March 3, 2014 in Sports

Henley triumphs; Woods exits early

 
Associated Press photo

Russell Henley celebrates chipping in for a birdie on 14th hole. He won the Honda Classic after a four-man playoff.
(Full-size photo)

Russell Henley made good on his second chance at the 18th hole Sunday and won the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after a wild day that began with Tiger Woods walking off the course with a back injury and ended with a four-man playoff.

The closing hour at PGA National was a series of blunders by the contenders – and even the winner.

Henley was in a three-way tie for the lead, 40 yards left of the flag on the par-5 18th in regulation, when he chunked a chip so badly that it only got halfway to the hole. He had to two-putt for par, and then watched as Rory McIlroy nearly made a great escape from an otherwise bad afternoon. McIlroy, who lost a two-shot lead, hit a 5-wood from 236 yards to just inside 12 feet for an eagle and the win. It narrowly slid by on the right.

In the playoff, Henley was the only player to reach the 549-yard hole in two, and he two-putted from about 40 feet for birdie. Ryan Palmer missed a 10-foot birdie putt. McIlroy went from the back bunker to the front collar and had to scramble for par, and Russell Knox laid up and missed a 20-foot birdie attempt.

Woods abruptly quit after 13 holes and was driven straight to his car. He later said he had lower back pain and spasms, and was unsure if he could play at Doral next week. And then came all the mistakes by four guys trying to win.

Palmer missed a 5-foot par in regulation that would have won it. He closed with a 69, the only player in the last six groups to break par. Knox needed a birdie on the last hole, but he went from the fairway bunker to the rough, well over the green and then calmly made a par putt just inside 10 feet for a 71 to get in the playoff.

They all finished at 8-under 272.

The conditions were tough. The play was so underwhelming that McIlroy said that if he had won, “It would have felt undeserved in a way.”

He won’t know that feeling.

Instead, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland closed with a 74. It was his second straight tournament in stroke play that he played in the final group and shot 74. He tied for ninth in the Dubai Desert Classic. His undoing came on the 16th, when McIlroy missed on a 6-iron from the bunker and went into the water, making double bogey.

At least he was still around at the end.

Woods was just a guy in a red shirt at PGA National when he shook hands with Luke Guthrie, his playing partner, and told him he was done.

“Too early to tell,” Woods said in a statement about playing next week at Doral. “I’ll get treatment every day to try to calm it down. Just don’t know yet. Wait until Thursday and see how it feels.”

LPGA

Paula Creamer made a 75-foot eagle putt on the second hole of a playoff with Azahara Munoz to win the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore for her first LPGA Tour title since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. Creamer’s downhill putt curled right to left across the 18th green. The American ran across the green, fell to her knees and put her head on the ground, laughing and pounding the grass.

Creamer closed with a 3-under 69 to match Munoz at 10-under 278 on Sentosa’s Serapong Course.

Munoz, from Spain, shot a 70. Australia’s Karrie Webb was a stroke back in third.


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