He’s now won 11 of these things. But it’s hardly old hat. Tiger Woods loves to win major championships, and each one has its own special meaning. None like this one. Ten times, Tiger has been able to celebrate a major victory with his father, Earl. This time he could not. Earl passed away May 3 because of cancer, leaving his son with lots of memories and lots of emotion. This is GOLFPASS Member Exclusive Content Join GOLFPASS and enjoy 4,000+ tips from top coaches, monthly tee time credit, coaching programs, training aids, and more. Terms and conditions apply. Free trial not applicable on GOLFPASS+. Get Your Free 7 Day Trial Already a GOLFPASS member? Click here to sign in
“His back feeling better, Tiger plans to work on his game and play again soon.” That’s the benign headline on the provocatively irresolute story posted Wednesday evening at TigerWoods.com. Really, has a more harmlessly worded headline and story ever sent more lightning bolts of angst through a sport? Thunder cracked with every uncertainty expressed in Tiger’s post. Given the troubling state of Tiger’s game, and given his importance to the sport, the story Woods penned on his website intrigues in what it doesn’t say. It intrigues in what we think it suggests, in what we think it portends or hints at, and mostly what we think it veils, hides and shrouds. It intrigues in the importance we believe is inferred, implied and intimated. Is Tiger Woods taking a leave of absence? He doesn’t use those words. Of course, he didn’t call Chris Como his new coach when he hired him, either. He calls him a consultant, even though Como seems to be as involved in Tiger’s swing as Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and Sean Foley once were. We know Tiger rarely gives us the straight scoop. He activates glutes, instead. The news today, as best we can surmise, is that Tiger is pulling away from the game, in some sort of way that differs from his usual breaks. Why else pen a story like this and tweet it out? So we sift through Tiger’s words, risking foolishness, looking for meaning that may or may not be there. We look for something he may or may not be bracing us for in the not-too-distant future. “When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back,” Tiger wrote in his post. That’s the mother lode of encrypted Tiger messaging right there. Really, somebody needs to re-assemble Christopher, the encryption machine Alan Turing built in “The Imitation Game,” the Academy Award nominated movie that tells the harrowing story of British cryptographers in World War II. When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back? We’re either making a lot more than there is in Tiger’s post on his website, or we’re not making enough of it. When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back? Tiger says he will be back practicing at Medalist next week. He says he would like to play the Honda Classic in two weeks. He says he expects to be playing again soon. We need more than Turing’s machine to decipher this. We need somebody to convene a séance. We need somebody to channel Winston Churchill, because Tiger’s becoming a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Churchill understood the concept. He invented it. When I think I’m ready, I’ll be back? What if Tiger never thinks he’s ready? What if he really does have the chipping yips and the folks who say they are incurable are right? What if the mental, emotional and spiritual consequences of unrelenting scrutiny are finally getting to him in ways we can’t fathom. What if pain is just becoming an unwelcome guest in his life? What if he still loves the game, but he’s perfectly content to walk away to new challenges and a healthier, new way of life? Or what if he just needs a little more time? Any cryptographers out there see those answers embedded in code in Tiger’s post? If you do, please pass them on, because Tiger’s importance to the game has never been more evident than in the angst today’s harmless headline delivered the sport.
The 144th Open Championship just got less interesting. Sure, Jordan Spieth will be looking to secure the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam and Tiger Woods is returning to the site where he won two of three claret jugs with something that resembles decent form, but without Rory McIlroy, it just won’t be the same. The world No. 1 announced via Instagram on Wednesday that after rupturing a ligament in his left ankle playing soccer two days ago, he would be unable to return to St. Andrews to defend his title. “After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St. Andrews. I’m taking a long term view of this injury and, although rehab is progressing well, I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100% healthy and 100% competitive. Thank you all for your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can,” he wrote. While much of the golf world continues to fixate on the “kick about” that landed McIlroy on the disabled list – as if a 26-year-old should lock himself away when something as important as a major championship is hanging in the balance – the real talking point should be the impact his absence will have on next week’s event and beyond. With the makings of a bonafide rivalry emerging between McIlroy and Spieth, this certainly seems like a potentially historic missed opportunity. Spieth will still be eying Grand Slam history at the Old Course, but it will be missing the buzz that would have come with a potentially historic duel with Rory on such an iconic venue. The two have traded titles with regularity this season, with Spieth striking first with his victory at the Masters. The Northern Irishman answered with convincing triumphs at the WGC-Match Play and at the Wells Fargo Championship in May. Spieth won last month’s U.S. Open, essentially putting the ball in McIlroy’s court, but now that answer will have to wait. “It’s unlucky, it’s unfortunate, and I’m sure he’s taking it harder on himself than anybody else,” Spieth said Tuesday at the John Deere Classic. “But I don’t think he did anything wrong, it just was an unfortunate situation, and hopefully he rebounds quickly and gets back right to where he was.” Spieth’s comments go well beyond that of a friend or interested bystander. In many ways having a healthy rivalry is as important to a player’s legacy as his record. Arnold Palmer had Jack Nicklaus, Nicklaus had Tom Watson, even Woods had a revolving cast of would-be contenders from Ernie Els and Vijay Singh to Phil Mickelson to add a level of intrigue to all of those milestones. A victory for Spieth at St. Andrews won’t be diminished by McIlroy’s absence – let’s be honest, if Jordan leaves Scotland with the third leg of the Grand Slam there will be little talk of ligament damage and ongoing therapy – but the best in any sport crave the competition more than the championships. So far, the rivalry between the two young players has been good natured, competitively heated and very much a two-way street, which are the central tenets of a good rivalry. In May, following his victory at the WGC-Match Play, McIlroy was asked how he planned to spend his birthday, which was the next day. “Every Monday morning I go onto the website and look at what my lead [in the Official World Golf Ranking] is,” he said at Harding Park. “Tomorrow will be the same. It’s nice to be in that position.” It was a telling glimpse into the competitive elements that make a good rivalry and why a Rory vs. Jordan showdown at this year’s majors was so compelling. Next week’s Open will be entertaining, it always is at the Home of Golf, and Spieth may well make history, but it could have been historic.
KAPALUA, Hawaii – In the fall of 2006, those who make the important decisions at TaylorMade Golf had a heady choice – sign little-known prospect Jason Day to an endorsement deal or Anthony Kim? The company opted for the Australian blue-chipper, perhaps because of Kim’s rough-and-tumble past at the University of Oklahoma. Or maybe it was Day’s potential global appeal. Whatever the reason, the decision paid off. Although Kim won three times in his first three years on the PGA Tour he hasn’t played since 2012 and has become something of an urban legend, with the occasional sighting only fueling the curious reasons behind his disappearance. Day on the other hand begins 2017 No. 1 in the world following a three-win season in ’16, he’s won a major (2015 PGA Championship) and is a model citizen with an impressive lineup of endorsement opportunities, including a new clothing deal with Nike that reportedly is worth $10 million a year. Yet beneath all that momentum and upside was a very real sense of uncertainty on Tuesday when he spoke at the SBS Tournament of Champions. The 29-year-old hasn’t played on Tour since the Thursday of the Tour Championship in September, sidelined by a back injury that caused him to withdraw from the season finale. SBS Tournament of Champions: Articles, photos and videos “It’s been a while,” he smiled on Tuesday at Kapalua. If there is cause for concern when it comes to Day – and, to be honest, any time someone misses starts because of a balky back there is reason to worry – it wasn’t coming from the 10-time Tour winner. That’s not his style. Although he conceded that the last three frigid months cooped up in Columbus, Ohio, was varying shades of “miserable,” he begins 2017 feeling fit and “cautiously optimistic.” He’s been here before. At the 2015 U.S. Open he suffered from a dramatic case of benign positional vertigo, missed two months in ’14 with a left-thumb injury and withdrew from the Masters in ’13 with an ankle injury. As impressive as Day has been on the course during his career, his inability to avoid the DL has been just as incomprehensible. For Day, the cautionary tale of a world-class athlete derailed in his prime by a back injury is no further away than a text message. He grew up idolizing Tiger Woods, basing his unrivaled work ethic on a second-hand book written about the 14-time major champion, and has become a friend and confidant of the former world No. 1 in recent years. Day has seen firsthand the ravages a back injury can have on even the most talented and conditioned player, but as temperatures dropped into single digits in Ohio the last few weeks he contended there were no foreboding moments. This current injury, which he described as an annular ligament tear between his L4/L5 disc, can be controlled, Day said. He explained that through treatment and strengthening and a shorter back swing he can keep his ailing back from dictating the terms of his career like it has for Woods, who missed all of the 2016 season following multiple back procedures. When asked if there was a moment over the past few weeks when he embraced the prospect of his professional mortality, Day said his current bout with his body wasn’t nearly as concerning as the thumb injury he endured in 2014. “I actually thought I was going to have to quit the game because of the thumb, because I literally couldn’t hold the club,” he said. “You can get away with a bad back a little bit every now and then; you can kind of get through it.” His injured thumb, however, lingered for months, at one point requiring three cortisone injections in four weeks. “I remember sitting there and they would pull the thumb, so the knuckle could expand and they could inject in between the knuckle,” Day recalled. “It hurt, I mean, like hell, it hurt so bad. I was just trying to get some sort of numbness so I could actually hold the club.” By comparison, Day’s most recent medical setback only required time and patience, not to mention a healthy dose of perspective born from countless trips to the Tour fitness trailer. “I feel like you’re always trying to say, ‘I feel good and I’m past it,’ but with back injuries, I think you probably look at it, 90 percent of the players probably have some back injury or back symptom that could possibly pop up at any time,” he said. A decade after TaylorMade bet on Day his upside remains indisputable. Long even by Tour standards with a superior putting touch (he was first in 2016 in strokes gained: putting), Day is still the player with the most consistent and well-rounded game even if all that talent comes with a growing list of concerning medical question marks.
ALEDO, Texas – Tony Romo’s next pursuit of a championship will be in golf. And it’s a long shot. A month after the Dallas Cowboys quarterback retired, Romo is among nearly 9,500 players who signed up for the U.S. Open. He plays an 18-hole local qualifier Monday at Split Rail Links and Golf Club about 30 minutes west of Fort Worth. If he advances, the next step is sectional qualifying on June 5 to get into the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. This isn’t the first time Romo has tried to qualify. He made it out of local qualifying in 2010. In a 36-hole sectional qualifier where only two of the 35 players advanced, Romo opened with a 71 and withdrew in the afternoon after two weather delays. Orville Moody in 1969 was the last player to go through local qualifying and win the U.S. Open.
SOUTHPORT, England – A good caddie knows what to say when the tension builds and the stakes are high. A great caddie knows when it’s best to not say anything. Count Zack Rasego among the latter, as proven by his mum performance on Saturday while his man, Branden Grace, plodded his way into the history books. When Grace, who completed his round before the leaders even teed off for Round 3 at The Open, turned in 29, Rasego said nothing. When the South African added birdies at Nos. 14, 16 and 17, the veteran looper remained aloof. Even when his man airmailed the green at the last and needed to get up-and-down for par to shoot the lowest round in men’s major championship history, Rasego was reticent. It wasn’t until Grace calmly rolled in his 3-footer for par for an 8-under 62 that Rasego finally came clean. “Zack came up and said, ‘You’re in the history books.” And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Grace laughed. They’ve been playing major championship golf for 157 years and a 62 had remained the Grand Slam unicorn, with players repeatedly flirting with history, as recently as last month at the U.S. Open when Justin Thomas did it on Day 3, and yet somehow Grace was oblivious to the elephant in the Royal Birkdale room? “Let’s get this out of the way: I didn’t know what was going on on [No.] 18. I promise you,” he assured. Credit Rasego for keeping his man in the dark. Who knows how Grace would have handled that delicate par save at the last had he known the stakes, but if relative ignorance was bliss there’s still no ignoring the depth of his accomplishment. Let the social handwringing begin. There will be those who will needlessly handicap Grace’s round because of Saturday’s benign conditions. Grace himself figured par on Day 3 at the 146th edition was about 67. Thomas’ 63, a 9 under card at Erin Hills that set a new major record for relation to par, produced a similar devil’s advocate response. “It looks like a PGA Tour event course setup,” Johnny Miller, who was the first to shoot 63 in a major at the 1973 U.S. Open, said of Erin Hills. “I’m not sure where the days of the 24- to 29-yard-wide fairways that we played every time went. It’s interesting to see where the USGA has gone with the U.S. Open, being a little more friendly than in years’ past.” On Saturday, Miller, who is calling the action for NBC Sports, was a tad more enthusiastic, but only a tad. The Open: Full-field scores | Live blog: Day 3 | Full coverage Photos: Lowest rounds in major championship history “Sweet, look at that number, that is sweet,” he said of Grace’s round before adding, “It was set up really, really easy today, folks.” With respect to Miller or anyone else who wishes to rationalize the relative impressiveness of either Thomas’ or Grace’s rounds, records, by definition, need no generational footnotes. Erin Hills’ fairways were undoubtedly wider than those at the ’73 U.S. Open, but then Miller likely didn’t have to negotiate greens that were rolling 13 on the Stimpmeter. In Grace’s case, there’s also no denying that Saturday’s conditions along the Irish Sea were vastly better than those faced by the field on Friday afternoon, but in 145 Opens there’s been no shortage of fine days on the links that could have easily been the backdrop to a similarly historic round. Nothing distracts from the gravity of a sporting accomplishment more than an asterisk, and nothing about Grace or Thomas’ rounds deserve such provisos. Perhaps the game’s rule makers need to revisit the distance modern players hit the golf ball as more and more of golf’s treasured benchmarks are shattered, but that has nothing to do with Grace or Thomas. It will be interesting the reaction Grace’s round will produce. Thomas’ 63 at Erin Hills, along with champion Brooks Koepka’s 16-under total, set off a chain reaction of complaints. No way Erin Hills should ever host another U.S. Open, was the consensus. Whatever scoring accomplishments occur over the next round and a half at Royal Birkdale there will be no such outcry. Instead, fans, officials and players will concede that Mother Nature, so brutal on Friday, never arrived on Saturday – c’est la vie. Erin Hills, however, was not afforded the same benefit of the doubt, just as there will those who will contend that Grace’s 62 is somehow less impressive because of the perfect conditions or the advantage of the modern power game. Hogwash. There’s no room in the history books for small print or footnotes, only facts, and the facts are rather clear on this – Branden Grace became the first player to ever shoot a 62 in a men’s major. Nothing more, nothing less.
ATLANTA – Stop it here. Have you ever seen anything like this? He hasn’t. It revives memories from years past: 1997 outside Chicago, after he won at Augusta, being one. But nothing to this degree. This is a breath-halting moment, the kind you want to stop and live in and enjoy. Hundreds from here, hundred from there, forming a thousand-person mob, converging on one man. But that’s not the moment. It’s a moment. A moment of many this day that lead to the moment. Let’s stop it here. This moment will live in perpetuity on social media; it’s what the modern medium was made for, to be able to entertain presently and forever serve metaphorically: Black, sleeveless gym shirt; black hat on backwards; Ryder Cup drawstring bag slung over his right shoulder [as he readies to battle two European foes, if observers really dive deep into this one]; power-red shirt in his left hand. The look is casual, the effect intended is purposeful: I’m the badass, say the exposed biceps. I’m the man in charge, says the attire on the hanger. And if you forgot either of those, this moment is your reminder. This is a day of moment upon moment, a series of snapshots that tell a full story. It’s a definitive day in a career of defining moments. It’s a day comprised of individual instances, some of which will remain ingrained in the minds of those who witnessed; some of which were never given much thought. Stop it here. It’s a solitary figure on an expansive landscape. A man preparing to play his part. There’s a panorama of green and blue around him. A practice putting surface, a perfect sky, a peaceful lake. No one shouts his name, no one interrupts his work. Soon that will change. Waves of screams will ripple across the course. Necks will crane and phones will record and the multitude will follow, and none of it will be unfamiliar to him. A storm awaits. But, for now, in this moment, there is a calm. Stop it here. This moment doesn’t seem right. Just minutes ago, he was 25 yards in arrears off the first tee. Now, he’s dead-eyeing a 10-footer for birdie while the opposition is trying to calculate how to two-putt from 40 feet – that opening salvo sound with no fury. The opposition has youth, power and bravado. All fine attributes. But the day’s protagonist has an unequaled desire and greater accuracy, tipping the scales – and turning moments – into his favor. Just when you think you’re in control, you realize that he is. And you’ve lost another shot. Stop it here. Look down from above the fourth tee. It’s an ocean of people, 10, 12 deep, forming a peninsula around him. They’re all here for him, which is nothing new. They’ve always shown for him. But this time – and this representative moment – is unlike the way it used to be. Then, they came to be entertained, to witness something grand. Now, they’re more supportive, personally. They still want to experience whatever greatness may remain, but they’re aware of what he’s endured to get to this moment. He’s appreciated. He’s been humanized. Stop it here. They said this would never again happen. Not now, not with today’s players. There was no way, ever again, that the modern men would fold if he got into contention. His previous competition was inferior, they said. Never again would his steady Sunday approach work. And, yet, here we are. In this moment, looking at this leaderboard. He’s made one birdie through five holes and extended his lead by two, against a field of the top 29 opponents the Tour could gather. The world No. 1, his perceived heir, this year’s Player of the Year, last year’s Player of the Year, the major winners, the multiple winners, where is their challenge? They’ve offered none and what once was, is again. Stop it here. He’s played nine holes and has nine more to go. But after one swing on the inward half, he’s found trouble, a pushed tee shot well to the right. In this moment, his head is down. Maybe the nerves are taking over. Sure, he’s got a five-shot lead and has done this 79 times before, but, as we’re all aware, he’s human. Maybe there is some inner-turmoil to which we aren’t privy. Or maybe he’s just assessing his lie and analyzing his options. Maybe he’s just figuring out how to minimize the damage. Maybe he’s got this under control, knowing a bogey – just one dropped shot – won’t kill him. Stop it here. This feels like the perfect moment. It’s going to happen here, that first birdie since the first hole. The corporate tent backdrop at the 13th – in addition to the ever-growing number in tow – gives it that extra dynamic. This is the moment he has always provided, that signature moment – no matter how mundane a clinching round may have been – that sends everyone into a tizzy. Like old times, he makes that moment. Stop it here. Three feet, seven inches for par. Doesn’t seem like much. Unless you take into account a bogey at 15, a bogey at 16, and the possibility of being only one up with one to play. For all his putting problems this year, 3-footers have not been an issue. He’s made them all. Every one of them. Of course, none have had a level of stress such as this. This moment is about trust. Taking his time, going through a routine, and making a confident stroke. Something normally so simple, now so significant. These are the moments in which he’s always been his best, and he is again. Stop it here. Actually, let him get through the mass of humanity. They’ve engulfed him in the fairway and we need him to emerge. It takes a beat too long, but he finally steps through. This is an extraordinary sight, but, again, it’s not the moment. The moment unlike anything else. That is a moment many, himself included, thought might never come, the moment Tiger Woods raised his hands above his head in victory. It may not be the greatest moment in Woods’ career, nor his most emotional. He may win more Tour events, more majors, and those moments may be more dramatic, more historic. But because of what he’s been through, and what we will never fully appreciate, and because this was the first triumph since it all, and because we never know what is to come, there will never be another moment like this one.
DETROIT – It’s a week of unknowns for PGA Tour players in the Motor City. The Tour is ending a decade-long absence in Michigan, staging an event here for the first time since Tiger Woods won the final Buick Open in 2009, months before his name became tabloid fodder. But that was at Warwick Hills up in Grand Blanc, a suburb that’s closer to Flint than Detroit. This week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic sits inside the city limits of the blue-collar town, staged on a course that sits next to a city park with rugged 8 Mile Road about a par-5 away. The inaugural edition of the event, taking the spot on the Tour calendar of the former Quicken Loans National but not its tournament history, is the first-ever event actually staged in Detroit. And it brings with it a century-old question mark in Detroit Golf Club, an old-school Donald Ross layout that nearly every player in the field will see for the first time upon arrival. This is the opening leg of a fortnight of first-time events for the Tour, with the scene shifting west next week for the 3M Open in Minnesota. But that tournament will be held on a longtime PGA Tour Champions host, and its place within the TPC family gives players a certain understanding of what to expect. That’s not the case this week, where creatures of habit will likely spend an unusually large amount of time with their noses stuck in yardage books. The crisscross layout, following the routing of the North Course while stepping over the South that this week is hosting the driving range and fan zone instead of actual golf shots, is one that they’ll have to learn on the fly. The course at first glance seems like a scaled-down version of Firestone Country Club, with lush rough and tree-lined fairways the most prominent traits. An informal poll of players drew comparisons to Ridgewood and Plainfield in New Jersey, both former playoff event hosts and the latter another Ross design, as well as Canterbury and Inverness in northern Ohio. “It’s pretty wild,” said Bubba Watson. “It’s tree-lined, but it’s the kind of grass, the way the shots you’re hitting into the greens with the slopes and undulations. From tee to green it’s not too bad. It’s kind of fair, kind of open. I shouldn’t say that until after I tee off, but it’s kind of open.” Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field tee times from the Rocket Mortgage Classic Rocket Mortgage Classic: Articles, photos and videos Watson must like his chances this week, since he compared the new host venue to two courses where he’s won a total of six events: Riviera Country Club and TPC River Highlands. But given that Detroit GC was designed by Ross back in 1916, its bones bear a focus on the final shots on each hole – not the first. “It’s the greens. The greens are going to be very difficult,” Watson said. “Right off the greens is some high rough, so around the greens it’s going to be the difficult part. It’s just going to be a matter of putting the ball in the right position after your tee shots.” Unlike last week’s venue, where watery danger lurked around every corner of the closing stretch in Connecticut, there won’t be many penalty drops in Detroit. In fact, one of the few penalty areas on the course is actually bone-dry – a grassy ditch that runs in front of and along the right side of the 18th green, one that would seem rather ordinary were it not surrounded by red stakes. This is a vintage design to welcome players back to an area that hasn’t seen a professional men’s event in 10 years, and it’s one that plans to challenge players without pulling any punches. “They did a great job of modernizing an older layout,” said Rickie Fowler. “It’s nice, it allows you to drive the ball or hit driver quite a bit from what I’ve seen. You play some old courses that are sometimes either too tight or don’t have the length to allow you to hit driver, but that’s not the case here.” Winds were up for players getting a look at the course Tuesday, and the layout plays its most challenging when the pitched and pocketed green complexes are firm and fast. But that likely won’t be the case for the entire week, with calmer winds and periods of rain expected. In fact, the forecast seems like a recipe for top players to torch the par-72 layout, which stretches beyond 7,300 yards and boasts a 635-yard fourth hole but offers little to defend against accurate iron play when conditions are soft. It’s a scenario that already has some players wondering about what might be done to beef things up down the road, as a tournament and a city both get their collective footing after a noticeable absence. “After this year, if scoring’s not too low, maybe they’ll keep it like this. But if scoring gets a little low, they could bring in these fairways a bit,” said Billy Horschel. “It’s the first year of the event. Usually you make changes after year 2, 3, 4, that type of deal. When you realize, ‘Hey, we need to bring in these lines a little bit.’ But we’ll see what happens.” Even if the winning total reaches well into red figures, it’s likely that area fans and tournament organizers won’t lose much sleep. After all, having top Tour players shoot 20 under in your city is better than having them fly overhead while en route to their next event. Tournament golf is back in a sports-driven town on an old-school track, and the players contending over the weekend will likely be the ones who prove to be the quickest studies.
NAPLES, Fla. – Sei Young Kim has some big-hitting company to hold off this weekend in her bid to win the CME Group Tour Championship. Kim’s 5-under-par 67 Friday kept her atop the leaderboard at Tiburon Golf Club with some proven star power climbing into contention for the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest in the history of women’s golf. At 12-under 132, Kim is two shots ahead of Caroline Masson (66) and three ahead of Brooke Henderson (67) and Nelly Korda (68). Su Oh (67) is four back. Defending champion Lexi Thompson (67), Jessica Korda (67) and Yu Liu (66) are five back. Kim’s ball striking could make her tough to beat on the weekend. “Very consistent,” said Kim, who is seeking her 10th LPGA title, her third this season. “I didn’t miss a fairway today … I try to focus on ball striking well.” CME Group Tour Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage Henderson, who has a winter home a half hour from Tiburon, made her move despite a difficult start. After a double bogey at the first, she rallied with seven birdies over the final 15 holes. “It just seemed like I could make everything,” Henderson said of a run of five birdies over six holes on the back nine. As usual, Henderson had large galleries rooting her around the course. The Canadian gets support everywhere, especially in Florida and Arizona in winter events. “I love playing here,” Henderson said. “A lot of snowbirds, a lot of Canadians down here, and a lot of friends we’ve made in Naples.” Nelly Korda got off to a blazing start, making the turn in 31 to take sole possession of the lead, but a couple bogeys on the back nine slowed her down. “Definitely hit the brakes on the back nine,” Korda said. “But all in all, I’ve been really hitting it solid, giving myself a lot of good opportunities, and I think that’s what’s really going well this week.” Thompson, who has a victory and a T-2 finish in her last two starts at Tiburon, got a few more putts to drop switching up her grip on Friday. She went from a conventional grip in the first round to a claw grip in the second round. It proved effective as she made four birdies and an eagle against a single bogey. “I’ve been kind of back and forth, just trying to find something I’m very comfortable with, and claw it is,” Thompson said. Lexi (67) looks to ‘claw’ way to back-to-back CME titles Thompson took 27 putts on Friday, five fewer than she did in the first round. She has a history of tinkering with putters and her grip. “I feel very comfortable with the claw,” Thompson said. “I’ve just gotten away from it.” Thompson didn’t need her putter to jumpstart her round. She holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle at the sixth hole. “A little bit of a momentum getter, for sure,” Thompson said. With 36 holes to go to the big payday, tension promises to build on a weekend taking on the edgy, nervous feels of something major.
Another door is opening to the women’s best players at Royal Troon this week. Fittingly, the best British player ever will lead the way. England’s Laura Davies, 56, will hit the first tee shot Thursday morning to start the AIG Women’s Open, formerly known as the Women’s British Open. It’s the first time Royal Troon is staging the event. It’s Davies’ 40th appearance in the championship. “It’s definitely an honor,” she said of being asked to lead off. “I didn’t hesitate to say yes.” Royal Troon has staged The Open nine times, with winner Henrik Stenson dueling Phil Mickelson in a brilliant finish four years ago, the same year the club invited women as members for the first time. Arnold Palmer, Bobby Locke, Tom Watson and Tom Weiskopf are among The Open winners there. “It’s a really big deal,” said Stacy Lewis, who is looking to win her third major championship, her second in Scotland. “This is a big week for women’s golf, to be playing here on a golf course that’s been in the men’s rotation for a very long time and didn’t even allow female members to come play this golf course for a very long time. “And just really cool I think of the R&A to give Laura Davies that first tee shot tomorrow. There’s just a lot of history to be made this week.” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers also announced Wednesday that Muirfield will host the women’s major for the first time in 2022. The women will go to Carnoustie next year and to St. Andrews for the third time in ’24. Golf Central Women’s Open headed to Muirfield for first time BY Randall Mell — August 19, 2020 at 11:23 AM The R&A made big news Wednesday, announcing that Muirfield will host the AIG Women’s Open for the first time in 2022. Muirfield opened its doors to women as members for the first time last year. “It’s a huge statement of their commitment to the game and their commitment to the women’s game,” Slumbers said. “But the whole five years is intended to be a huge statement of intent about how we want to provide the platform for the best women golfers to play on some of the best golf courses that we can offer in GB&I. It’s a five-year run that really should whet the appetite of every great golf lover.” It’s a huge statement by the R&A and AIG. Muirfield was stricken from the R&A’s list of venues eligible to host The Open before it reversed its ban on women as members. Lewis, who won this championship at St. Andrews seven years ago, relishes the chance to play another historic venue. “It’s just a championship I love,” she said. “I love the history of the game. Obviously, winning at St Andrews, I’m never going to top it, ever. “Just the history, the history of all these golf courses, you think about how long they have all been here, and how long the game of golf has been played here. It’s just really cool.” ‘This week is so cool’: Lewis on LPGA playing at Royal Troon The women expect to be greeted by classic Open conditions, with strong winds and rain forecast through the first two days. That promises to bring Royal Troon’s deep bunkers, gorse and dunes into play. It also promises to make the famed Postage Stamp hole, No. 8, play even tougher as one of the most demanding short holes in championship golf. It will play just 114 yards on the scorecard this week, with the tee shot over a gully, to a narrow green guarded by five bunkers, including the “Coffin,” a bunker with a name that tells you everything you need to know about it. This will mark the best field since the LPGA’s restart amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, with six of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in the field. Japan’s Hinako Shibuno is back to defend her title after bursting on to the international scene so spectacularly last year. News & Opinion Shibuno ready to defend Open without fans BY Randall Mell — August 18, 2020 at 4:41 PM Hinako Shibuno without fans in her title defense at the AIG Women’s Open this week? It may be like watching a fireworks’ show in fog. Brooke Henderson will be making her restart. So will seven-time major championship winner Inbee Park, but she’s the highest ranked South Korean in the field, with so many of her fellow countrywomen passing on the year’s first major. No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 3 Sung Hyun Park, No. 6 Sei Young Kim, No. 9 Hyo Joo Kim and No. 11 Jeongeun Lee6 have yet to play the LPGA since its restart a month ago. They’re all still back in their homeland amid the pandemic, with the virus more under control there. Park said she was wary of playing this week, too. “I kind of thought that I was really worried about traveling,” she said. “I was worried about going to different hotels and different airports and just traveling. I thought it was quite dangerous.” Park, however, said she is impressed with the “bio secure zone” the R&A has created, with testing protocols and a secure bubble for the players and caddies and staff, with no fans attending this week. “So, I really feel safe,” Park said. South Koreans have dominated major championships in women’s golf. They’ve won 19 of the last 39 majors, three of the last five. “I think it’s a little bit of a shame, truly I do,” Lewis said. “You want the best players here. You want to compete and win against truly the best players, but you certainly have to understand . . . You can’t fault them for that, with everything going on in the world. But for the girls that are here, it’s a major championship. It counts just like any other major championship in the years past and going forward. So, for us here, I don’t think it really matters.”