For his sake and theirs, peers want the Tiger of old

By Will GrayDecember 6, 2016, 1:10 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – As Tiger Woods exited the scoring tent after completing his final round at the Hero World Challenge, he was quickly whisked next door to a makeshift stage a few feet away. There, nearly every credentialed media member that made the trek to Albany stood waiting, eager to pepper the man who was in front of them dressed in red and black for the first time in seemingly ages.

As Woods answered a wide range of queries, the group behind him quietly finished the 18th hole and strode to scoring with minimal fanfare. It was a twosome that included Jordan Spieth, someone for whom the media has many times stood waiting.

But in a week when Woods finally ended his competitive drought, if you weren’t the tournament host, you were playing second fiddle.

It’s a blunt assessment, and one that Spieth validated minutes later when the microphones finally turned in his direction.

“Tiger moves the needle,” Spieth said.

There was no shortage of interested parties who left the Bahamas pleased with the start of Woods’ comeback, from those within his camp to fans and television executives alike. But there was an unmistakable vibe throughout the week at Albany, whether walking the range or on the course, that Woods’ peers are genuinely excited to have him again inside the ropes.

“I don’t care what the score is, we want our champion back,” Bubba Watson said. “We want our Tiger Woods back, we want Tiger back. We want him playing again.”

Part of that sentiment is a nod to the opportunities created by the greatest player of their generation. Many acknowledged the fact that without Woods’ impact and influence, this week’s lucrative exhibition at a luxurious island outpost wouldn’t even exist.

But there is also a secondary motivation, especially for some of the game’s youngest stars for whom Woods has been more idol than adversary.

Spieth’s Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013 coincided with Woods’ last great season, one in which he won five times including The Players Championship. But Spieth never played alongside Woods during any of those five weeks, and the notion of seeing Woods at the top of his game is one that the 23-year-old has read about more often than he’s seen it with his own eyes.

In team sports, an upset win is always relished a bit more when the opponent is at the top of his game. No one celebrated beating Woods this week at Albany, but many salivated over the notion that they might soon be able to stand toe-to-toe with a full-strength Woods and take their chances.

“That’s why we got into this, not to play for second but to have a chance to take down the top, couple greatest to ever play the game. Call him tied for first, call him whatever you want,” Spieth said. “Even if it’s Tiger’s tournament next year, or it’s a major championship, we can say, ‘I battled Tiger when we felt like he was really on, and I was able to get the breaks and pull it off.’ That’s something you can tell your grandkids.”

The allure of duplicating Y.E. Yang’s takedown of Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship remains strong, and it was even a specific example cited early in the week by Spieth, who was just 16 years old when Woods lost a 54-hole lead at a major for the first and only time in his career.

The innate, competitive drive in the world’s best players seeks a worthy adversary; the confidence that propelled them to the top of the game fuels their belief that they would also come out on top.

“I still want to beat him,” said Patrick Reed before playing alongside Woods in the first round. “Tiger still wants to beat me. It’s just like everybody out here.”

For his part, Woods seems just as eager to give them a chance to earn their own stripes in the near future. He spoke early and often about the joy he derived simply from being back in the arena after 15 months of rehab and recovery in relative isolation.

“It feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat these, the best players in the world,” he said. “I love it. I missed it.”

With 72 healthy holes now under his belt, Woods appears ready to take the next step in his long journey back. It’s one that his fellow Tour pros hope continues without further delay, as Woods still represents the largest tide available to lift all boats.

And after months of wait and speculation, they now believe they’re one step closer to a scenario so many envisioned on practice greens and driving ranges over the years: standing across from Woods, strength against strength, with the tournament on the line.

But if asked to offer a few words of advice, scores of Woods’ former foes might well sing out in unison: be careful what you wish for.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.