Tiger Woods Enjoys ‘Clean Card’ and Shoots 65 in Second Round at Hero World Challenge
NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods saved par from the dunes with a shot so good that two spectators ran over and scooped up sand for a souvenir.
It also served as motivation Friday at the Hero World Challenge. The tee shot on the par-3 eighth that landed next to a bush was so bad that Woods said he told caddie Joe LaCava after his par putt, “I’m not dropping a shot.”
And he didn’t.
Woods capped a bogey-free round with an even more unlikely par save on the 16th hole. What stood out on a balmy day at Albany was a seven-hole stretch in the middle of the round in which he never really missed a shot. It led to enough birdies for a 7-under 65, leaving him six shots behind and in a tie for ninth in the 17-man field.
His golf was as good as it was Thursday, his first competition in 15 months, only this time he eliminated the mistakes.
“I wanted to keep that card clean,” Woods said. “I don’t know what it is about playing and competing, but keeping cards clean, there’s something really special. And it feels pretty good about doing that.”
And he did it quickly, in just under three hours.
Justin Rose, who opened with a 74, withdrew with back problems. That left Woods as a single, and when he realized there would not be much wind, he felt he could play just as well without a marker (typically the club pro) to get a feel for how various shots might be affected.
He was on his own and moving in the right direction.
The par save on No. 8 and a wedge to tap-in range on the No. 9 allowed him to make the turn in 33, just like Thursday. The difference was how he finished.
After pounding a drive down with the wind at his back on the par-5 11th — he had to carry a bunker 290 yards away — he switch to a 5-iron to play away from a bunker to the right of the green, making sure he would have the right angle to the pin. It was right where he was aiming, a yard off the green, setting up an easy two-putt birdie. He followed that with a 6-iron to a foot for birdie on the 12th, a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th.
He made seven birdies, but nothing brought out the emotion like a par.
His tee shot on the 16th, where he made double bogey Thursday, took a wild hop into a bush in the sandy area. Enough of the ball was showing that Woods tried to hit 6-iron to the front bunker, but it came out heavy into more of the waste area. The next shot was well beyond the hole.
The par putt dropped on its final turn, and Woods thrust his fist toward the cup and slapped the face of his putter.
Two more pars, and he was done and feeling much better about the next two days.
“I really had it dialed in both ways,” he said. “I was shaping it both ways and I really had nice control of my (trajectory). That was the key. I was able to keep the ball down when I needed to and send it at times.”
Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama lead the event at 12-under, six shots in front of Woods.
Woods stayed out of golf following two back surgeries over the last three months of 2015, and he had not competed since a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 23, 2015. There have been no issues with his back, and Woods said he has made a few changes with his swing and how much he works away from golf.
If he looks slimmer, he says he picked up an illness from his children over Thanksgiving. More relevant is that he said he no longer lifts weights or trains as he once does. Woods said he used to run 30 miles a week in his early days on tour.
“I’ve had four knee surgeries, three backs. My body’s been through it,” he said.
As for the weights?
“I don’t load the spine like I used to,” he said. “I’m trying to do other things to gain strength. I don’t have any problem with suppleness and flexibility, but I also need to have stability.”
As for his swing, Woods said he has made subtle changes to alleviate the strain on his back.
“I’ve tried to go back and look at and do some stuff that I used to do as a junior that I did naturally,” he said.
Another change is that he is at Albany without a swing coach. Woods began working with Chris Como in November 2014, but the work is done in what Woods described as “training camps.”
“We’ll have little windows where we’ll practice when I have time to do it,” Woods said. “Then I’ll shut it down, I’ll work on my short game in the backyard, chip and putt, and then we’ll have another training camp a week or two later.”
The real measure might not come until early next year, when he gets more tournaments and different — and colder — conditions. Friday was just another round, and a step forward.
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
“Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”