Thursday’s roundup: Woods recovers for 68, only 5 back
Gainesville, Va. — Tiger Woods took a conservative 3-wood off the first hole at the Quicken Loans National when many players were hitting drivers. No matter — he still pull-hooked it into the gallery, hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and lipped out a 5-footer for par before slamming his putter against his bag.
On the third hole Thursday, he missed the green well left and had to get up-and-down for bogey. A three-putt on No. 4 left him 3 over.
It was his final bogey of the first round.
Woods got a fortunate deflection off a marshal left of the green on the par-5 fifth. He apologized, handed out an autographed glove and made his first birdie. Then he ran off five birdies in six holes around the turn for a 3-under 68. That left him five shots behind leaders Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.
Woods said it was the first time since the Masters in April that he’s turned a bad round into a good one.
“That’s what scoring is all about,” Woods said. “I made a lot of key putts. I ran them by the hole but I made all the comebacks, and overall I felt like I hit the ball well enough to turn it around. It was nice to actually turn it around.”
Woods is the host of the Quicken Loans National, which he won in 2009 and 2012 at Congressional in Maryland. The last of his 79 PGA Tour victories was nearly two years ago, and he has plummeted to 266th in the world rankings.
Woods got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie on the par-5 eighth. He made a 9-footer on 10 and a 7-footer on 11. He hit his approach to tap-in range on 12, the most difficult hole on the course, and ended the run with a 12-footer on 13. He two-putted for par on the final five holes.
The 68 was only his sixth round under 70 this year. He has had three scores of 80 or higher and has missed three cuts and withdrawn once in eight events.
In soft conditions with little wind, Woods’ 68 was only good for a tie for 27th. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls on the rain-softened fairways, and 81 of them managed to break par.
“We got the fresh greens tomorrow,” said Woods, who played in the afternoon after a 95-minute rain delay. “Hopefully, go out there and post a low one.”
RTJ is welcoming a regular PGA Tour event for the first time after hosting four Presidents Cups, most recently in 2005, and experience seemed to help. Goosen, who played in two of those events, had a bogey-free 63. Presidents Cup veterans Ernie Els and Justin Leonard were one shot back, along with Kevin Chappell.
Goosen, a 46-year-old two-time major champion, is finally feeling healthy after major back surgery in 2012. Always stoic on the course, he still has plenty of passion for the game, which he showed by qualifying for both the U.S. Open and the British Open.
“I’m lucky to be out here. Three, four years ago my career looked like it was at an end,” said Goosen, whose last victory was in 2009. “I’m just glad I’m still out there and playing. Yeah, I just wish I was 10 years younger again.”
Ishikawa, who started on the back nine, ran off six birdies in a row starting on the 14th hole, then made a hole-in-one on the 180-yard fourth, spinning an 8-iron 15 feet back into the cup for his first competitive ace in the United States
At that point he was 8 under with five holes to go. He parred the last five.
Three tourneys will conflict with Olympics
Jordan Spieth might have no choice but to miss the John Deere Classic next year. It’s the same week as the Olympics.
The PGA Tour released Thursday its 2015-16 schedule, which included several changes because of golf’s return to the Olympics next August in Rio de Janeiro. The Travelers Championship, John Deere Classic and Wyndham Championship will be played during the three-week Olympic window.
Spieth chose to play the John Deere Classic this year, even though it was a week before his bid for the third leg of the Grand Slam at the British Open. He not only won the Deere, the 21-year-old Texan missed a playoff by one shot at St. Andrews
He also won the John Deere in 2013 to earn his full PGA Tour card.
Tournament director Clair Peterson said the John Deere would like to have Spieth back to defend, although “we can think of no better representative of our country” than Spieth at the Rio games.
“We have had the privilege of getting to know Jordan over the last four years,” he said. “And next summer the rest of the world will have a chance to get to know him, too.”
The Americans can have as many as four players at the Olympics, provided they are among the top 15 in the world ranking. Spieth is No. 2, and he has nearly double the points average over the fifth-ranked American.
It’s possible two PGA Tour events during the Olympics will be without a defending champion. Bubba Watson, currently No. 3, won the Travelers.
Golf executives had told the International Olympic Committee they wouldn’t hold big events — majors and World Golf Championships — during the Olympics. It was always going to be busy, especially in a Ryder Cup year (Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Minnesota).
The PGA Championship agreed to move up to July 28-31, just two weeks after the British Open. And the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone will be held two weeks after the U.S. Open instead of its early August date preceding the PGA Championship.
Still unclear is how that will affect the European Tour, which has not released its schedule for next year. The weeks between the U.S. Open and British Open are during the heart of the continental schedule with strong events in Germany, France and Scotland.
“We knew there would be challenges for all of golf in terms of scheduling when the Olympics came in, and a number of people have made sacrifices,” said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s chief spokesman and vice president of the International Golf Federation.
The Quicken Loans National, hosted by Tiger Woods, will be held a week after the U.S. Open. Woods has not played the week following the U.S. Open since he tied for 13th in the Buick Classic in 2003. That means a three-week stretch on courses that have hosted majors — Oakmont, Congressional and Firestone.
The Greenbrier Classic will be in the John Deere’s old spot a week before the British Open, and the Canadian Open will be sandwiched between the British Open (Royal Troon) and the PGA Championship (Baltusrol).
The FedEx Cup playoffs will start the week after the Olympics, and that could present challenges for players from smaller countries who qualify for the Olympics but are struggling to stay in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup. That could mean giving up a crucial week — or two weeks if they want to take part in opening ceremonies in Rio — in which they are missing out on potential points. This year, for example, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico is No. 111 in the FedEx Cup.
“We’re looking at this as one in four (years). We’re not faced with it every year,” Votaw said. “So it depends on where they are and what they want.”
He said projections show only about half of the 60-man field for the Olympics will be PGA Tour members.
Kim starts Women’s British Open in front
Donald Trump’s show-stealing arrival Thursday at the Women’s British Open upstaged Hyo-Joo Kim’s latest strong start in a major championship.
The 18-year-old was midway through a 7-under 65 in the first round when Trump landed in a private helicopter to begin a two-day visit to the tournament at his Turnberry resort in western Scotland.
The fourth-ranked Kim , who shot a first-round 61 in winning the Evian Championship in her major championship debut last year, had a one-stroke lead over Lydia Ko and Cristie Kerr.
Top-ranked Inbee Park began her bid to complete a career sweep of the majors by shooting 69.
Defending champion Mo Martin had a 70, and Michelle Wie, wearing a brace on her left ankle because of a bone spur, opened with a 76.
Host advances in match play
Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland beat France’s Romain Wattel, 5 and 4, to advance to the second round of the European Tour match play event he is hosting in Aberdeen, Scotland.
John Daly dropped out with a 2-up loss to Spain’s Jorge Campillo. Fellow American Peter Uihlein beat England’s Oliver Wilson, 2 up, at Murcar Links.