he was sidelined with an assortment of injuries – and was ultimately slowed, like Tiger, by injury.

“I was in good physical shape, until I got my knee done. For some reason it was all over then,” said Singh, who underwent right-knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January 2008 and hasn’t won since. “It went to my back ... it was just downhill from there.

For Woods, the optimism that was there just two years ago after he’d won five Tour events and his 11th Player of the Year Award has faded, replaced by uncertainty.

Most agree the best player of his generation, perhaps of all time, has the talent to make 40 the new 30, but the questions remain. Even if Woods’ health returns, he must still find the competitive spark that drove him to hone his trade through endless hours of practice and preparation.

“Only he knows what he wants to do deep down inside," O'Meara said. "Turning 40, with the life he has led and the pressure and the scrutiny he’s lived under, there’s not that many human beings who have experienced what he has. At the end of the day we’re still human beings, and human beings can only take so much.

“It’s going to be difficult to get back to that level that he once was, but who knows? Sometimes when you least expect it with him, when you underestimate his desire and ability, he comes roaring back.”

Palmer found his post-40 drive in that Sports Illustrated cover, a desire to prove those who would second-guess his future wrong, and it’s certainly a form of motivation Woods is familiar with as the crescendo of doubt has grown the closer he gets to his 40th birthday on Dec. 30.

But as Palmer eyed that fateful cover from 1969, the conversation turned to Woods and his impending birthday. The signature smile vanished, replaced by the slightest hint of sadness.

“I’m afraid some of my thoughts about Tiger and his life and his future might be different. There are things that would be unfair, to him, for me to say,” Palmer said. “He has an opportunity and a talent that is something he should value more than he does.”

Getty Images

Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

Getty Images

With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.

Getty Images

Ko (68) off to best start of year at Kia Classic

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 12:39 am

Lydia Ko didn’t take long to put last week’s missed cut behind her Thursday at the Kia Classic.

She got off to her best start of the year.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko finished the day in a tie for eighth, just two shots off the lead at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I would say I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key,” Ko said.

Ko scrambled her way to her low opening round of the year in light rain. She hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 greens, but only needed 25 putts.

“This is a pretty tough golf course,” Ko said. ”I think putting is a huge key around this course, where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Aviara’s poa annua greens have been known to give players fits, but Ko had her flatstick working. After making the turn at 1 over, she made five birdies on her second nine.

Ko, 20, won at Aviara two years ago but missed the cut there last year.

“I love Carlsbad,” Ko said “I would say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve played well and love the area.”

Ko, seeking her first victory since July of 2016, has her new coach, Ted Oh, working with her in Carlsbad this week. Oh made the trip to Asia last month, helping Ko to her tie for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. But, she missed the cut in Phoenix last week in her next start.

“All I can do is try my best,” Ko said. “Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this good momentum going.”

Getty Images

Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 2

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 12:32 am

Here is how things played out on Day 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play. Click here for Day 1 match results:

Group 1: Adam Hadwin (38) def. Dustin Johnson (1), 4 and 3: After a dominating performance at last year’s Match Play, where he never trailed in any match, Johnson is already mathematically eliminated. He got routed on Thursday by Hadwin, after the Canadian built a 2-up lead at the turn and then poured it on with wins on the 11th and 13th holes.

Group 1: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Bernd Wiesberger (52), 5 and 4: Kisner made three consecutive birdies midway through the front nine to set the tone, then kept the pressure on Wiesberger, who knocked off DJ on Wednesday, to earn the full point and stay in the mix to advance.

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) def. Patton Kizzire (48), 3 and 1: After DJ’s early exit, Thomas now has a clear path to world No. 1, if he can win the Match Play this week. Thomas did his part, improving to 2-0 after taking a 3-up advantage and then making birdie on 16 and 17 to close out Kizzire. That sets up a winner-take-all match against Francesco Molinari on Friday.

Group 2: Francesco Molinari (21) def. Luke List (60), 3 and 2: Molinari dropped seven birdies on List and won the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to move to 2-0 this week.

Group 3: Chez Reavie (43) def. Jon Rahm, 1 up: On the verge of surrendering a big lead against Rahm, Reavie’s par on 18 was enough to secure a 1-up victory. He led 3 up with three to go, but Rahm birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to send the match to the last. But there, from just short of the green, Rahm hit his pitch shot well past the flag and couldn’t make birdie. Now 0-1-1, Rahm, last year's finalist, is now eliminated.

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Keegan Bradley (63), 1 up: Bradley once again kicked away a late lead. One day after coughing up a 2-up lead with three to play, he squandered a 1-up lead with three to play against Aphibarnrat. Bradley made bogey on 17, then was stymied behind a tree after his drive on 18. Barnrat rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to improve to 2-0.

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) def. Haotong Li (34), 4 and 2: Spieth held up his end of the deal, winning the fifth hole with a birdie and never trailing from there. He poured it on late with the Chinese star, winning the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. He'll play Reed, his Ryder and Presidents Cup partner, on Friday in a winner-take-all match.

Group 4: Patrick Reed (19) def. Charl Schwartzel (49), 1 up: In a wild match that saw that only three halved, Reed hung on to defeat Schwartzel, 1 up. Two up with three holes to play, Reed lost the 16th, escaped with a bogey halve on the 17th and then was out of position on the final hole. But he nearly holed his wedge shot, rattling the stick and leaving his ball on the front edge for a conceded birdie and narrow victory.

Group 5: Cameron Smith (46) def. Hideki Matsuyama (5), 1 up: One down with five to play, Smith won the 14th with a par, then chipped in for birdie on 16 to take a 1-up lead. At 2-0, he’s now in control of the group.

Group 5: Patrick Cantlay (30) def. Yusaku Miyazato (53), 1 up: In control throughout, Cantlay bogeyed the 17th hole to return the match to all square. On the home hole, he busted a drive to the front-left corner of the green, then made birdie to win and improve to 1-1.

Group 6: Rory McIlroy (6) def. Jhonattan Vegas (44), 2 and 1: Needing a victory to avoid an early exit, McIlroy won two consecutive holes before the turn and then added a win on 13 to give himself the cushion he needed down the stretch, holing a 6-footer for par on 17 to close out Vegas. McIlroy now has a chance to advance with a victory over Harman on the final day of pool play.

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) def. Peter Uihlein (57), 4 and 2: Harman never trailed in knocking off Uihlein, who soundly defeated McIlroy on Day 1. With 1 ½ points, Harman is in the driver’s seat, but he needs at least a halve against McIlroy on Friday (and a Uihlein loss) to advance.

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Dylan Frittelli (41), 2 up: All square with six holes to go, Garcia birdied 13, won 14 with a par and then drove the 18th green for a conceded birdie to close out Frittelli, the former Texas Longhorn, and improve to 2-0 this week. He'll play Schauffele in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 7: Xander Schauffele (20) def. Shubhankar Sharma (62), 3 and 1: Schauffele improved to 2-0 this week by thoroughly handling Sharma, the darling of the recent WGC-Mexico event, never leading by fewer than 2-up on the back nine and playing 3 under.

Group 8: Jason Dufner (42) def. Jason Day (8), 3 and 1: Dufner took down one of the pre-tournament favorites with a steady closing stretch. Five of his six wins came after Day bogeys, but Dufner turned an all-square match on 14 tee into a 3-and-1 victory.

Group 8: James Hahn (56) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 3 and 1: Hahn jumped all over the South African, winning the first three holes and never holding less than a 2-up lead on the back nine. With his victory, each player in the group has a 1-1 record.

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) def. Kevin Chappell (33), 7 and 6: Avenging an opening-day loss, the Englishman won the first four holes and needed to make only three birdies in a monster rout of Chappell. The 2017 Presidents Cupper made five bogeys and conceded two other holes but still has a chance to win the group.  

Group 9: Ian Poulter (58) def. Daniel Berger (26), 2 and 1: Playing this event for the first time since 2015, Poulter improved to 2-0 on the week with a solid victory over Berger, one of many young American up-and-comers. Using the same putter that he put in play at the epic 2012 Ryder Cup, Poulter won three of the first four holes and never backed down. He is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday. 

Group 10: Paul Casey (10) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 4 and 2: A winner at the Valspar, Casey stayed hot in Austin, taking a 3-up lead at the turn and improving to 2-0 this week. He needs only a halve on Friday to advance.

Group 10: Russell Henley (51) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), 2 and 1: Shaking off a narrow loss to Casey on Wednesday, Henley took control of an all-square match by winning the 12th and 14th holes and then rolling in a tricky 25-footer on the 17th green to put away Fitzpatrick. Still alive in pool play, Henley needs to beat Kyle Stanley, and hope Casey loses, to force a playoff.

Group 11: Bubba Watson (35) def. Marc Leishman (11), 3 and 2: Coming off an impressive opening victory, Watson erased an early deficit, then won Nos. 12-14 to put away Leishman, who is now eliminated. Watson is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday.

Group 11: Branden Grace (23) def. Julian Suri (64), 2 and 1: After a shaky start, Grace made four birdies over his last 11 holes to knock off the surprise Day 1 winner, Suri, who was the last man into the field. Watson is still in control of the group heading into the final day.

Group 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12) def. Brendan Steele (36), 3 and 2: All square through 12 holes, the Englishman made four birdies and an eagle over his last eight holes to improve to 2-0 this week. Hatton needs only a halve Friday to advance.

Group 12: Alexander Levy (55) def. Charley Hoffman (22), 1 up: Levy led from the sixth hole, but Hoffman slowly cut into the deficit and took the Frenchman to the final hole. Levy’s par was enough to notch his first point and stay alive in pool play.  

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) def. Thomas Pieters (39), 5 and 4: Noren made quick work of Pieters in what could be a match of future Ryder Cup teammates. Noren built a 4-up lead after seven holes and then cruised from there, moving to 2-0 this week and eliminating Pieters. In 30 holes this week, Noren has made 12 birdies and no bogeys.

Group 13: Tony Finau (29) def. Kevin Na (61), 3 and 2: In a contrast of styles, the powerful Finau birdied the first three holes and never looked back against Na, setting up a battle of unbeatens in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Satoshi Kodaira (40), 1 up: Four down through seven holes, Mickelson was on the verge of being eliminated before running off a series of wins, including on 16 and 17 to push the match to the final hole. Then, on 18, he pitched to 8 feet and drained the birdie putt to complete the remarkable comeback.

Group 14: Charles Howell III (59) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), 3 and 1: After knocking off Mickelson on Day 1, Howell pulled away from Cabrera Bello late, winning the 14th, 15th and 17th holes – only one of which with birdies – to take control of the lead. At 2-0, Howell is assured of at least a playoff.

Group 15: Webb Simpson (37) def. Pat Perez (15), 3 and 1: Matched up against the fiery Perez, Simpson seized control of the match with wins on the 11th and 12th holes, sank a 20-footer on 15 and then won the 17th after Perez put his tee shot in the hazard. Now 1-0-1, he’ll have a winner-take-all match against Kim on Friday.

Group 15: Si Woo Kim (50) def. Gary Woodland (24), 5 and 3: Kim won the first hole and never looked back, grabbing a 3-up lead at the turn and leading by as much as 5 up after 12 holes. He is now 2-0. 

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) def. Yuta Ikeda (47), 1 up: Though he wasn’t nearly as hot as in his opener against Johnson, Kuchar played solidly, going 3 under (including concessions) and making par on 17 to edge ahead of Ikeda and eke out a narrow victory. 

Group 16: Ross Fisher (27) def. Zach Johnson (54), 2 up: After a remarkable comeback against Kuchar to earn a halve on Day 1, Johnson couldn’t summon the same magic on Thursday. Though he won the 15th to cut Fisher’s advantage to 1 up, Johnson couldn’t convert birdie putts on the last three holes.