Notes: Oosthuizen to play Doral, but not pain-free

Louis Oosthuizen during the Honda Classic.

DORAL, Fla. – Two days after withdrawing from the final round of the Honda Classic, Louis Oosthuizen was back at work at Doral’s TPC Blue Monster, determined to give it a go at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

But it doesn’t figure to be pain-free, because the 2010 Open Championship winner confirmed that he still is bothered by a nagging sinus problem/ear infection. It is especially concerning, he said, “because this wind is not helping it.”

At the time, it was blowing 25-30 mph, and Oosthuizen was committed to just do a little putting. He said he would play a practice round Wednesday, but his health is still a concern. “I’ve still got the bad sinus problem, and I’m taking antibiotics,” Oosthuizen said. “But I need to see the course.”

Oosthuizen did not use his health as an excuse for what transpired last week at the Honda Classic. He was 4 under for the tournament, easily in the hunt, when he made a double bogey and three bogeys over the final five holes Friday to barely make the cut. Then, on Sunday, Oosthuizen required 43 strokes on his outward nine, and he promptly withdrew.

“(The ear infection) was hurting so bad,” he said. “It’s not why I played bad, but I didn’t feel the need to push it. I was scared of making it worse.”

Eerily, this is a familiar pattern for Oosthuizen, because he withdrew after three rounds of the Honda Classic last year. That was because of an eye and sinus problem, but he recovered in time to finish T-18 at Doral.

• • •

GALE FORCE: Ferocious wind didn’t play havoc only with Oosthuizen’s earache. It also had players wondering exactly how much sense there was in being out on the Blue Monster, or even in the practice areas.

“What are we even doing here?” David Toms said to his caddie, Scott Gneiser. “How are you going to putt in this?”

Players who did venture onto the course said golf balls were oscillating on nearly every green and, had it been a day of competition, chances are that play would have been suspended.

The only reason Bo Van Pelt wandered out to walk the first, second, 17th and 18th holes was that “it’s better to chip out on the golf course” rather than the practice area. He did not hit any drives or approach shots for fear of how he might want to react to what he saw.

“Sometimes you see what the ball is doing in heavy wind and subconsciously you start making adjustments, and that leads to problems,” Van Pelt said.

• • •

LET’S TALK: Brad Faxon’s 2011 season, his last on the PGA Tour, might not have been hugely successful, but Gary Woodland benefited from it.

“We used to talk all the time, but it was easy, because he was out here,” Woodland said.

That hasn’t been true of 2012, because Faxon has been playing Champions Tour tournaments, yet this week offered a rare chance. With Woodland able to drive down from his home in Orlando en route to Doral and Faxon in the area to play in the annual Seminole Golf Pro-Member, they got together Monday morning at Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

“We spent 2 1/2 hours together, but putted for maybe just 30 minutes,” Woodland said. “I’ve had a lot going on upstairs, and that leads to tension, and it’s hard to play when you’ve got tension,” Woodland said. “Faxon said he could see that, and so we just talked.”

Having had a breakthrough season of sorts in 2011, Woodland has been mired in a stretch of pedestrian play, his best finish in a full-field event being a share of 26th. His putting has hurt him, and in Faxon, Woodland has discovered a terrific sounding board and mentor, of sorts.

“He keeps it so simple. (Putting) is so easy for him, so natural, but it frees me up by just talking to him,” Woodland said. “And when we finally putted, there were just a few fundamentals that we talked about.”

• • •

ONE WAY TO SOFTEN THE AGONY OF DEFEAT: Disheartened as he might have been by losing to Charl Schwartzel in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago, Woodland discovered a soothing remedy. He went home to Kansas and took in two days of Missouri-Kansas basketball.

The day before Saturday’s game, Woodland was with the Kansas team at practice, and he spent a lot of time with former head coach Larry Brown, who is a mentor to current Jayhawks coach Bill Self.

“That was an incredible experience,” Woodland said. “Then at the game, it was louder than anything I had ever experienced.”

Woodland carries a picture of the pre-game festivities, and there’s a swarm of students – thousands of them – waiting to get into the arena. To top off the weekend, Kansas rallied from a large deficit to beat Missouri and for that, Woodland - more than two weeks later - still is wearing a smile.

• • •

EASY AS 1, 2, 3: It’s hardly a novel idea. In fact, by now it’s fairly tired, but whatever, we’ve got it headed our way again Thursday and Friday because the top three players in the world – Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, respectively – will be paired together in Rounds 1 and 2 at Doral.

They’ll start from the 10th tee at 11:50 a.m. Thursday.

Tiger Woods will be paired with Sergio Garcia and Nick Watney, the three of them going off the first tee at 12:40 p.m. Thursday. The other pairing of note will feature Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott (11:20 a.m. from No. 10).

For entertainment value – that is, if the long ball is something that lights your interest – Gary Woodland will be paired with Alvaro Quiros and Kyle Stanley at 11 a.m. from No. 10

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: This will be the 43rd World Golf Championship since the concept came on board in 1999, and for the first time, Ernie Els is not qualified. He has missed WGCs before – in 2005, for instance, when he had a knee injury – but having fallen out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, it’s hard to believe, but The Big Easy was not invited to tee it up at a course where he has won twice (2010, 2002) and at a tournament he has won twice (2010, 2004) . . . . Assuming Ian Poulter is healthy enough to tee it up (he withdrew from the Honda Classic last week, citing illness), he will extend his Tour-best streak to 25 straight WGCs . . . . . Only four players in the field of 74 are making their debuts in a World Golf Championship – Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, Jbe’ Kruger and Branden Grace of South Africa, and Tadahiro Takayama of Japan . . . . . Paul Casey will be making his first competitive start since finishing T-16 at the Dubai World Championship on Dec. 11.

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