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Woods adds to highlight reel with 65 at Sawgrass

By Will GrayMay 12, 2018, 7:41 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For a little over an hour Friday afternoon, Tiger Woods’ return to The Players Championship seemed like a failure.

His first two trips around the Stadium Course looked eerily similar to his mediocre performance from the week prior at the Wells Fargo Championship. Woods’ laments about missed opportunities, errant irons and an inability to convert on the greens may as well have been plucked from the Quail Hollow transcripts.

As his 36-hole score bounced around on both sides of the cut line late Friday afternoon, long after Woods left the premises in a tinted courtesy car, whatever pre-Masters momentum he accrued at the other three PGA Tour stops in Florida seemed like a distant memory.

But the scores eventually bounced Woods’ way, and granted him both a reprieve and a third-round tee time. He then wasted little time in marking another step of progress on a comeback journey that now has a new chapter of highlights.

From the very first shot of the day, Woods displayed a level of controlled confidence that hasn’t been seen since he fired a drive into someone’s back yard during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tee shots posed no threat; iron shots cut and drew at his will; putts that for the last 10 days have misfired finally found their mark.


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“Eventually I was going to put all the pieces together,” Woods said. “Today, for the most part, I did that.”

It added up to a 7-under 65, cutting a 14-shot deficit momentarily in half and vaulting Woods into a tie for eighth when he tapped in for par on his final hole. The effort kicked off a number of “first since” accolades: best score of the season, first 65 on Tour in nearly three years and his lowest score to par since his most recent victory at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“He had control of his golf ball,” said playing partner Mackenzie Hughes. “His putting kind of speaks for itself, but from the 10- to 20-foot range, he was just so solid and rolled in some really nice putts today.”

Despite a round that briefly threatened the course record, Woods won’t win his third Players title this week after digging an insurmountable hole with pedestrian scores over his first two rounds. But the theme for Woods this year hasn’t been about any single tournament, but rather his phoenix-like return when many believed his playing career might have effectively ended with back surgery last spring.

To that end, there’s plenty to glean from his performance Saturday that sent the Stadium Course crowds into a tizzy, even if it ultimately will have little bearing on the final leaderboard or who lifts the trophy come Sunday night.

“As I’ve told you guys this week, I’ve got my playing feels back and it’s just a matter of playing and executing and putting shots together,” Woods said. “It was nice. I made some putts today, and that was basically the difference.”

There’s no formula or checklist for cobbling together a victory, even when you have 79 to your credit. But surely one marker for Woods’ long-term hopes was his ability to finally go low – really low – when favorable conditions and a cooperative game finally converged.

Because for as much as Woods can rationalize his ability to successfully sweat two straight cuts on difficult tracks, to gradually build up his reps and his feels with middling results against stellar fields, these are the types of performances that can leave a lasting impression on a player’s psyche. Look no further than tournament leader Webb Simpson, who nearly had an out-of-body experience while distancing himself from the pack as Woods’ weekend fate hung in the balance late Friday afternoon.

“I think golf as a whole and sports as a whole, confidence is so big, and it can change the way you think. And I think even more so maybe with putting,” Simpson said. “I’ve started to believe again that I’m a great putter, and it had been a long time since I really felt that and believed it.”

What Woods does with this particular effort, what goodwill he can accrue from a round when he finished nearly two hours before the tournament leaders began, remains to be seen. But after struggling to keep his head above water for much of the past few weeks, he received another dose of tangible proof that lasting success is sometimes only one round away.

Weeks, maybe months from now Woods will likely play his way into contention with a trophy on the line. And when he does, that vault-like memory of his won’t have to drift back to 2000, or 2008, or even 2013 for inspiration.

He’ll be able to look back on a steamy trip around the Stadium Course that almost didn’t happen, a day when the putts finally fell in bunches, as the latest example that an often-maddening game can sometimes seem easy.

“I hit a lot of good shots today,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of, overall the whole day, a lot of quality shots and 65 was probably as high as I could have shot today, which was nice.”

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

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"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."