Jason Sobel's blog -- CA Championship
5:26 p.m. ET: Quick history lesson for you: At the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event held at this course, the 1962 Doral CC Open, Billy Casper won with a score of 5-under. One year later, Dan Sikes matched that feat.
Doral once lived up to the Blue Monster moniker while serving as an absolute beast for the pros, but has become progressively easier, scoring-wise, over the years.
And now? It's the easiest venue on the Florida swing, a course where players can grip-it-and-rip-it if the conditions allow and might often need to aim for the flagsticks if they want to keep pace with the guys atop the leaderboard.
Through one round of this week's WGC-CA Championship, where a calm, constant, benign breeze hardly affected the proceedings, it appears scores of well below par will be needed to claim the trophy on Sunday afternoon. After the first round, leaders Phil Mickelson, Prayad Marksaeng, Retief Goosen and Jeev Milkha Singh are each at 7-under-par. While we can't extrapolate those scores to mean that it will take 28-under to win, certainly a number lower than Geoff Ogilvy's 17-under total of last year could be in play.
There are currently 53 players in the 80-man field under par -- and six more at even -- meaning the Blue Monster is once again living up to its more recent reputation as a Blue Pussycat.
For the likes of Mickelson, Marksaeng, Goosen and Singh, it will be important to keep a foot on the gas pedal and not relent over the next 54 holes. There are weeks when a 65 could be followed by three even-par rounds and the player could win. This isn't one of those weeks.
As for Tiger Woods, who is six shots back, and others further down the leaderboard, it's hardly over right now. Not even close. But at some point you've gotta go low at this course. In each of the past four years, the eventual winner has posted at least one round of 66 or better.
Expect plenty more red numbers during Friday's second round. I'll be back here with the blog, starting at 10 a.m. ET. Until then, hit 'em straight ...
4:53 p.m. ET: Sean O'Hair finished with a 5-under 67 for the day, meaning he shot 1-under for the final 16 holes after his eagle-eagle start. As far as whether that had ever happened before, well, it wasn't even that long ago. From the PGA Tour:
Sean O'Hair began the first round with eagles on his first two holes, the first player on the PGA Tour to start a tournament (or a round) with two consecutive eagles since Chris Tidland at the 2007 Ginn sur Mer Classic.
We can actually do one better. From Mike in Boston, who found this note elsewhere online:
Sean O'Hair's eagle-eagle start today couldn't get much better, though there is one player who has gone lower. The LPGA's Karen Stupples started eagle-double eagle at the Women's British Open at Sunningdale in 2004.
I may be misremembering this, but there's a story, I believe, about Bobby Jones back in the day. (Or was it Ben Hogan?) He started something like eagle-birdie-double eagle-eagle, then walked off the course. When his playing partners asked him what he was doing, he responded something to the effect of, "Well, I'm not going to get any better than that, so why keep playing?"
4:47 p.m. ET: One more final note on Tiger. Interesting stuff from the final Q&A of his news conference:
Q: For people who don't play golf and they look at you and think you can come out here every time and you're going to shoot 64,65, you're leading; is it hard to explain how unreal that expectation is, especially on a day where you are hitting the ball well?
Tiger Woods: Well, if I shot 64 every round, 20 under par would be pretty good. It's just one of those things that we all know playing the game of golf, you are going to have days like today, and I would be obviously a little bit more disappointed, a little more frustrated if I had not played well. I felt like I hit the ball well, hit putts well, but they just didn't go in. Like I said, I have to be a little bit sharper tomorrow, hopefully those putts go in tomorrow and the score will be a little different.
And you know what? Woods won't need to shoot 64-64-64 the next three days to win this, either. That would be 25-under-par; if he does it, he'll win by 5. Instead, he may need just one of those rounds coupled with a pair of 68s. That would be 17-under for the week -- the same number that gave Geoff Ogilvy the victory a year ago.
4:40 p.m. ET: If you have Jeev Milkha Singh, Prayad Marksaeng, Louis Oosthuizen and James Kingston in your fantasy lineup this week, you're looking pretty good right now.
Those four "unknowns" are currently a combined 23-under-par.
Meanwhile, the world's top four players -- Tiger Woods (-1), Sergio Garcia (-1), Phil Mickelson (-4) and Geoff Ogilvy (+1) are a combined 5-under-par.
4:35 p.m. ET: As a winner two weeks ago at the Match Play and the defending champ here at Doral, Geoff Ogilvy was a chic selection to play very, very well at this tourney once again.
It didn't happen today.
Ogilvy shot a 1-over 73 that included only one birdie; as of right now, he's one of only 16 players over par.
It's the worst score in nine career rounds here for the Aussie. In 2007, he shot 72-69-71-70 while finishing T-3; last year's victory included totals of 65-67-68-71.
4:32 p.m. ET: Some post-round quotes from Tiger's news conference ...
On his performance: "It's not like I was playing poorly. ... I felt good all day. It's just a matter of getting the ball in faster."
On his putting: "If I was struggling on the greens today, I'd be a lot more frustrated, but I was hitting good putts and they just didn't go in."
On his near-misses: "If those four putts don't lip out, I shoot 5-under. So I was very close to doing that today."
On what he needs to do the next three rounds: "I may need to be just a touch sharper."
4:26 p.m. ET: E-mail from David in Blacksburg, Va.:
Just as you mention Wilson he puts his next shot into the water. Blog Jinx strikes again.
4:22 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods' round is over -- and it's not what he had in mind five hours ago.
Woods made three birdies, two bogeys and 13 pars to shoot a 1-under 71, good for T-40 right now -- smack dab in the middle of the pack.
His stats bear that result, too. He hit 7 of 14 fairways, 11 of 18 greens in regulation, was 0-for-2 on sand saves and needed 28 total putts.
All in all, not a great day for Woods. Then again, he'll go back to his hotel room tonight knowing he is (if all remains the same) only six shots back with 54 holes to play -- more than enough time to get right back into the mix.
4:17 p.m. ET: Haven't mentioned him yet today, but Oliver Wilson is now tied for the lead with Jeev Milkha Singh and Retief Goosen at 7-under-par with one hole to play.
Who is Oliver Wilson? You may remember him from such events as last year's Ryder Cup. He actually had flashes of very good play at Valhalla, despite his team's loss.
He's another guy I could see playing more golf in the U.S. in coming years, too. The 28-year-old played his college golf in Augusta, Ga. -- site of, well, you know -- and has done well on the select occasions he's played stateside, including wins over K.J. Choi and Anthony Kim at the recent WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
4:10 p.m. ET: Talking at the podium right now is Camilo Villegas, who confirmed that this tournament means more to him than most because of its location:
"It seems like everywhere I go, I see a Colombian flag and that's very special."
I'll be very surprised if Camilo -- who's been sort of hot and cold so far this season -- doesn't stick around near the top of the leaderboard for the next three days.
It's simple math. Very good player + extra motivation = strong result.
4:08 p.m. ET: Some notes on tourney leader Jeev Milkha Singh, courtesy of the ESPN research department:
• 37 years old and hails from India
• No relation to Vijay Singh
• Ranked 36th in the world
• Playing 25th career event on PGA Tour ... one top-10 finish (T-9th at 2008 PGA Championship)
4:01 p.m. ET: Just had a chance to speak with Nick Watney after his round of 6-under 66.
I asked him what the big difference in his game is from last year and he said, without hesitation, "Putting."
He also alluded to being more comfortable in bigger events such as this one. Now in his fifth full season on tour, Watney's been around the block a few times, gotten some experience under his belt and is playing the best golf of his life.
He'll never get as much fanfare as fellow 20-somethings Camilo Villegas or Anthony Kim, but it's about time we started including Watney in the mix of really good young players potentially on the verge of being great.
3:52 p.m. ET: So, you think Jeev Milkha Singh doesn't have anything in common with Tiger Woods? Think again.
He's at the podium right now and here's the very first quote out of his mouth:
"Honestly, I love this golf course. I think it suits my eye."
By the way, Singh's claim to fame -- other than having a sprinter for a father -- is that he travels more than any other pro in the world.
He said he logs at least 100,000 miles per year while splitting time between home bases in India and London.
No, he's not a member of the PGA Tour, but he said he'd like to give it a go if he gets his card at some point.
Of course, as he joked, that would kill his mileage programs for different airlines.
3:50 p.m. ET: OK, people. For the dozens of you who have e-mailed saying, "We already know what Mickelson's vertical would be. Didn't you see the 2004 Masters?" ... uh, that was kinda the joke, you know.
3:46 p.m. ET: From Jeev Milkha Singh's caddie, one of only two female caddies at this event (along with Fanny Suneson, who works for Henrik Stenson):
"He's been playing well all year. The ball just seemed to go in the hole today."
I think that could properly summarize any good round by any good player at any event, don't you think?
3:43 p.m. ET: Standing out by the scoring trailer right now ... which isn't actually a trailer -- or a tent -- at all.
Instead, the tournament simply uses one of the rooms here at Doral -- the one closest to the 18th green -- as the place where players come in to sign their scorecards.
3:35 p.m. ET: E-mail from Chris in Parts Unknown:
Let's get Peter Kostis to put Furyk and Jeev Milkha Singh side by side on the Konica Minolta BizHub FedEx Shell Miller Lite Swing Vision Camera. That could be it's own 30-minute sitcom, or horror film if you were to throw Charles Barkley in there as a special guest. If you didn't know better, Furyk looks like he's about to try and chop wood or kill a snake with his swing. And Jeev Milkha, well, what can you say? It's just ugly. His swing is like a bucket of chicken; it comes in 10 pieces.
Uh-oh, looks like we have a late addition to the analogy contest! Beats this attempt ...
Furyk's swing is, like, whatever, but Jeev Milkha's is, like, whatever.
3:28 p.m. ET: Impressive stuff from Camilo Villegas today. He began the round with a four-putt for bogey on the par-5 10th hole, but has played the next 15 in 6-under, now in a share of fourth place.
Earlier this week, Villegas and Garcia held a dual Spanish-only news conference here at Doral. It's obvious with the large Spanish-speaking population here in Miami, this is a place he feels very comfortable. Might be the closest thing the Colombia native has to a home game all year.
3:23 p.m. ET: E-mail from Subash in Parts Unknown:
How many golfers can claim they are son of an Olympic athlete? Jeev can! As far as nicknames go, Jeev's father was called "The Flying Sikh." It doesn't get better than that!
It's true. Milkha Singh represented India as a sprinter in the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games. I wonder what Jeev's 40 time would be. I bet he has deceptive speed -- definitely faster than he looks.
Really, can't the PGA Tour hold some sort of "Superstars" competition to figure this stuff out? How fast can Jeev run? How much can Tiger bench? How high can Phil jump? We'd finally have all the answers.
And you know what? I would live blog the heck out of that thing.
3:20 p.m. ET: E-mail from Dan in Pennsylvania:
Please give Retief Goosen some props for sticking it to your Blog Jinx! Three straight birdies after that bogey on 18. His autograph is up to $4.17 last I checked ...
The Goose is indeed still at 7-under, tied for the lead with Jeev Milkha Singh. And yeah, hope that one guy in line at the pro shop didn't sell low on the autograph a few hours ago.
3:14 p.m. ET: Tiger barely misses another birdie putt on No. 5 -- his 14th of the day -- and remains at 1-under.
Five quotes we're sure to hear from him after the round:
"I hit the ball well at times, but just couldn't get it into the hole."
"My irons were kind of loose at times."
"You're never out of the tournament after one round, but I definitely have some work to do."
"I could have shot 65, 66 today, but the putts just weren't falling for me."
"It is what it is."
3:08 p.m. ET: If there's one guy who may have a little motivation to show what he can do when Tiger is in the field, it's Nick Watney.
Earlier this year, Watney was the main beneficiary of Woods skipping the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines -- a course on which he had won each of the last five events he played -- when he took home his second career PGA Tour title. And right now, the Fresno State product is on fire, currently 6-under with three more holes to play.
I've said it before and I'll say it many more times again: Watney has one of the five sweetest swings on the PGA Tour. If he can become a little bit better putter, this guy is going to win a load of tournaments in coming years.
3:04 p.m. ET: Save those double-bogey stats for another time, folks.
Tiger saves bogey on No. 4. He's now 1 under for the day with five to play.
3:01 p.m. ET: E-mail from Kevin in Dedham, Mass.:
Jeev Milkha Singh has played his last nine holes in 28 strokes. I'd take that ugly swing any day.
Milkha was a good choice.
How are these for some solid stats: So far today, Singh has hit 11 of 13 fairways, 14 of 16 greens in regulation and needed just 23 putts. Wow.
2:54 p.m. ET: Trouble for Tiger Woods.
Remember that stat earlier today about his poor par-3 play so far this year? He went and poured in a birdie on 15 about two minutes after I wrote that.
Well, that doesn't mean his struggles are over. Tiger just hit his tee shot on No. 4 into the water hazard.
Looks like he's going to make double-bogey from there, which leads to a few unbelievable stats:
• He has gone 183 holes without making double here at Doral.
• In 24 career previous rounds at the course, he had only posted two doubles.
2:51 p.m. ET: E-mail from Jermane in Parts Unknown:
Is Boo Weekley the best name in golf?
Not even close. I actually listed my personal ranking of the five best golf names in this Weekly 18 column earlier this year. Here they are:
5. Taco Remkes. If we could install only a few Taco Bell or Del Taco franchises in the U.K., this Euro Tour rookie would be sponsored for life.
4. Birdie Kim. Upon winning the 2005 U.S. Women's Open, Kim was asked why she didn't adopt "Eagle" as a first name. "Sounds like a boy," she said.
3. SSP Chowrasia. Land ho! This guy sounds more like a cargo vessel than a pro golfer, but he stayed afloat in winning last year's Indian Masters.
2. Jacobus Philippus Van Zyl. Just call him Jaco, but this dude's formal name sounds like something out of the Roman Empire.
1. Tiger Woods. Yep, another title for the guy who already owns too many of 'em. Seriously, though, doesn't he still sound like a character straight out of a Dan Jenkins novel?
2:38 p.m. ET: E-mail from Tim in Denver:
Don't eat the swordfish!! They are loaded with mercury and fished unsustainably. In fact, this is one of the most terrible choices the PGA Tour could have made. Not only are swordfish populations worldwide crashing, but as apex predators they concentrate mercury. You would be much better off with mahi-mahi. On the golf side, how many other pros are using the same Nike clubs that Tiger uses?
Tim! You just told me I may have overloaded on mercury ... and then on top of that casually ask how many other guys are using Nike clubs?
Dude, I might be dying right now. And you broke the news to me. I mean, seriously, if your doctor tells you that you have cancer, does he follow it up by asking if you can take a look at the clogged drain in his office? Uh-oh ... I'm starting to not feel so good ...
2:32 p.m. ET: They're not booing, they're saying ... oh, wait -- they are booing.
Boo Weekley just birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 17 -- his 6th, 7th and 8th holes of the day -- to move to 4-under, just two shots behind Jeev Milkha Singh.
He's obviously feeling the flow. If he starts doing the bull dance (again), I'll let you know.
2:19 p.m. ET: Since you all seem to care ...
Media lunch today at Doral is swordfish in lemon cream sauce, veal osso bucco, French green beans with roasted red peppers and mashed Yukon potatoes.
For the record, I would have been OK with a burger or something.
2:15 p.m. ET: Jim Furyk just saw Jeev Milkha Singh's swing and said, "Man, that looks ugly."
If Furyk's swing looks like an octopus trapped in a phone booth, Singh's swing looks like the octopus had a knife on him and is trying to slice and chop his way out of the phone booth.
2:11 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx pointed out from Adam in Plano, Texas:
You're on fire today... down goes Goosen and his entourage of one at No. 18 with a bogey.
The value of that autograph just went from $3.75 to $3.50.
2:08 p.m. ET: E-mail of the day so far comes from Michael in Parts Unknown:
Once again, Tiger reacts to a barely missed putt like I would react to being kicked in the junk. When I barely miss a lengthy putt and then, typically, the subsequent tap-in, I usually end up in a blind rage trying to kill every goose I see with worm-burners ... is this how Tiger would react if actually kicked in the junk, since he is obviously the opposite of everything I am on the golf course, and probably in life, too?
1:59 p.m. ET: How is the course playing? Let's check the leaderboard ...
With all 80 players currently out here right now, 48 are under par, another 12 are at even-par and only 20 are over par. In the lead is Jeev Milkha Singh at 6-under; bringing up the rear is Aaron Baddeley at 5-over.
Yikes -- nothing like being 11 shots back by 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.
1:51 p.m. ET: E-mail from Bill in Parts Unknown:
How does [Tiger] look so far? Is he showing any signs that the knee is bothersome to him? Does it appear to have altered his swing plane?
In order: Fine, no and not at all.
That said, two colleagues who watched him for all nine holes both described Woods' play as "off." Supposedly, he's had a handful of fairly easy wedge shots but hasn't put many of them close.
Then again, if he can be 1-under through nine while "off" -- and very nearly 3-under -- he can't be too unhappy.
1:47 p.m. ET: Two holes, two straight half-doubled over reactions from Woods on the green.
Despite bouncing off the club face, his lengthy birdie attempt at No. 18 nearly found the bottom of the cup, but failed to drop.
He's 1-under, but based on those last two rolls, could easily have been 3-under with plenty of momentum at the turn.
1:44 p.m. ET: Just seeing the leaderboard for the first time in a while and according to the hand-operated signage here at 18, Retief Goosen is leading at 5-under.
Yesterday, Goosen was signing autographs in the pro shop here at Doral. When I walked past, there was a line of exactly one person.
1:42 p.m. ET: E-mail from Ron in Parts Unknown:
When Tiger stopped mid swing because of the bug in his face did his caddy grab the bug, yell at it, and then throw it in the water?
That's funny. But watch out, Ron. Even though your location went unlisted, Stevie knows where to find your camera.
1:39 p.m. ET: As he was walking to the 18th tee box, someone from the gallery yelled something in Swedish to Robert Karlsson, which got a chuckle out of the man nicknamed The Scientist.
Well, he's not laughing anymore.
Karlsson blocked one way right on 18 -- the hardest hole on tour two years ago -- and just had to play one back to the fairway. Ouch.
1:34 p.m. ET: Using driver again on 18, Tiger takes it back and pump fakes, then walks away.
Not a camera click, but something -- looked like maybe a bug buzzing in his face -- forced him to back off.
No player in the world can stop mid-swing like Woods. He has just awesome control over his body.
1:31 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods for birdie on 17 from 20 feet, 11 inches ... and it just barely misses.
TW gives it one of those "Ohhhhh" groans while nearly doubling over upon seeing it miss the hole.
1:27 p.m. ET: Big crowds out here for the Tiger group, but not bigger than his opening round two weeks ago in Tucson.
That doesn't mean there aren't more fans at Doral today, just that they may be more evenly dispersed throughout the course.
But if you want to watch Woods today, you can do so from behind the ropes and get a front-row seat for all the action -- no craning your neck while standing 10 deep.
1:25 p.m. ET: That tee shot of Tiger's was on a line ... but the wrong line. Actually wound up in the right rough, just about 300 yards away, but he can hit an easy wedge in from there.
And by the way, that was about 60-80 yards past Robert Karlsson (who used 3-wood off the tee) and Mike Weir (who found the bunker).
1:23 p.m. ET: There was a moment just a few minutes ago when the present and future of game came together quite literally.
Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott were on the third tee box, Phil Mickelson was on the second green and Tiger Woods was on the 16th green -- all within about 50 yards of each other.
Good spot to watch some golf if you're headed here this week.
1:21 p.m. ET: After his birdie to move to 1-under on 15, Tiger still has honors here on 17.
Just laced a driver right down the fairway that didn't move an inch. Talk about hitting one on a line.
1:19 p.m. ET: I'm currently standing on the 17th tee box and there's a buzz emanating from the gallery. Here come the other reporters and the photographers and the legions of fans.
Hmmm, wonder who's about to get here ...
1:09 p.m. ET: I'm presently working on a feature that will be posted next Tuesday about Tiger Woods (shameless plug).
Well, if I ever wanted to write one on Vijay Singh doppelgangers, I just found the guy. Watching Aaron Baddeley's group tee off No. 3 is a dead ringer for the Big Fijian, just hanging behind the ropes watching some golf.
Here's guessing that dude might be able to pull a few free dinners this week if he presses his luck.
1:03 p.m. ET: E-mail from Peter in Parts Unknown:
Thatta boy Sobel! Tiger stuffs it on 15 right after your 22 percent greens hit on par-3's. Come on -- say another bad stat for Tiger!
Like the guy really needed my help. Well, happy to be of assistance anyway.
12:59 p.m. ET: "You need a hat out here, you know."
Typing into my BlackBerry, I didn't realize those were aimed at me -- ("You know" could have been directed at "Yano") -- until they were said again. I looked up and saw Stuart Appleby's caddie Joe Damiano smiling and pointing out to me as they walked up the seventh fairway.
Thanks for looking out for me, bud.
12:57 p.m. ET: Never good when a player is on the wrong side of the ropes.
Azuma Yano just hit one over the green from amongst the paying attendees.
12:55 p.m. ET: Nice wedge into the 10th green by Ross Fisher. Dude looked like a superstar at the Match Play.
If that was a stroke-play event, I'd bet he would have led by 3 or 4 strokes before being overtaken by Geoff Ogilvy on the weekend.
He's a guy to watch out for and will definitely get into contention at a major this year.
12:51 p.m. ET: From the ESPN research staff:
In his 2 rounds of match play last month, Tiger missed three of four par-3 greens in both rounds for a 2-day total of 2 greens hit in 8 holes (25 percent) on the par-3s.
He missed the green on his first par-3 today (bunker on No. 13) and bogeyed the hole.
So through nine par-3s, Tiger has hit 2 greens (22.2 percent).
12:47 p.m. ET: E-mail from Dan in Effort, Pa.:
I may be the only one who ever asks for it, but can you let us know how Poulter is doing? What's he wearing too?
Well, Poulter doesn't tee off for another eight minutes and I haven't seen him yet, but I guarantee he's bringing it. The latest collection from Ian Poulter Design is being prominently displayed in the pro shop here at Doral and it's pretty cool stuff. (This just in: You may see a certain blogger rocking some Poulter-wear this week on the course.)
I spoke with him for about 20 minutes yesterday and came away convinced that he may be the coolest golfer around. Yes, he's confident -- maybe even bordering on cocky -- but much like Geoff Ogilvy, he's got great opinions on every subject.
As to how he got into fashion, he said it's just always been that way, thanks to his parents. They used to dress him in a green shirt with a pink tie when he was five years old; now he repays Dad by letting him raid his closet.
I'll have more on him in an upcoming Weekly 18 Hot Seat interview, which honestly I wish could be a regular feature. (Working title: I.P. Freely.)
12:44 p.m. ET: Pablo Larrazabal's pants are the color of ... whatever.
12:39 p.m. ET: E-mail from Adam in Parts Unknown:
That's fine blog-jinx form Jason... not two seconds after you blog about Luke Donald he dunks one in the water on No. 3 on his way to a gorgeous double bogey.
The magic is back!
12:36 p.m. ET: Palpable wind out here, but it's sort of constant -- not gusting -- which isn't nearly as frustrating for players.
12:34 p.m. ET: Phil Mickelson is currently warming up by putting three balls around the practice green. I wonder if he watched his new short-game instructional video before the round -- you know, just to psyche himself up a bit.
By the way, if I were Phil, I'd start every round by looking at his playing partners and mimicking his line from Entourage: "So, is this whose ass we're going to kick today?"
12:25 p.m. ET: It was hardly the best thing I've ever written (which wouldn't be saying much anyway) and maybe not too memorable for the readers, but one of my favorites pieces I've ever worked on took place during the opening round of the 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship back when it was at La Costa. Here's the piece.
It sort of felt like some freshman writing assignment for a college class, but it was a cool way to get a feel for what everyone was doing out on the course.
Well, I'm gonna try it again. No, I won't be tracking down every player in the 80-man field, but I'm heading out onto the course now to get a feel for the scene and write whatever I see. Expect shorter posts considering I'll be on the BlackBerry, but maybe quicker, too.
And yes, Tiger-philes -- I'll try to get to him, as well.
12:23 p.m. ET: E-mail from Barry in Parts Unknown:
It's so weird to see "152" next to Tiger's name on the leaderboard in reference to his FedEx Cup rank. Couldn't they just "grandfather" him in and put a projection there?
If I told you exactly one year ago that entering the 2009 edition of the CA Championship he would be 129th on the money list and 152nd on the FedEx ranking, you would have thought I had fallen out of my golf cart a few too many times.
But numbers are numbers. As the old saying goes, there is no place for excuses on a scorecard. And you can't sugarcoat a ranking. There's no place for any explanation next to that number, so for now Woods remains sandwiched in between Nick O'Hern and Jimmy Walker on the FedEx list. Dy-No-Mite!
As he is prone to saying, "It is what it is."
Woods is currently even through two holes. At this point in the Match Play, he was already 3-under.
12:10 p.m. ET: As a general rule, I hate forwarded mass e-mails. I don't want your chain letter for good luck, I already know the differences between men and women and I've probably heard your old golf jokes already.
(And with that, I'm fully expecting my inbox to implode with hundreds of forwarded e-mails. Please don't do it, people. I beg you.)
That said, I received one the other day that I not only read, it made me laugh. The e-mail starts:
Every year, English teachers from across the country submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published to the amusement of teachers across the country.
Here are some of the better ones ...
He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
And my personal favorite ...
Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
Not sure if any of you have tried writing non-stop for hours on end, four consecutive days before, but at some point your vocabulary gets, like, whatever. I plan on using this description early and often during this tournament. Get used to it.
12:05 p.m. ET: You've probably heard this already, but it's still astounding no matter how many times it's said: With a victory this week Sergio Garcia will become the world's No. 1-ranked golfer if Tiger Woods finishes 27th or lower. And yes, that's a ridiculous notion.
I actually thought my semi-regular podcast partner John Anderson was cryptically speaking to me through the TV when he voiced over this Garcia graphic on SportsCenter last night by saying, "Put this in your computer." Uh, maybe he was talking about the World Ranking computer instead. Anyway ...
Tiger and Sergio, since June 12, 2005
|Why did we pick June 12, 2005? Because that was the most recent time when Woods reclaimed the No. 1 spot in world rankings.|
As an objective observer, I sorta hope Garcia wins and TW finishes 28th this week. That would instantly shine a light on some of the inequities of the current OWGR and possibly force some changes to be made. Not necessarily to make Tiger the No. 1 golfer again, but just because it's inane that a guy with four worldwide wins since 2005 (a victory here would join his triumphs last year at the Players Championship, Castello Masters and HSBC Champions) could be in such a position. I mean, Kenny Perry has four wins in the past 10 months.
What changes should be made? I'll leave the mathematical algorithms and permutations to the stat geeks, but let me throw out a few suggestions:
• Keep the two-year rolling period, but weigh performances more for the most recent. For example, a victory at last week's Honda Classic would now be worth more than the WGC-Accenture Match Play (if the strength of fields were exactly the same).
• Go back five years for the majors. Yes, they're that important. Next month, Zach Johnson's win at the 2007 Masters will be wiped from his OWGR points, but isn't it more important to how we rank him than someone who won a lesser tourney later that year?
• Scale back the points given to lesser tours. Look, the Japan Golf Tour is nice, but how many times can Shingo Katayama fail to make a mark at a big event before we realize he shouldn't be the 41st-ranked player in the world?
11:52 p.m. ET: Wow. Sean O'Hair just holed out from the fairway, 41 yards out, to eagle the par-4 second hole. That follows an eagle on the opening hole, as well, meaning he is probably the owner of a new PGA Tour record -- or at least tied for the record -- by starting a round at 4-under through two holes.
At this current pace ... O'Hair will finish the week with a 144-under score of 144 for the week.
11:41 a.m. ET: One of the coolest things about this tournament is that unlike so many other smaller-field events that seem to prolong the tee times throughout the day, the WGC-CA Championship goes through 'em in rapid-fire succession, with the first groups off at 10:45 a.m. and the last at 12:45 p.m., meaning that for much of the afternoon every single player in the 80-man field will be on the course.
Not only did this make for a more entertaining and enjoyable watch -- whether on TV, scanning the leaderboard or following along on a blog -- it also levels the playing field a bit. Oftentimes, the weather and even course conditions can change fairly drastically from the morning wave to the afternoon. With everyone so tightly packed here, no one will receive a major advantage or disadvantage based on their tee time.
11:35 a.m. ET: First "What a stupid I am" moment of the week for me. (If you took the under in an hour, 45 minutes, you're a winner!) Daniel in Parts Unknown is the initial pointer-outer of my error:
As I'm sure you've already been told 27,000 times, Tiger tees off on 10 today. Another par-5.
Right, but uh, just wanted to relay that info so you'd have it handy in a few hours when TW makes the turn.
11:29 a.m. ET: Nice start for Luke Donald, who is now 2-under through two holes with a pair of birdies. Can't say I'm not a little surprised, based on his recent injury.
Here is what I wrote about Donald in my most recent Weekly 18 column:
It certainly seemed like "Prognosis Negative" for Donald at last week's Match Play, but Seinfeldian references aside, his latest injury tweak was no joking matter.
On the penultimate hole of his third-round match against Ernie Els, the 31-year-old Brit was forced to withdraw after feeling a pain in the left wrist that was surgically repaired last year, cutting his 2008 season to just 11 starts on the PGA Tour.
One day later, IMG released the news about its client: "Luke was examined last night by the same doctor who performed the surgery on his left wrist last August and was told that the discomfort he felt yesterday was limited to the scar tissue, and not the tendon he injured at the 2008 U.S. Open. It was Dr. Weiland's opinion that with treatment by anti-inflammatory medication, Luke could resume practicing in the next few days and could potentially play in next week's Honda Classic."
It was not to be, however. Though Donald's second and most recent victory came at the Honda in 2006, he wasn't able to give it a go this past week "as a preventative measure for his recently healed wrist," according to a statement from the PGA Tour.
The biggest shame of it all is that it appeared Donald may have been about to embark on the kind of season we've been expecting of him for so long. After finishing ninth on the 2006 money list, he dropped to 29th the next season and 67th in last year's limited action. So far in 2009, though, he finished T-23 (Sony Open), T-25 (FBR Open), T-7 (Buick Invitational) and T-6 (Northern Trust Open) before being credited with a T-9 for winning two matches in Tucson last week. Along the way, he has climbed atop the tour's scoring average list at 69.05.
Donald is currently in the field at this week's WGC-CA Championship, which is a good sign. But if he's going to enjoy a big bounce-back season, it appears he might need to persevere through that wrist injury once again. He can do it, but don't expect it to be an easy process.
What I meant to write in that last paragraph was: He can do it, and expect it to be an easy process that happens right away at Doral.
There, that's better.
11:25 a.m. ET: Tiger Woods is just about to tee off in his grouping with Mike Weir and Robert Karlsson. Seems like the perfect time to unleash this stat, courtesy of ESPN's crack research staff:
Tiger gets off to a good start at Doral. In 24 competitive PGA Tour rounds, he's never made worse than par on its opening hole. At last year's WGC-CA, a third-round par snapped a streak of 18 straight scores of birdie or better on the hole. The previous time he made par was during the final round of the 1998 Doral-Ryder Open. The short par-5 is traditionally the easiest on the course -- as was the case at last year's WGC-CA; last year it played to an average of 4.36.
Here's the full breakdown ...
Times played hole No. 1: 24
To par: -25
Birdie or better percentage: 87.5
11:21 a.m. ET: There's currently a four-way tie atop the leaderboard with Luke Donald, Charley Hoffman, Thomas Aiken and Jeev Milkha Singh all at 1-under-par through the first hole.
Which should conjure some form of this opinion in your mind: Whoa, there are some pretty random dudes in this tournament.
It's true. The 80 players in this week's field can get in based on a variety of qualifications, from last year's FedEx Cup to the current OWGR to the Order of Merit from the European, Asian, Sunshine and Japan tours.
Hence a field that includes the likes of Soren Kjeldsen, Azuma Yano, Mark Brown, James Kingston, Garth Mulroy, Pablo Larrazabal, Lin Wen-tang, Briny Baird and Dudley Hart, among others.
Can't imagine those players strike any more fear in the hearts of their peers than players like Angel Cabrera, David Toms and J.B. Holmes -- all of whom are home this week.
11:05 a.m. ET: Breaking news. This just in: For those who followed by Tiger blog from the Match Play (or just read about it on other sites), I can report that the palm trees here at Doral are very excited about the tournament.
(And no, that didn't come from a PGA Tour media official. I came up with it all on my own.)
As for the Match Game, I think my inbox just exploded. And, of course, about 99.4 percent of all responses can't be posted. It's a family site, folks. Just use your imagination -- you'll figure most of 'em out.
Here are some of the printable responses:
From Jay in Parts Unknown:
John and Portia. (Portijohn)
From Daniel in Phoenix:
Sandy and Tanner. (Satan)
From Mike in Chicago (and about 300 others):
Hugh and Jasmine. (HughJass)
From Richard in Wausau, Wisc.:
Felicia and Calvin. (I'd hate to be stuck in a hazard at the Fecal Open.)
From LT in D.C.:
Sharon and Hank. (Shank)
And the winner, from Dan in Blue Point, N.Y.:
Craig and April. (Because no one wants to play on a Crap course.)
10:25 a.m. ET: I will be answering e-mails throughout the next four days here in the blog, but in five minutes, I'll be going rapid-fire style in a SportsNation chat.
Until then, I've gotta "prepare" for the chat. (Read: Breakfast.)
10:15 a.m. ET: I know, I know. Earlier, I wrote that this wouldn't be an entire Tiger Woods blog, but guess what? That doesn't mean I'm not gonna spend a decent amount of time writing about the guy.
Many of you are fans of ESPN.com's "Streak for the Cash" game, and today's proposition bet revolves around Woods' opening-round score here at Aldor -- er, Doral. Here's the wager:
WGC-CA Championship (Doral Blue Monster -- Miami, Fla.): TIGER WOODS First-round score?
-- 68 or lower 45.5%
-- 69 or higher 54.5%
As of the last time I checked, 45.5 percent had chosen "68 or lower"; 54.5 percent had gone with "69 or higher."
Well, let's break down what he's done here in six previous appearances:
In 24 total rounds at the Blue Monster, TW owns 13 scores of 68 or lower and 11 scores of 69 or higher. So, uh, I guess the "Streak for the Cash" guys did their homework.
If I had to pick, I'd go with the 69 or higher side of things. Even though four of Woods' six opening-round scores here were 67 or better, he traditionally eases his way into things like a heavyweight boxer sizing up his opponent. Expect him to use a few jabs and an uppercut or two, but Tiger likely won't be throwing haymakers until Friday.
Then again, as my colleague Bob Harig has mentioned, the four par-5s on this course might as well be par-4s the way they play for long-hitters like Tiger. If that's the case, all we're really asking him to do is shoot even-par on a par-68 course. Doesn't sound quite as daunting, does it?
As for why Woods has been so successful on this course, I asked him about it during his Wednesday news conference:
"Certain golf courses just fit your eye. I've had certain success on -- well, some success in certain places. You know, one being Torrey Pines, here, Firestone, Augusta I've won multiple times, Bay Hill. Certain golf courses just fit your eye. This golf course, ever since I played here in '98 for the first time, it just fit my eye. Even after the redesign, it still fit my eye. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes redesigns may throw it off. For instance, Torrey Pines didn't when they re-designed that golf course. I still felt the sightlines were great. But this golf course has just always fit my eye."
Hmmm, just wondering, Tiger, as a follow-up: Does this course fit your eye?
For those scoring at home, that's five instances of "fit my eye" in what was about a 45-second sound byte. I think he means it.
10:00 a.m. ET: I'm tempted to start this blog with the lamest start to a blog in the history of lame blog starts. That's right -- the chorus lyrics to a Will Smith song.
Party in the city where the heat is on
All night on the beach till the break of dawn
Welcome to Miami
Buenvenidos a Miami
Yikes. I'm sure glad I didn't go that route.
It's true, though; I am coming to you live from Miami at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, site of the WGC-CA Championship. And the weather is just fine, thanks.
Once again, the biggest story entering a tournament is the continued return of Tiger Woods. He loves this place. In six previous starts here dating back to 1998, he owns three wins, two runners-up and a T-9.
Coming off that second-round loss to Tim Clark at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago, Woods knows how crucial this week could be to his chances at Augusta National next month. A victory -- or even just a strong result -- will signify his return to an elite level, cementing his place as the prohibitive favorite entering the Masters.
Finishing well back in the pack, however, will only sound the sirens that Tiger either isn't ready to play at this level again or is still hurt or -- dare I say it? -- may never reach that previous level again. Personally, I think it's too early for such commentary, but you know if TW limps home (figuratively speaking, folks) on Sunday in a share of 34th place, 11 shots behind the eventual winner, the criticisms will only continue to mount.
I can only offer one dead-solid perfect prediction: Woods will at least play 72 holes this time around. That's because there's no cut at this event.
Unlike my blog from the Match Play, however, this week's edition is about more than just Woods. Eighty of the world's top golfers are in action, with some major storylines abound. Phil Mickelson is looking to shed his season-long Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act; Sergio Garcia can possibly overtake Woods as the game's top-ranked player with a win; Anthony Kim will attempt to finish above Tiger on the leaderboard for the first time in his career; and Ernie Els will try to build on some recent momentum at a course where he's found success in the past.
I will be covering each of those stories and much, much more over the next four days. Before the blog begins in earnest at 11 a.m. ET, I'll be chatting live with SportsNation for 30 minutes starting at 10:30, so get your questions into the inbox.
Until then, you have a homework assignment.
In the novel, "The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-Up Artist," the venerable Dan Jenkins, in the first-person as fictional journeyman Bobby Joe Grooves, wrote:
The first two or three years I played in the Doral I actually thought it was named for a cigarette or a flower you put on a wreath. Of course I eventually found out the name came from humans. It came from Al Kaskel, who built the resort, and his wife, Doris. I guess Al Kaskel could have called it Aldor, but putting his wife's name first obviously made it sound better, and may have even prevented an argument at home.
What does that mean? We're playing The Match Game:
Doral got its name because the resort was founded by the husband and wife team of Al and Doris Kaskel. Boy, it's a good thing their first names weren't ________ and ________.
Hit me at the above e-mail address; the best responses will be posted when I return from the chat.
Gene Rayburn, you're on the clock ...
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Phil Mickelson's 36th victory is also a first. After carding a final-round 69, Lefty notched his maiden WGC title at the CA Championship.