Alex Noren and Webb Simpson lead the Honda Classic after shooting 4-under 66's in the first round. The European Tour star, Noren, is playing his fourth PGA Tour event of the year. His results have shown why he's a top 20 player in the world, finishing t2nd at Torrey Pines, t21st in Phoenix and t16th at Riviera. The stellar results validate his position in the top 20 of the world rankings and make him a legitimate threat for major championships. One shot back of Noren and Simpson are big name players Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Louis Oosthuizen, as well as Morgan Hoffman and Mackenzie Hughes. Full scores
Tiger Woods opened with an even-par 70, which puts him in a tie for 21st place. It was Tiger's best ball-striking round of the year, finishing 27th on the day strokes gained: tee-to-green. Woods' round could have been better had it not been for a disastrous double bogey on the 15th hole. On the day, Woods hit 50% of his fairways, a massive improvement from Riviera and Torrey Pines.
As mentioned in Wednesday's newsletter, PGA National's narrow fairways might actually help Woods off the tee. The hazard-laden setup defines a clear line off the tee and doesn't allow players to bail out. It's a stark contrast from Riviera, where wide corridors allow players to play away from its hazards. At Riviera, Woods did just that. If there was OB left, he would miss wide right. Likewise, if there was trouble right, he'd miss left.
A common misconception among golfers and golf writers is that wide corridors off the tee make golf easier for professionals. PGA National defines the line that a pro should take on every tee shot with water and bunkers. At courses like Riviera, the wide corridor presents options for the player and gives them the ability to play away from hazards. Sometimes playing away from the hazard is worse than finding it. I talked with Tom Doak and his associates about this very subject during our latest podcast.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler opened with a one-over 71.
Rory McIlroy shot a two-over par 72.
Intoxicating bones: Northwood GC
Northwood Golf Club, Monte Rio, CA Alister MacKenzie design
On my recent jaunt through Northern California, I was able to check out the Alister MacKenzie design, Northwood GC. In West Sonoma County, Northwood is one of the best values in golf at only $23 to play an Alister MacKenzie course. To watch the video and read my full recap on Northwood, click here.
On the Skillet - Northwood Golf Club 2nd hole
This week's On the Skillet is also dedicated to Northwood. Read up on it's great par-4 2nd here.
During Jack Nicklaus' press conference at the Honda Classic, the all-time great dove into detail on a possible golf ball rollback. Nicklaus suggested a 20 percent rollback to ensure the growth of the game in the future. The Golden Bear blames the golf ball for slow pace of play and also singled out Titleist as the organization that controls the game. Nicklaus went on to suggest that Mike Davis and the USGA are getting close to bringing a rollback to the masses. A welcome sight for fans of classic golf courses.
The first round is in the books! Round two will kick off today on Twitter and Instagram. Check out our blog post to see all the results from round 1 and which logos will be up the next couple days.
Game of the week
Game of the week will be back next week when Kyle Nathan is not competing. He and a number of other top mid-am players are competing in the Gasparilla Invitational. Scores through round 1.
Campus Update from Will Knights
This was an eventful week in college golf as 8 of the top 20 teams in the nation were in action.
Clemson shot the low final round of the Puerto Rico Classic to edge out Oklahoma for the team title. The Tigers failed to finish better than 4th in the fall, so they needed to make a statement this spring. Clemson beat out top ten teams Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia Tech on their way to victory. Alabama’s Lee Hodges won by 2 shots individually at -7.
Oklahoma State won their second event of the spring and third in a row with their win at The Prestige at PGA West. They shot -5 as a team over their last 5 holes to come from behind and beat Pepperdine by a single shot. Oregon, LSU and Stanford were all in contention during the final round before the Cowboys pulled out the win. Pepperdine’s Clay Feagler shot a final-nine 32 to hold off Oregon’s Norman Xiong for the individual title.
The Haskins Award watchlist also came out this week. The Haskins Award is given to the best NCAA golfer as voted on by players, coaches, and golf media members. Justin Suh leads the way right now with Davis Riley, Hayden Buckly, Doug Ghim, and Collin Morikawa closely behind. See the full list here.
Havret, Pepperell and Rai lead the European Tour's Qatar Masters.
Cool traj chart from Skratch on the par-3 17th.
Data golf put together an awesome chart that shows the change in average driving distance over the years on Tour.