Thursday's roundup: Woods struggles with chipping in return
Scottsdale, Ariz. — The focus on Tiger Woods at the Phoenix open shifted Thursday from a chipped tooth to his chipping.
Woods struggled mightily with his short game again, and it didn't help that he only hit three greens in regulation on the front nine. He made three bogeys and a double bogey and made the turn in 4-over 39.
In his 2015 debut, Woods already was 10 shots behind early leader Keegan Bradley, who had a 6-under 65.
Woods is playing for only the second time since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship last August. He brought in a new swing consultant during his time off to heal from back injuries, and expectations were lower than usual for a player who has won 79 times on the PGA Tour.
In his first trip to the Waste Management Phoenix Open since 2001, playing before the most energetic crowd at an American golf tournament since the PGA Championship, Woods created more groans than cheers — particularly off the green.
Just over a week ago, Woods was photographed in Italy at a World Cup ski race with a missing tooth from what he said was a camera inadvertently hitting him in the mouth. The chipped and crack teeth were easy to replace. His chipping might be a different story. Woods also duffed a number of chips at the Hero World Challenge in December at Isleworth, the course he knows better than any other in the world.
Not much changed two months later.
Woods didn't hit his chip with a mid-iron hard enough from short of the first green and left it 10 feet short. He sent a routine chip on the second hole some 15 feet by the cup. And on the next hole, the par-5 third hole, Woods was tentative with a flop shot out of the rough and didn't reach the green. Another chip on the par-3 fourth didn't reach the green, and he three-putted from 20 feet on the fringe.
The worst of it was at No. 9. His ball was just outside a bunker, and Woods had to play an exaggerated hook with his feet in the sand, and he lost his balance. At least his back looked to be healthy. The ball came up short of the green, and Woods bladed a chip that ran over the back of the green.
Instead of chipping to a close pin, he opted to putt up the slope. It was the second time on the front nine that Woods used a putter instead of chipping. It wasn't a bad option, but using a putter once was a rare option for Woods.
The crowd was enormous, as expected, with Woods playing the rowdiest event on the PGA Tour for the first time in 14 years. Bradley didn't get much attention as he motored around TPC Scottsdale with seven birdies for the lead among the early starters.
"I hit a shot in on my last hole to about 10 feet, and it was a pretty good shot, and I didn't get many claps," Bradley said.
He turned to his caddie and asked if it was over the green, or well short. He couldn't figure out why there was hardly any applause.
"We get up there — perfect shot. And Tiger was on the second green. No one was watching me," he said. "It's just amazing to see the draw that Tiger has."
Zach Johnson was among four players at 66, while Angel Cabrera and Justin Leonard were in the group at 67.
Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner at the Phoenix Open, also got off to a bad start. He put two balls in the water on the par-5 15th and made double bogey and was 3 over through his opening seven holes. But he drove to the front of the green on the short par-4 17th and converted that into a birdie, and he picked up four more birdies to salvage a respectable 69.
"I felt like I was a little anxious starting the round, because I felt like my game was really where I wanted it to be," Mickelson said. "I came out and I just made a bunch of dumb mistakes. … I ended up playing the front nine really solid with 3 under and hit a lot of good shots on some holes I made pars, as well, and feel much better."
Dubai Desert Classic
Bernd Wiesberger made seven birdies on his last 10 holes to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The 29-year-old Austrian took full advantage of the good playing conditions at the Emirates Golf Club to shoot a bogey-free 8-under 64. He made five straight birdies from the 13th hole before finishing with a par.
"I struggled with my putting early on, I didn't even get to the hole," Wiesberger said. "Once I got the pace right on the greens, which was a bit slower than I expected it, then it went nicely."
Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts were among four players tied for second, along with American Peter Uihlein and Andy Sullivan.
Rory McIlroy was another shot back after a bogey on his last hole. He was tied with six other players, including defending champion Stephen Gallacher.
"It's a decent score," McIlroy said. "I didn't hit a fairway until the 17th, which was my eighth hole, but I scored well for those holes. I can't complain with 66 to start. You're not going to get the course any easier out there today."
Ha Na Jang went from qualifier to leader in just a few days at the LPGA season opener.
And it surprised no one.
The 22-year-old South Korean, ranked 21st in the world, shot a 7-under 65 in the second round of the Coates Golf Championship and opened up a four-shot lead over Stacy Lewis heading into the third round.
Jang has full status on the LPGA Tour. But because the opener isn't a full-field event, she had to qualify last Saturday. Her extra time at Golden Golf & Ocala Equestrian Club certainly paid dividends. She made one bogey in two rounds, and responded to that miscue with birdies on two of the next three holes.
"I hope to play well these next two days so people get to know who I am," Jang said through an interpreter.
The start of the second round was delayed 90 minutes because of frost, and the interruption prevented 50 players from completing 18 holes. They will return Friday morning to finish.
Jang might not want to wait to get back on the course. She sank a curl-in, 25-footer on her final hole in near-dark conditions to get to 12-under 132.
Although Jang is technically a rookie, she has plenty of experience. Her best LPGA finish was third in the 2014 Evian Championship last year. She also won six tournaments in five seasons on the KLPGA Tour and finished tied for 42nd at the Korean Women's Open as a 12-year-old.
Lewis, one of three players to shoot 66 in the opening round, was 8 under heading into Friday's third round.