WGC - CA Championship

WGC - CA Championship

Tiger Woods had a bogey, two doubles and a triple on the back nine last Sunday. If this was 2000 and I read that, I would have thought he burst an appendix at the turn. Forty-three after getting himself within two strokes of the lead? A healthy Tiger doesn’t play that poorly.

I’m not going to suggest that Tiger’s hurt or that his game is a mess, but I always measure how great (or not great) Tiger is playing against his record-breaking 2000 season. I don’t remember him making any bogeys in 2000. I’m sure he did but it didn’t seem so. I’m certain he didn’t have a back nine in 2000 like he did last week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so frustrated.

It was weird, is all. I’m not suggesting anything, I just don’t get it. But I will say this: I can’t be the only one who was seeing shades of Phil Mickelson.

In the past when Tiger has gone through human stretches, we’ve talked about swing changes and personal matters. What happened on the back nine last Sunday was an aberration, we’ll likely be saying this Sunday. But I can’t go with Tiger this week. Any hint of a Lefty episode is not worth the short odds.

At this week’s WGC – CA Championship at Doral, take Padraig Harrington (40-1), 1/6 unit, to win the outright: Doral hasn’t been a stranger to low scores. I like Harrington for his high marks in Scoring Average and Birdie Average. If the Florida Swing trend of major-like grounds keeping continues at Doral this week (U.S. Open-thick rough greens near the Augusta speed limit), I still like the long-hitting Harrington. I like him under pretty much any conditions. The only thing I don’t like is that putting stance-looks like he’s laboring over a bowel movement---but it seems to be working for him this year (he’s 1st in Putts Per Round and 3rd in Putting Average). In his last two trips to Doral he’s finished T26 (2006) and T52 (’07).

Take Vijay Singh (14-1), 1/6 unit: Laugh all you want.I wish I would have taken my own repeated advice to “keep and eye on Vijay” last week. I took him one tournament too late after the Mercedes, too. That was opening day, this is pre-major form. Why can’t he go back-to-back? With Singh it’s about staying out of trouble off the tee and making putts. If he says he’s there, as the TV guys told us last week, then he’s a force again. I had this pick before doing any home work, but I wanted to see what he’s done at Doral recently: T15 last year, T3 in 2005.

Take Retief Goosen (25-1), 1/6 unit: What’s holding him back is he’s not hitting greens. Putting well, though. I would imagine both areas will equalize as the spring approaches in earnest. But I liked the way he played last week. We know Goose loves tough courses. He’ll probably benefit most if they trick up the course. Last three years at Doral: T15, T8, T3.

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Re: WGC - CA Championship

WGC-CA Championship Odds
March 21, 2007

Odds provided by Sportsbook.com

WGC-CA Championship Golfer Odds

Aaron Baddeley 75-1 
Adam Scott  25-1 
Angel Cabrera  125-1 
Arron Oberholser  75-1 
Bart Bryant 60-1 
Ben Curtis  125-1 
Carl Pettersson 100-1 
Chad Campbell 60-1 
Charles Howell III 40-1 
Chris DiMarco 50-1 
Colin Montgomerie  100-1 
David Howell  75-1 
David Toms  25-1 
Davis Love III  50-1 
Ernie Els 15-1 
Geoff Ogilvy  30-1 
Henrik Stenson  25-1 
Ian Poulter  100-1 
Jim Furyk 15-1 
Joe Durant  100-1 
John Rollins 60-1 
Jose Maria Olazabal  100-1 
Justin Rose  60-1 
KJ Choi  60-1 
Lucas Glover  60-1 
Luke Donald  25-1 
Mark Calcavecchia  125-1 
Michael Campbell 125-1 
Mike Weir  75-1 
Nick OHern 125-1 
Niclas Fasth 150-1 
Padraig Harrington  30-1 
Paul Casey  40-1 
Phil Mickelson  12-1 
Retief Goosen  25-1 
Robert Allenby  40-1 
Rod Pampling  125-1 
Rory Sabbatini  100-1 
Sergio Garcia  25-1 
Stephen Ames 50-1 
Steve Stricker 100-1 
Stewart Cink 60-1 
Stuart Appleby 75-1 
Thomas Bjorn  150-1 
Tiger Woods 9-4 
Tim Clark 100-1 
Trevor Immelman  30-1 
Vijay Singh 12-1 
Zach Johnson  75-1 
zx Field (Any Other Golfers) 12-1 

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Tiger picks good spot to recover
March 22, 2007

MIAMI (AP) -The Masters is on his mind, and Tiger Woods wants to make sure he doesn't peak too early.

Not to worry.

The last two tournaments have ended without a trophy, which is no disgrace in golf. But it's the way they ended that indicate Woods has to do a lot more than just show up at Augusta National to win another green jacket.

At the Accenture Match Play Championship, he had a 4-foot birdie putt to beat Nick O'Hern and advance to the quarterfinals. Woods said he neglected to notice a ball mark in his line, which he says threw off the short putt to the right. He wound up losing on the next hole.

``It's my fault for not paying attention to detail,'' he said at the time.

Last week at Bay Hill, he was working his way up the leaderboard until a double bogey on the 11th hole, courtesy of a three-putt. Then came the bogey-double bogey-triple bogey finish that sent him to a 43 on the back nine and a 76, his worst round in a regular PGA Tour event in nearly four years.

``I've fixed it,'' he said Wednesday at the CA Championship. ``It was just frustrating, because I've made some uncharacteristic mistakes with my club selection on some of the holes. You look back at the finish, and I hit bad shots. But all throughout the entire tournament, I kept making silly mistakes - mistakes I don't normally make.''

He hit another tee shot into the water Wednesday at Doral, although this was less troubling.

It was a practice round.

This is a different road to the Masters. Doral used to be the first tournament of the Florida Swing, a time when players were just beginning to think about the Masters. Now it's batting clean-up in the Sunshine State, with the Masters around the corner.

And change goes beyond the calendar.

Instead of a full-field event of 144 players at a regular PGA Tour event, it's now a World Golf Championship with 73 players.

Not even Tiger Woods was sure how he would introduce himself on the first tee Thursday, only that the words ``defending champion'' would be appropriate in some capacity.

But defending champion of what?

Or is it where?

Woods has won the last two years on the Blue Monster, beating Phil Mickelson in a terrific duel in 2005, then holding off David Toms to win by one shot the following season.

The CA Championship used to be called the American Express Championship, and Woods has won that tournament the last two years, too. He beat John Daly in a playoff at Harding Park in San Francisco, then blew away his alleged competition at The Grove outside London last fall to win by eight shots.

``Multiple defending champion?'' Woods asked as he walked out the door. ``Have I ever done that? I don't know. Go look it up.''

No matter how anyone looks at it, he figures to be a strong favorite. The debate is whether his advantage stems from being at Doral or being at a World Golf Championship.

Woods practically owns the WGC events, having won 10 of 15 times in stroke play.

The CA Championship, name change notwithstanding, is one of three tournaments he has won five times. The others are the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. What makes this one more unique is he has won on five courses in four countries - Valderrama in Spain, Mount Juliet in Ireland, Capital City Club in Atlanta, Harding Park and The Grove.

Why so much success?

``I don't know. He just plays well at them, I guess,'' Sergio Garcia said. ``You ask him and let me know.''

It helps to have fewer players to beat. Only 73 players have qualified this week, and some of them - Pram Meesawat of Thailand and Anton Haig of South Africa - are making their U.S. debut in professional golf.

But if that were the case, it would be easier on everybody.

``Usually, that's how many are here once they make a cut,'' Toms said.

No doubt, the tournament is different this year. Doral usually leads off the Florida Swing, and this year it's in the clean-up spot. Instead of players just starting to think about the Masters, the first major is right around the corner.

Toms noticed something else during his practice round on the Blue Monster - quiet.

There was no pro-am, so players were able to play practice whenever they wanted. And all 73 are guaranteed a paycheck this week because the WGCs have no cut.

``Even though it's a very important event and very big event, it seems like guys approach it a little more low-key,'' Toms said. ``I don't know if it's because there's no cut or they have got that guaranteed check or whatever it might be. It has a nice atmosphere to it.''

Woods had his own atmosphere Wednesday morning.

The size of his gallery was only about 300 people, and their attention was divided inside and outside the ropes. They had their choice between the No. 1 golfer in the world playing a practice round, and the No. 1 tennis player in the world watching him.

Roger Federer walked the back nine with Woods, both IMG clients who struck up a friendship last summer and had dinner Tuesday night on Woods' yacht. Woods said he will be in Key Biscayne on Saturday night when Federer plays his first match in the Sony Ericsson Open.

``It was great to have him out here,'' Woods said. ``I think he's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery.''

AP NEWS

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A double defense for Tiger, and a hangover
March 21, 2007

MIAMI (AP) -Not even Tiger Woods was sure how he would introduce himself on the first tee at Doral, only that the words ``defending champion'' would be appropriate in some capacity.

But defending champion of what?

Or is it where?

Woods has won the last two years on the Blue Monster, beating Phil Mickelson in a terrific duel in 2005, then holding off David Toms to win by one shot the following season. Both those victories came at regular PGA Tour events featuring a 144-man field.

Now this is called the CA Championship, and it's a World Golf Championship with a 73-man field.

It used to be known as the American Express Championship, and Woods has won that tournament the last two years, too. He beat John Daly in a playoff at Harding Park in 2005, then blew away his alleged competition at The Grove outside London last fall to win by eight.

``Multiple defending champion?'' Woods asked as he walked out the door. ``Have I ever done that? I don't know. Go look it up.''

No matter how anyone looks at it, he figures to be a strong favorite when the tournament begins Thursday. The debate is whether his advantage stems from being at Doral or being at a World Golf Championship.

Woods practically owns the WGC events, especially this format that invites the top 50 in the world ranking and leading money winners from the six major tours around the world.

The CA Championship, name change notwithstanding, is one of three tournaments he has won five times. The others are the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

What makes this one more unique is he has won on five courses in four countries - Valderrama in Spain (1999), Mount Juliet in Ireland (2002), Capital City Club in Atlanta (2003), Harding Park and The Grove.

Why so much success?

``I don't know. He just plays well at them, I guess,'' Sergio Garcia said. ``You ask him and let me know.''

It helps to have fewer players to beat. Only 73 players have qualified this week, and some of them - Pram Meesawat of Thailand and Anton Haig of South Africa - are making their U.S. debut in professional golf.

But if that were the case, it would be easier on everybody.

``Usually, that's how many are here once they make a cut,'' Toms said.

No doubt, the tournament is different this year. Doral usually leads off the Florida Swing, and this year it's in the clean-up spot. Instead of players just starting to think about the Masters, the first major is right around the corner.

Toms noticed something else during his practice round on the Blue Monster - quiet.

There was no pro-am, so players were able to play practice whenever they wanted. And all 73 are guaranteed a paycheck this week because the WGCs have no cut.

``Even though it's a very important event and very big event, it seems like guys approach it a little more low-key,'' Toms said. ``I don't know if it's because there's no cut or they have got that guaranteed check or whatever it might be. It has a nice atmosphere to it.''

Woods had his own atmosphere Wednesday morning.

The size of his gallery was only about 300 people, and their attention was divided inside and outside the ropes. They had their choice between the No. 1 golfer in the world playing a practice round, and the No. 1 tennis player in the world watching him.

Roger Federer walked the back nine with Woods, both IMG clients who struck up a friendship last summer and had dinner Tuesday night on Woods' yacht. Woods said he will be in Key Biscayne on Saturday night when Federer plays his first match in the Sony Ericsson Open.

``It was great to have him out here,'' Woods said. ``I think he's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery.''

Federer even got a chance to see Woods hit a tee shot into the water.

He missed the ending of Bay Hill last week, which has been somewhat of a hangover for Woods. Trying to catch the leaders, he took two double bogeys and a triple bogey on the back nine on his way to a 43 for a final round 76.

It was particularly ugly at the end - Woods took bogey on the 16th, hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th for a double bogey, then hit his approach into the lake next to the 18th green for a triple bogey.

``But the other 69 holes, I made some mistakes along the way that I need to rectify,'' Woods said. ``You can't look at it just one hole, one shot. Because I made too many mistakes throughout the entire tournament that going into Sunday, I probably should have been right next to the lead, if not leading.''

Woods said some of those errors were club selection on some of the holes, what he hit off the tee, his approach shots.

``I kept making silly mistakes - mistakes I don't normally make,'' he said.

That would be the second straight tournament that he erred on the mental side, coming off a third-round loss in the Accenture Match Play Championship when he said he failed to detect a ball mark in the line of a 4-foot putt against Nick O'Hern.

Those are issues he will want to sort out with the Masters only two weeks away.

Given his history at Doral - and this tournament - it might not be a bad time for him to fix it.

AP NEWS

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Tiger tunes up for Masters with win at Doral
Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) - Tiger Woods felt stiffness in his neck from a bad night of sleep on his boat.

For the first time in 3 1/2 years, he couldn't break par when he had entered Sunday with the lead. And he played so cautiously on the final hole of the CA Championship that the outcome was in doubt for as long as it took a 50-foot par putt to settle a few feet from the cup.

In his eyes, it was an ideal way to prepare for the Masters.

"You can't have any better way - getting a 'W' right before you go," Woods said after a two-shot victory over Brett Wetterich.

Forget the details and consider the big picture.

He was so dominant at Doral that he didn't have to break par. He built such a commanding lead on a warm, blustery afternoon that the smartest play was to hit 3-iron off the tee, 8-iron to lay up and wedge some 50 feet beyond the cup on the demanding 18th hole.

"It looked easy to him out there today," Wetterich said.

Woods said it was a struggle, but he got the momentum he wanted heading into the first major of the year. He won his 31st straight PGA Tour event when leading going into the last round, never letting anyone closer than four shots until the final three holes.

He closed with a 1-over 73, only the sixth time in his career he has won by shooting over par in the last round.

"I figured if I shot under par, it would be over," he said. "Didn't quite get it done, but ended up winning, anyways."

And everyone knew it.

"If he's not already, he's getting pretty close to being the best golfer of all time," U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. "It's fun watching. He's just a better player."

They can move this World Golf Championship around country and continents, change its name and stick it in a different spot on the calendar. It doesn't matter. Woods still seems to wind up with the trophy.

Woods won this event for the sixth time, more than any other tournament. And while the others are held on courses he owns, Woods is believed to be the first player to win a tournament six times on six courses - in Spain, Ireland, Atlanta, San Francisco, London and Miami, the latter on a Blue Monster course where he has won the last three years.

"I love this golf course," he said. "And when it was decided that we were going to come here, I just through that this was a wonderful opportunity for me to win the championship."

He finished at 10-under 278 and earned $1.35 million for his second victory of the year, and 56th of his career.

"He's good on Bermuda, good in wind, good in no wind, he's good on bent grass. He's just a good player," Ogilvy said.

Woods won for the 13th time in 24 starts in the World Golf Championships, and he's 11-of-16 when the WGCs are stroke play.

He kept everyone at least four shots from the lead until Wetterich made birdie on the 16th to get within three. Wetterich had birdie putts of 10 feet and 8 feet on the last two holes, but missed them both.

"That's not good enough if you want to try to beat Tiger," Wetterich said.

Equipped with a three-shot lead on the 18th, Woods went conservative for one of the few times in his career. He hit 3-iron off the tee on the 465-yard closing hole, laid up with an 8-iron and took the water out of play - way out of play - with a wedge 50 feet above the hole.

A three-putt double bogey and a Wetterich birdie would have meant a playoff.

Woods, however, found the perfect pace down to tap-in range, and Wetterich's birdie putt, which he left short, was meaningless. Wetterich closed with a 71.

Robert Allenby ran off six birdies in his first 14 holes and his 5-under 67 was the best score of the final round, the only drama was to see would finish second. Allenby wound up in a tie for third at 6-under 282 with Ogilvy (70) and Sergio Garcia (70), the only player to break par all for days at Doral.

Garcia bristled when asked if he was embarrassed by spitting into the cup after missing a putt on Saturday.

"I apologized already," he said. "Are you embarrassed that I didn't spit today, that you didn't have anything better to ask me? Next."

Woods' victory comes one week after he took two double bogeys and a triple bogey on his back nine at Bay Hill, and some players wondered whether those scars would be fresh.

Apparently not.

He is 31-1 when leading on the PGA Tour going into the final round, the loss coming in 1996 Quad City Classic when he was 20 and playing his third tournament as a professional.

He led by four shots Sunday, and Woods immediately stretched it with an 18-foot birdie on the opening hole.

But he shoved a 5-foot par putt on the third, then rapped a 50-foot birdie attempt on the next hole some 10 feet past the cup. Wetterich made his 35-footer for birdie, but Woods poured in his par putt.

After another bogey on the sixth, Woods' approach on No. 7 caught the face of the bunker. He blasted out to 5 feet and again saved par to keep rolling toward victory. Consecutive birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 10th gave him his largest lead of the round at six, and by then it was matter of finishing the tournament.

"I didn't see anyone catching Tiger," Allenby said. "When he's in front, he's a hard man to beat."

The CA Championship is the fifth tournament that Woods has won at least three times in a row, and he has won more times at this tournament than any other in golf.

Woods has won 27.5 percent of his tournaments, an astounding rate that even got the savvy Ogilvy doing some quick math.

"He only wins 30 percent of the time he tees it up," Ogilvy said. "I probably only play 13 or 14 tournaments that he plays in a year. I've got seven or eight chances he's not going to win. It's kind of inspiring."

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