Guthrie, Thompson Tied for Classic Lead
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — Michael Thompson felt like he was playing in a U.S. Open whenever he saw his golf ball in the rough or the scores on the leaderboard at the Honda Classic.
No one was going anywhere yesterday at PGA National.
In cool, blustery conditions on a course with water hazards at nearly every turn, the strategy was to keep the head down and keep big numbers off the scorecard. Thompson and PGA Tour rookie Luke Guthrie managed to do that well enough to share the lead going into the final round.
Guthrie was tested his first time in the last group on tour and made a collection of solid pars on his final eight holes for a 1-over 71. Thompson accepted his bogeys and finished with a two-putt birdie on the 18th for a 70.
They were at 8-under 202, and while the conditions were tough, equally daunting were some of the names behind him.
Lee Westwood, who moved his family down the road from PGA National over the Christmas break, rallied over the last five holes by chipping in for birdie, making an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th and salvaging par after hitting into the water on the par-5 18th. That gave him a 70 and put him only two shots behind.
He was tied with Geoff Ogilvy, who appears to have snapped out of his putting doldrums that cost him dearly on the West Coast. Ogilvy recovered from three bogeys in four holes at the start of his round by making a 7-foot birdie putt at the end for a 70.
By one shot, Ogilvy missed staying in the top 50 at the end of last year for an automatic invitation to the Masters. He has slipped to No. 79, but a win Sunday would take care of that, and runner-up alone at least should get him into the top 50 and earn a spot at Doral next week.
Eleven players were separated by four shots going into the final round, a group that included Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler, who surged into the picture with a birdie-eagle finish for a 69. He was the only player among the last 46 players to tee off who broke par.
None of the top 20 players going into yesterday did better than 70.
Missing from the mix was Tiger Woods, who had hoped to post a low score to at least get into contention and was headed that way with a 32 on the front nine. But he didn’t make another birdie the rest of the way, and took a double bogey on the par-3 17th when his shot plugged into the bank short of the green and he never found the ball. He wound up with a 70, not a bad score under the conditions, but not good enough to achieve what he wanted. He was eight shots behind.
White Defends Title
Vail, Colo. — Shaun White cruised through the sun-splashed halfpipe at a leisurely pace, sending sprays of snow at the cheering crowd lining the sides.
His work finished for the day, White had some fun with his final pass through the pipe, an all too customary victory lap. Once at the bottom, he tossed his goggles to a fan and then waved farewell to the audience.
With that, White called it a season, going out in style by defending his title at the U.S. open snowboarding championships yesterday. He went big in his opening run, holding little back, and only got better on his second pass when he turned in the high score of 95.58 points.
Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano finished second and Louie Vito of Sandy, Utah, took third.
Now, it’s time for White to really get down to work. After all, he’s got maneuvers to master in his pursuit double gold at the 2014 Sochi Games. He’s already so good in the halfpipe — winning the last two Olympics — but has some catching up to do in slopestyle, which will make its Olympic debut in Sochi.
White is trying to close the gap on Canada’s Mark McMorris, who’s become, well, the Shaun White of that discipline.
The U.S. Open was held in Vail this season after 30 years at various mountains in Vermont. The change in venue, though, takes some getting used to given the deep roots to the Green Mountain State.
“It was bittersweet to leave Vermont,” Vito said. “So much history there. But it’s a new chapter and I think it’s going to get better and better in Vail.”
Djokovic Wins Crown
Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Novak Djokovic rallied from a break down in the first set to win his fourth Dubai Championships title in five years yesterday, downing third-seeded Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-3.
The top-ranked Djokovic extended his unbeaten streak this year to 13 matches, which included his third straight Australian Open title.
He’s won 13 of their last 14 meetings en route to his 36th career title.
Gulbis Upsets Haas
Delray Beach, Fla. — Qualifier Ernests Gulbis upset of second-seeded Tommy Haas in three sets on Saturday to reach the final of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.
Gulbis, ranked 109th in the world, won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2) to move into a tournament final for the first time since 2011, when he won in Los Angeles.
His other title came here in 2010.