Woods cruises to WGC win at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2013, 1:03 am

DORAL, Fla. – Before we go hydroplaning down hyperbole highway, it seems important to stop short of announcing mission accomplished and consider the ground covered progress, not the pinnacle.

Four days before Tiger Woods completed his Doral Slam (he has four career victories at the South Florida salsa festival/WGC), swing coach Sean Foley bristled at the notion that his man now truly and rightfully owns the new action.

“Someone made that up about ‘owning it,’” Foley said. “You can’t own your swing because you can’t own your state. Your skillset is always going to be an application of your state. When they said (Ben) Hogan or Moe Norman owned their swing, who says that? Who made that up? Did he say he owned it or was trying to?

“(Woods) just understands it. I see a lot less of the old motor patterns there. But he’s just been doing it.”

As brilliant as Woods’ victory on Sunday at Doral was, and it was brilliant, the world No. 2 spoke volumes when asked this week the last time he played this well.

“Torrey (Pines),” he smiled, referring to his four-stroke triumph at the Famers Insurance Open in January. “Wasn’t that long ago.”

With apologies to those with short attention spans, as impressive as Woods’ Blue Monster blowout was, the fact is this is much closer to the norm than the exception.

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Highlights: Tiger goes wire-to-wire at Doral

Since he bolted property last year at Doral midway through his final turn with an ailing leg Woods has won five of his last 19 starts – a 26 percent clip that rivals those historic seasons in 2001, ‘02 and ‘05.

The only thing missing is major No. 15, but following Woods’ closing 71 for a statement two-stroke victory, even that Grand Slam elephant seemed less omen and more omission.

“It's more not playing by position, it's more by certain feels and what I need to do to create that type of trajectory,” Woods said of a swing that is if not owned then on the final stages of a layaway program. “Especially on the fly out there, to make the adjustments that I need to make, where if I don't quite hit one just right, I know exactly what to do to fix it.”

Of all the account keeping one could use to quantify Woods’ dominance at Doral – a career-second best 27 birdies and a statistically significant 50 of 72 greens in regulation immediately come to mind – it was his putting proficiency from 10 feet and in (61 of 64) that should send chills through the rank and file with the year’s first major fast approaching.

His ability to convert when he had to had a ring of a bygone era.

“He cleaned up everything he had to clean up pretty much. It was good stuff,” said Graeme McDowell, who played the final two rounds with Woods but faded on Sunday with a closing 72.

It’s also worth noting that Woods’ WGC-Cadillac Championship victory – career bottle cap No. 76, notable only because he is now within a half-dozen of all-time wins leader Sam Snead – was every bit a quality win based on the cast of characters assembled behind him.

Phil Mickelson, energized by a scouting trip to Augusta National on Tuesday and a range session with Butch Harmon on Wednesday, kept pace with opening rounds of 67 and pulled to within three strokes with back-to-back birdies to begin his final frame, but struggled to make a putt when it counted on the weekend and finished tied for third.

On cue as the conversation slowly turns to Magnolia Lane, Rory McIlroy managed his way through a public mea culpa for his early exit from last week’s Honda Classic and strung together four consecutive competitive rounds for the first time this year.

The world No. 1 said he found something on Thursday after his opening round and closed with a 65 to tie for eighth place and score some much needed emotional capital after a difficult start to his season.

“A day like today felt like a long way away if I'm honest,” McIlroy said. “Just goes to show, if you get something and it works OK for you, it's not as far away as you think. That's been one of my problems; I always think when I'm playing bad that it's further away than it is.”

If McIlroy scored the week’s “Most Improved” award, the week’s MVP trophy, not to mention the runner-up hardware, goes to Steve Stricker, the part-time player who moonlighted as putting guru late Wednesday and set the tone for Woods’ week on the greens.

“(Stricker) basically got me in the same position that I was at Torrey,” Woods said of his impromptu putting lesson with Stricker. “Once he put me in there where I felt comfortable, I said, well, this is not too foreign; this is where I was a month or so ago and I started rolling it and it felt really, really good.”

Not sure Stricker felt as good after posting four rounds in 60s (67-67-69-68) only to get lapped. He is now three starts into a season that will include just 11 events and already has a pair of runner-ups (Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Doral) to bookend a tie for fifth at the WGC-Match Play.

Adam Scott, who closed with a week’s-best 64, and Sergio Garcia (69) also made late cameos to tie for third and complete a depth-chart leaderboard that Woods easily dismantled.

At the turn on Sunday Woods was five strokes clear and despite messy bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes he won for the 50th time in his career when leading going into the final round out of 54 attempts.

McDowell, who has spent as much time going head to head with Woods on a Sunday as anyone in recent years, didn’t use the “ownership” word to describe the world No. 2’s action, but the appreciation was implied.

“He doesn't have those kind of off-the-radar balls anymore,” McDowell said. “In '10, '11, when I was playing with him, he would hit the odd shot where you just would kind of blink twice and go, really, that's wide. He's got the ball under control now. He knows exactly what his golf swing is going to produce.”

Maybe Woods doesn’t own the new action, maybe he’s just renting, moving through on his way to bigger and better things.

“I don't want it to be as good (as 2000). That was never the intent,” Woods said on the eve of this week’s final round. “I want it to be better.”

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”