Partly Cloudy
H 73° L 36°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 73° L 36°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 73° L 36°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 55° L 32°

Morning show on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Home team on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


The crossover on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Tiger up to the task in a tough day at Innisbrook

Tiger up to the task in a tough day at Innisbrook

Tiger up to the task in a tough day at Innisbrook
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Tiger Woods hits from behind a tree on the fourth hole during the first round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Tiger up to the task in a tough day at Innisbrook

Tiger Woods discovered how tough Innisbrook can be in a swirling wind, and he was up to the task.

Woods smacked his hands into an oak as he let loose of the club during a bold escape from the trees, came within inches of an ace on the next hole, and most importantly was among 27 players — just under 20 percent of the field — to break par Thursday in the Valspar Championship.

Canadian rookie Corey Conners, who got into the field as an alternate not long after he failed to get through Monday qualifying, didn't make a bogey until his final hole at No. 9 and shot a 4-under 67.

That gave him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney, Whee Kim and Kelly Kraft. Only three other players, including former PGA champion Jimmy Walker broke 70.

Woods made five birdies to counter his mistakes in his round of 70, the first time he broke par in the opening round of a PGA Tour event since his 64 in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 — just six tour events ago because of back surgeries.

This was his first time playing the Valspar Championship, and it got his attention.

"I enjoy when par is a good score. It's a reward," Woods said. "There are some tournaments when about four holes you don't make a birdie, you feel like you're behind. Today, made a couple of birdies, all of a sudden puts me fourth, fifth, right away. That's how hard it is."

It was like for everybody, especially Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Spieth, who won at Innisbrook in a playoff in 2015, didn't make a birdie after the par-5 opening hole and shot a 76. Only six other players had a higher score. Rory McIlroy, who like Woods was making his debut in this event, played in the morning and shot 74.

Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth and Woods, also shot 74.

Morning or afternoon, it didn't matter. There was a chill in the Florida air, and the wind made it feel colder. Ultimately, the wind swirling through the tree-lined fairways made it tough to get the ball close.

Innisbrook produced the highest average score for the opening round — 72.86 — of the 23 courses used this season.

Conners managed just fine, taking advantage of a tournament he wasn't sure he would be playing. He went through Monday qualifying and shot 71, but moments after walking off the course, he was told he got in as an alternate.

"Kind of had a mindset of trying to take advantage of a good break, I guess," he said.

Watney holed a bunker shot on the par-4 16th, made the turn and had an eagle on the first hole.

"Maybe I need to steal a few shots here and there and get some good things going," said Watney, winless since August 2012.

Walker (69) and past Innisbrook champion Luke Donald (70) managed to go bogey-free, a rarity on a day like this. Also at 70 were Justin Rose, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Steve Stricker, who won last week on the PGA Tour Champions.

Woods is playing his fourth PGA Tour event since returning from fusion surgery on his lower back, his fourth surgery since the spring of 2014. He has shown steady progress, and this might have been his most steady performance, even with four bogeys. Those were inevitable.

One of the came at the par-3 fourth, when he was fooled by the wind and sent his tee shot sailing. It was next to a tree that Woods had to straddle just to advance toward the green. He also came up well short on the 12th into a strong wind.

"Into the wind, it felt like you just hit walls," he said.

Woods got within two shots of the lead by ripping a long iron from the top collar of a bunker on the par-5 11th and using the slope to chip close for a tap-in birdie. He dropped shots on the next two holes, going short into the wind on No. 12 and over the green with the wind at his back on No. 13.

The only unnerving moment came at the 16th, when he tugged his iron off the tee into the trees. Woods realized he would hit the tree on his follow through, asking the gallery — thousands of them — to be careful in case the club snapped. He had to take it toward the lake on the right and bend it back to the left, and it came off perfectly.

But it looked painful.

Because he had to generate so much club speed, his left forearm and hands struck the oak and Woods dropped the club and winced on impact.

"It didn't feel very good," he said.

Woods followed with a 5-iron that rolled just right of the cup for a tap-in birdie and finished with a long two-putt par after getting fooled again by the shifting wind.

"This is a tough golf course. Not too often in Florida do you find elevation. Great driving golf course," Woods said. "I asked Henrik, 'What do you around this golf course when there's no wind here?' He said it's still a hell of a test. We can all see that."

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

Georgia Sports News

  • Here’s a look at the next five offseason key dates on the NFL/Falcons calendar: March 25-28: Annual league meetings in Orlando April 16: Teams with returning head coaches can begin offseason workout programs. April 26-28: NFL draft in Arlington, Texas May 4-7 or 11-14: Teams may hold their one three-day post-draft rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday. May 21-23: Spring league meeting, Atlanta Bow Tie Chronicles: D. Orlando Ledbetter discusses what’s ahead for Matt Ryan Never miss a minute of what’s happening with the Atlanta Falcons. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet today calls for another chat with newly-minted 4-star QB Ryan Hilinski.  Ryan Hilinski has put his 3-star QB days in his rear-view mirror. There was a time when the 6-foot-4 prospect from Orange County in California rated as the nation’s No. 12 pro-style passer for 2019. He’s upped that ranking after a series of strong performances over the last month. Hilinski was named the MVP at an Adidas/Rivals 3-Stripe camp event. Huge shout-out to @ryan_hilinski for winning the Quarterbacks MVP at the #Rivals3StripeCamp Los Angeles! pic.twitter.com/ao8DQBJQvS — Athletic Recruiting (@ncsa) March 9, 2018 That started off a string of bid showings on the camp circuit. Hillinski has since followed that up with a strong performance at a Nike regional for its summer “The Opening” talent showcase this summer out in Texas. The 225-pound prospect earned the MVP honor for QBs at that event and also picked up an invitation to the Elite 11 QB derby out in California this June. Excited to come away from the Nike Opening Regionals today with the QB MVP and the 1st Elite 11 invite of the 2018 tour! This was just a day in the journey… not the destination. #Elite11 pic.twitter.com/roVfVrNlWQ — Big Bo (@ryan_hilinski) March 12, 2018 It should not be seen as a coincidence that Hilinski was able to earn MVP honors this past weekend at a 7-on-7 showcase event, too. Ryan Hilinski takes home MVP honors @PassingDown Southwest Regional leading #OCPremium to championship pic.twitter.com/qvYq39vAHk — The Nation. (@SportsRecruits) March 18, 2018 His rankings reflect that. He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 8 pro-style passer for 2019. He’s also made it clear that he plans to return for another Southeastern swing during the spring. He will be back to check out spring games in the SEC at Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina. RELATED: Get to know the real story about 4-star QB Ryan Hilinski Why Ryan Hilinski wants to see Georgia again on G-Day Georgia assistant James Coley has been big here. He’s “real” with Hilinski. Hilinski has been telling DawgNation for weeks now that Coley gets him like very few recruiters he’s met actually do. Ryan Hilinski has earned his fourth star on the 247Sports Composite rankings.. (Ryan Hilinski/Special) There is no sugarcoat. No coachspeak. It is a pitch-free zone. “I know it is real when we talk,” Hilinski said. There was also a “great” recent discussion with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. Smart chatted with Hilinski before he picked up that Elite 11 honor. “We just talked about his family,” Hilinski said. “How much he likes my film. This was a couple of days before the Elite 11.” When he picked up that invitation, he said that Smart texted him back. “He said ‘We need to have phone calls more often’ (and I was) assuming he was joking,” Hilinski said. Hilinski continues to view Georgia’s top-heavy riches at the quarterback spot as a positive. Hilinski said Fromm and Fields would be a resource rather than a restriction to his playing career. “Justin was probably the best [quarterback] in high school last year,” he said earlier this year. “Jake’s the best in college right now. If I can learn from those guys and get all their pointers and then maybe put that into play maybe when I get a chance in 2021, I think it could be really fortunate for me.” He told DawgNation that he plans a Friday-Saturday trip when he comes into town for G-Day on April 21. When he decides to pare down his options for official visit, it would be surprising to see the Bulldogs make his final group and earn an official visit for a subsequent trip. Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap. The post 4-star QB Ryan Hilinski remains intrigued by UGA as his rankings rise appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia’s women’s basketball season came to a crashing halt in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament Monday night. The 4th-seeded Bulldogs fell to 5th-seeded Duke 66-40, sending the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16. Georgia played admirably, but was doomed after Duke won a lopsided second quarter by the score of 20-2. UGA also lost the first and third quarters, albeit by smaller margins, and was not able to recover. The Bulldogs were dominated by Duke’s defensive prowess. Caliya Robinson was the only Bulldog to approach double figures, scoring 11. No other Bulldog scored more than 5 points, and Robinson also led the team with 11 rebounds and 3 assists. Duke’s Leonna Odom paced all players with 16 points, but four different Blue Devils scored in double figures. Georgia played well down the stretch for the most part, with its only recent loss coming to defending national champion South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. However, the Bulldogs were almost upset by 13-seed Mercer in the first round of the tournament, escaping 68-63. Overall, it was an outstanding season for UGA. It finished tied with the Gamecocks for 2nd in the SEC, only trailing undefeated Mississippi State. The Bulldogs finish the year 26-7 overall and boasted a 12-4 record in the SEC.     The post Georgia women’s basketball season ends after disastrous second quarter appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia’s signing of basketball coach Tom Crean to a six-year, $19.2 million contract last week made a statement. And the Bulldogs are about to make another statement when it locks down Kirby Smart as their football coach for the foreseeable future. The question is, what will that statement be? At the moment, Smart is set to earn only a half-million dollars more than Crean annually. That won’t last. The fiscal year ends June 30, and by then, Smart figures to be making twice that. The exact salary the 42-year-old Smart ends up getting from UGA remains to be seen. Athletic director Greg McGarity has declined to discuss it. But whatever the Bulldogs end up doing could be enlightening when it comes their current mindset with regard to their football program. Suffice it to say, it’s a very, very good time to be a successful football coach. Actually, it’s a good time even to be a bad coach if you’re at a Power 5 school — and in the SEC in particular. You might have noticed that a lot of money has been pouring into — and out of — the league in which Georgia competes. Last year, the SEC generated $596.9 million in revenue, distributing approximately $40.9 million to each of its 14 members. Most of that, or a lot of that, is a result of the conference’s TV arrangement with ESPN. Being amateur athletics and all, the SEC’s member institutions can’t pass on that windfall to the players — I mean student-athletes — who provide the labor and the entertainment responsible for generating all that income. So, after funding their non-revenue sports and sending some funds the universities’ way, the schools generally invest the proceeds into facilities and coaches. As a result, we’ve seen SEC coaches start banking some serious green. Believe it or not, Alabama’s Nick Saban is not even the league’s highest-paid coach anymore. Well, not technically. According to USA Today’s latest report, Saban currently earns $6.94 million annually. That’s actually less than the salaries that new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher ($7.5 million) and old Auburn coach Gus Malzahn ($7 million) are due to pull in based on new contracts. But when “completion bonuses” and “talent fees” are factored in — and I’m pretty sure the IRS counts those — Saban was due to earn $11.125 million this last year. And that was before winning another national championship, which I assume would generate some kind of bonus. And that’s where Smart made out pretty well in 2017-18. What he may have lacked in guaranteed salary, he made up for in incentives. Smart is due to receive an additional $800,000 from the Bulldogs’ run through the SEC championship and into the College Football Playoff Championship Game based on the bonus structure in the contract he received from Georgia in 2016. Had Georgia won that final game rather than suffer that excruciating overtime loss, Smart would have made an additional $400,000. As it was, his assistant coaches made more than $800,000 in additional bonuses based on the team’s success last season. And that’s the way McGarity likes it for Georgia’s coaches. He prefers that their contracts be incentive-based. Or, at least, he used to. Smart is expected to receive a new deal from UGA as a result of the SEC championship and playoff run last season. He has to, really, just based on what has been going on in the market. Texas A&M hired Fisher away from Florida State after firing Kevin Sumlin and immediately made him the highest-paid coach in the league. Malzahn, who lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, received a seven-year, $49 million deal shortly after that loss. Dan Mullen went from Mississippi State to Florida and now makes $6.1 million a year. Tennessee hired Jeremy Pruitt from Alabama and he’s due to draw a $4 million salary from the Vols. And just like that, they all make more than Smart ($3.75 million). Now what? Traditionally, Georgia hasn’t been known to pay anybody the most to do anything, and I doubt that will be the case here. Certainly, heading into just his third season as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Smart remains a junior executive in relation to his top-earning peers But Georgia made a statement when it trotted out $3.2 million-a-year contracts — the second-most lucrative to Kentucky’s John Calipari — in front of Thad Matta and Crean to coach the basketball team. And I expect the Bulldogs will make a statement here with football, too. Georgia can’t, won’t and probably shouldn’t pay Smart on the scale that Alabama pays Saban. And he doesn’t have the experience that Fisher or Malzahn or even Mullen do. But he did something this past season only Malzahn has done when he won the SEC. And he just about won it all after that. More important, though, is where Georgia sees itself in the SEC football hierarchy. That’s why Auburn continues to dump truckloads of cash at Malzahn’s door. That’s why Florida doled out so much to get Mullen to leave Starkville. Sure, markets and resumes dictate salaries to a degree, but it’s also about these football programs staking a claim to their status in the SEC and college football. Will Georgia stake a football claim with Smart? What it just did in basketball indicates it probably will. If so, the Bulldogs will have their first Six Million Dollar Man. The post What kind of statement will Georgia make with contract offer to Kirby Smart? appeared first on DawgNation.