Woods back in pack after Day 1 at Honda, Ryder Cup Captain Love leads

Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic
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Tiger Woods twice lost momentum with bogeys Thursday at the Honda Classic and wound up with a 71, right on the cut line going into Friday.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Thursday, March 01, 2012 | 6:32 p.m.

Davis Love III looked more like a player than a Ryder Cup captain Thursday at the Honda Classic.

Love made a hole-in-one on the 197-yard fifth hole and tied the Champion Course record at PGA National with a 6-under 64, giving him a two-shot lead. He took advantage of soft and relatively calm conditions in the morning.

Rory McIlroy was in the group at 66, needing a win this week to go to No. 1 in the world.

Tiger Woods needs a good round just to have a chance going into the weekend. Playing the Honda Classic for the first time as a pro, Woods twice lost momentum with sloppy bogeys and failed to convert a routine up-and-down on the par-5 18th for a 1-over 71. He was seven shots out of the lead, right on the cut line going into Friday.

But he played in tougher conditions, with stronger wind, in the afternoon and still hit the ball well, as he has been doing.

"I didn't get a whole lot out of my round," Woods said. "I hit the ball a lot better than I scored, and I certainly putted well, and I didn't hardly get anything out of the round. Hopefully, tomorrow it will be better."

Woods missed only three greens, but took 34 putts.

The 47-year-old Love has been around long enough to know that one round is nothing more than a good start, and he was happy to have that after a 5-iron to 18 feet for birdie on the 17th and a bunker shot to tap-in range for birdie on the par-5 18th.

He hasn't won since Disney at the end of 2008, and the last time he was atop the leaderboard after one round was at Bay Hill in 2010.

"If I had not birdied the last two holes, it still would have been a good start," Love said. "It's fun to tie the course record. And it's fun to shoot low scores."

Nine other players have shot 64 at PGA National, the most recent Graeme McDowell a year ago.

McIlroy also got off to a good start, only his held much more promise.

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland is looking like the world's best player with each tournament he plays. He won an unofficial event in Shanghai in October, the Hong Kong Open a week later and only once has finished outside the top 10 since the PGA Championship.

A week ago, he lost in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

As even more attention shifts to the U.S. Open champion, McIlroy seems to embrace it. He made his opening round at PGA National look easy, rarely putting pressure on any part of his game.

He birdied the last two holes of the back nine, made the turn and picked up another birdie on the par-4 second by smartly playing short of the bunkers and firing his approach into a breeze to about 18 feet from a back pin. His final birdie came on the par-3 seventh, when caddie J.P. Fitzgerald talked him into a hard 6-iron that stopped 12 feet short of the cup.

"It was pretty stress-free out there," McIlroy said. "I hit quite a few fairways and a lot of greens and gave myself a lot of chances, and that's sort of what you need to do around this golf course."

Love opened with four pars until he reached the par-5 fifth, where he hit a hard 5-iron that drew gently toward the flag, and the next thing he heard was wild cheering from around the green.

"I knew when we were on the range this morning that early scores were going to be better, and you'd better get off to a good start," Love said. "I was parring along there, had not made a birdie yet then all of a sudden was 2 under. So that was a big boost."

It helped that PGA National was more benign than usual.

Because of rain Wednesday and the possibility of some afternoon showers, players were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway, which always helps. The greens were smooth in the morning, another advantage. And there wasn't much wind.

Ryan Palmer, Justin Rose, Martin Flores, Kevin Stadler and Dicky Pride, whose top-10 in Mexico last week got him into the Honda Classic, joined McIlroy at 66. PGA Champion Keegan Bradley was among those at 67.

Bradley played with McIlroy and Phoenix Open winner Kyle Stanley. Their games are so similar that after their opening tee shots at No. 10, their tee shots landed in a line next to each other, separated by no more than five paces.

Stanley struggled to a 75, brought on by three consecutive three-putts early in the round.

Bradley and McIlroy surged ahead, and Bradley looked forward to more occasions like that.

"I love playing with Rory for a lot of reasons," he said. "We're both very competitive, and I like the kid. He's just a good kid, a good Irish kid."

The 25-year-old Bradley was reminded that the kid was only three years younger.

But there seems to be an appreciation that McIlroy soon could be the guy against whom players measure themselves. Bradley was a two-time winner last year as a rookie, and his work on the short game -- particularly his chipping -- appears to be paying off. There were several holes where Bradley turned potential trouble into an easy par.

"There's nothing more in the game of golf that makes me feel good than chipping up close," he said. "It's better than making a 50-foot bomb or hitting a 300-yard drive. It's been the different between being in the middle of the pack and contending."

McIlroy is contending just about every time he plays, and this is an important stretch. He has two tournaments left before he takes his three-week break to prepare for the Masters.




Jeff, I would like to add my thoughts on the subject. The PGA of America is no longer interested in doing what is right for the game of golf. They have a monopoly in the industry on many levels. Now, most of their endeavors are in an effort to chase the $ rather than to promote the game. They started this years ago and have helped to destroy the growth of the game. They then come up with fancy little programs like "golf 2.0" to help recapture the millions of golfers that where driven away by the outrageous prices and "elite" stigma they created. Guess what? As long as the fat-cats are in control, nothing will change. One more example: young men and women who want to become golf professionals must fork out roughly $10,000+ dollars of their own money to go through the three levels of the revised PGA-PGM program while making $10 per hour and working 60+ hours a week. They are also expected to keep up a "professional level" playing ability which takes hours of practice as well. The biggest and richest of all sports organizations in the world offers no financial help on a regular basis whatsoever. Besides, the PGA- PGM is a joke that has been structured to turn all of the Teaching professionals into pencil-pushing, bottom line watching clerks.


Jeff You need to stop hating. Tiger Woods IS the PGA> His appearance alone is worth more that some of the people you mentioned. He draws a crowd It is obvious that YIOU were never was A star in any sports, you were the one who kept saying I'm just as good as they are!!!Give it up!!!~If you hate the man that bad, just be a cheerleader on the side, and keep cheering that he loose another one.!!


Jeff You need to stop hating. Tiger Woods IS the PGA> His appearance alone is worth more that some of the people you mentioned. He draws a crowd It is obvious that YIOU were never was A star in any sports, you were the one who kept saying I'm just as good as they are!!!Give it up!!!~If you hate the man that bad, just be a cheerleader on the side, and keep cheering that he loose another one.!!


Why is it Davis Love sets a course record, Rory knocks out a 66, and on and on. What does PGA.com want to feature - Tiger. Just like every other weekend . Tiger shows up - feature Tiger. Tiger doesn't show - feature Tiger. Tiger makes the cut - feature Tiger. Tiger doesn't make the cut - feature Tiger. Give the fans and the other players a break. Create some interest in the sport. How about a picture of someone/anyone else!!!!!