Big Three Vying for No 1 at Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 16, 2005, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods and Ernie Els were on opposite sides of town Wednesday. Still, it was much closer than where they have been over the last two months, which was opposite sides of the world.
 
Woods played on his home course at Isleworth about 10 minutes down the road from the Bay Hill Invitational. Els decided to practice at Lake Nona, where he has a house along the 15th fairway.
 
Vijay Singh, who seems to have a home on the range, was the only player among the ``Big Three'' who worked on his game at Bay Hill on the eve of what was shaping up as a supreme battle.
 
Then again, it seems be a heavyweight bout every week on the PGA Tour.
 
Singh birdied the final hole at the Sony Open to beat Els by one shot. Woods capped off a dramatic rally with two clutch putts to beat Phil Mickelson by one shot at Doral.
 
But what makes Bay Hill so compelling is that the top three players in the world ranking are in the same tournament for the first time since the Buick Invitational in January. Better yet, the No. 1 ranking is up for grabs. Woods returned to the top spot two weeks ago, but Els and Singh can take it away with a victory at Bay Hill.
 
``A lot of the top players are winning,'' Woods said. ``It would be nice if we played together more often, but it's usually just two or three of us in the same field. It's pretty exciting when we all get together.''
 
Getting them together in one tournament is tantalizing enough.
 
Packing even more of a punch is Woods, Els and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, ranked No. 5 in the world, playing in the same group the first two days.
 
``Hopefully, we can play some decent golf,'' Els said.
 
They aren't the only ones at Bay Hill, even though it seems that way. The 118-man field includes nine of the top 12 in the world ranking. The defending champion is Chad Campbell, who made up a four-shot deficit against Stuart Appleby.
 
One player not in the field is tournament host Arnold Palmer, who is not expected to play a PGA Tour event for the first time since 1953.
 
Palmer can appreciate a good rivalry. He was part of the ``Big Three'' that first was marketed by IMG in the 1960s when Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player took turns winning the majors.
 
``I don't think there's any question that we have some marquee players that are doing a lot in the game,'' Palmer said. ``That's the kind of thing you want to see more and more of to get attention. We're getting it.''
 
Woods won Bay Hill four straight years until he finished last year with three straight rounds over par and wound up in a tie for 46th, the start of a slump as he changed his swing. The new version is coming together, the best evidence being his two victories in five starts this year.
 
Two weeks ago in Miami, Woods closed with a 63-66 on the weekend to beat Mickelson.
 
``I was struggling last year to find my game,'' Woods said. ``This year, I just have to do a couple of touchups, just like you do every day.''
 
Els is comfortable with his game, too, especially after the last two weeks.
 
He was poised to at least force a playoff in the season-opening Mercedes Championships until hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 18th at Kapalua. He had a chance at the Sony Open despite shaky putting. He had good chances at Torrey Pines and Royal Melbourne.
 
But during his global sojourn, Els made an 18-foot eagle on the last hole to win in Dubai, then rallied from five shots down in the Qatar Masters to win his second straight even on the European tour.
 
They didn't have the strongest fields in the Middle East, but winning does wonders anywhere in the world.
 
``It was really important to get back in the winner's circle, especially after the first four weeks; I felt I had a chances in all four weeks to win and I didn't finish it off,'' Els said. ``So to come from the outside and win those two was quite important.''
 
Els had taken three weeks off to enjoy the life on the beach at his home along the Indian Ocean in South Africa, although he does have a satellite dish and paid attention to the statements being made by the top players -- Woods winning twice, Mickelson winning twice.
 
``It was good for me to see that the guys are playing well, and probably motivated me a little bit to come back, to play and get into the mix of things,'' Els said. ``The guys are really tearing it up. Those top players that we talk about week in and week out, they are definitely doing the business now.
 
``It should be one of the more exciting years in golf.''
 
It might get started this week at the Bay Hill, where there could be a new No. 1 on Sunday. And then they all get together, Mickelson included, at The Players Championship, then the Masters.
 
Bay Hill might simply be Round One.
 
Related Links:
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.