May 10, 2009 (UPDATE 4:40 PST) --Alex Cejka has lived in Las Vegas for several years, and routinely plays and practices at Las Vegas golf courses TPC Las Vegas and TPC Summerlin. This past week, there have many stories about his rounds with fellow Las Vegas PGA Tour stars Dean Wilson, Kevin Na, and others during off weeks from the PGA Tour. And now in the final round, Cejka, who carried a five-shot cushion over Tiger Woods at The PLAYERS Championship, goes toe-to-toe with Woods, who himself, has many ties to the Las Vegas area. Cejka is correct on one thing during the final round: He would have to battle the rest of the field and not just Tiger. Click now for Cejka's 4th-round press conference transcript. LIVE RESULTS.
Cejka fires a 79 and loses by eight to Henrik Stenson, tumbling all the way into a tie for 9th. More to come.
To our knowledge, Woods has never owned a home here, even though rumors have been out there that he was looking to purchase a house in Las Vegas. However, Woods will be in Las Vegas the week following The Players Championship for Tiger Jam, the annual fundraiser for the Tiger Woods Foundation. The event is highlighted by a concert with No Doubt in addition to other events at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and golf events at Las Vegas golf courses Rio Secco Golf Club and Cascata, two premiere Rees Jones-designed layouts. The concert is open to the public while the golf events are reserved for Woods' sponsors and other invited guests. Both Rio Secco Golf Club and Cascata are resort Las Vegas golf courses that are owned and operated by Harrah's Golf. Click now for your Las Vegas golf tee times or Las Vegas golf packages for these Las Vegas golf courses. Rio Secco is home to the world-famous and beautiful T-Mate caddies.
Celebrities who have attended Tiger Jam in the past include Will Ferrell, Charles Barkley, Pam Anderson, Kid Rock, Seal, Kevin James, Ray Romano, Van Halen, and many more. Last year, Las Vegas PGA Tour star and local resident Charley Hoffman filled in for Woods at the annual golf clinic. At the time, Woods was recovering from his first surgery of 2008, and attended Tiger Jam events while on crutches. The event raised more than $1.5 million in 2008 when Van Halen rocked the concert.
Woods also worked with Las Vegas' own Butch Harmon at the Butch Harmon School of Golf (all golfers welcome) for many years, before moving on to work with Hank Haney. Woods spent many hours at the School, and still holds the course record of 64 at Rio Secco Golf Club. That round was shot the week before his record-breaking win at the 2000 U.S. Open. Woods also works with Las Vegas physical therapist Keith Kleven, and Woods nearly attended UNLV to play college golf. Kleven was the man behind Woods' "one-legged" U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines last year. Kleven was with Tiger for the entire week during the Open, and Woods routinely visits Las Vegas to work out at Kleven's facility.
Entering the final round of The Players Championship, Woods was at 6-under par while Cejka was at 11-under par. Woods was in second position despite struggling with his swing the entire week, while Cejka was battling neck pain and took an epidural shot before the tournament. Cejka reported that he had been paired with Tiger twice previously--once in the British Open when Woods was an amateur (Cejka beat him) and once in an exhibition--but no matter the pressure, the fun-loving Cejka was looking to enjoy the moment(s).
"Well, the last time I played with him I dealt with it pretty good," said Cejka, somewhat jokingly, when talking about playing with Woods at the British Open. "Again, we'll see tomorrow. I'm wearing a red shirt tomorrow myself and black pants (laughing), so hopefully it works for me, too. We'll see, again. It's nice to watch the best player in the world, but I've got to focus again on my game tomorrow and let him work a little bit. I'm in a position where he has to make the birdies, and we'll see what happens. But I'm looking forward to it."
Cejka has won several times internationally, but has yet to win on the PGA Tour. Early in his career, Cejka had a reputation of being very carefree and agressive, but now says that he is bringing something back from those good old days. "I remember when I was playing in Europe (when I was) in my 20s and I won a couple tournaments, I remember the only difference maybe was I didn't have fear, I was pretty aggressive, I was going at the flags with a 4-iron," said Cejka, now 38. ".. but the older you get, the wiser you get a little bit; you sometimes hit 3-woods off the tee. Back when I was in my early 20s I hit driver on every hole. It didn't matter if there was water out of bounds, a landing area tof 10 yards. I missed a lot of cuts, but when I played well I was up there on the leaderboard and won a couple tournaments ... I'm almost back to those years, I'm more aggressive, I hit a lot of drivers out here, even in the past couple weeks, and I am trying to play more aggressive golf and let it happen."
Woods said the set up of TPC Sawgrass was definitely fit for a major championship, and despite his struggles, he wasn't too far off with his swing. "(I'm) just grinding it out," said Woods. "This is basically our fifth major, and that's how it's playing. It's playing just like a major championship. It's fast, it's hard, it's dry. And you just have to keep plodding along ... I'm not that far off. Look at so far my rounds since I've come back and played again, I really haven't been that far off. But I just haven't been as consistent as I was before my injury."