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March 4 2012

11:34 PM

Notes from inside the ropes

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An early-week practice round at PGA National may have carried over nicely for Tom Gillis.

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Tiger Woods ended a couple disturbing trends on Sunday. During his first two stroke-play events of the year, his final rounds were his worst of the tournament. He ended that in a big way by shooting 62, the lowest final round of his PGA TOUR career. Woods’ 8-under, bogey-free round was accomplished with a pair of eagles on both par 5’s. For the first 54 holes this week, Woods had just one birdie on the six par 5’s. In the final round, he played the two par 5’s in 4-under par.

Rory responds: The noise of Woods’ eagle on the 72nd hole reverberated across the golf course and was plainly audible for Rory McIlroy. His response? The Ulsterman rolled home a birdie of his own at the 13th and pumped his fist with excitement. Following Woods’ eagle, McIlroy one-putted his next three holes and took just eight putts for his final six holes.

Bogey game: Tom Gillis played a practice round on Tuesday betting the “bogey game.” In order to collect money, the player had to remain bogey-free. Gillis one-putted the final hole to win the bets and carried that play into the tournament. He had just two bogeys during the first 54 holes and while some final-round nerves caused three bogeys in his first 10 holes on Sunday, Gillis finished with only five bogeys for the week and shared second place with Tiger Woods.

Florida wind: Keegan Bradley had a solid start to the Florida swing, finishing 12th at The Honda Classic. The four weeks in Florida usually present some of the windier conditions of the entire year and Bradley sometimes struggles to flight the ball. During his rookie season, Bradley essentially only hit towering irons but his play this week in windy conditions shows a maturity in his game.

Nicklaus’ advice: McIlroy remembered a conversation with Jack Nicklaus before playing his final round. Nicklaus said that his opponents lost more tournaments than he won. Nicklaus would often let fellow competitors make mistakes until he was the last one standing. McIlroy used that advice on Sunday, making just a single bogey and only five bogeys for the week while leading the tournament in scrambling.

Trapped? The Bear Trap took its toll again this year but McIlroy was far from trapped by the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. He played the three-hole stretch in 3-under par this week and took just four putts in the Bear Trap on Sunday.

Future prospects: The PGA TOUR is suddenly set up for one of the more exciting seasons in history. Consider what is converging. Rory McIlroy is the new No. 1 player in the world. Tiger Woods shot 62 in his final round this week while Lee Westwood shot 63. Then, remember, Phil Mickelson is at home watching all this having finished first and second in his last two events. Four stars of the TOUR could all be at their peak this spring.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at The Honda Classic. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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