Byron Nelsons tournament not as lordly as it was

By Associated PressMay 20, 2010, 12:15 am

HP Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas – The Byron Nelson Championship ain’t what it used to be.

For decades, the biggest names and best players were regulars at this tournament, lured by handwritten notes from its beloved namesake or the chance to chat with one of golf’s greatest champions. The field included six of the top 10 players in the world as recently as 2005.

Nelson died a year later and the field has been slipping ever since. This year, No. 17 Hunter Mahan will be the highest-ranked player teeing it up at the TPC Four Seasons course and the best they could muster on the money-leader list is No. 9 Dustin Johnson.

“It’s sad,” said Corey Pavin, who is playing the event for the 23rd time. “I would like to see this field remain strong. … Byron is fresh in my memory; to me, he is the epitome of golf, what it stands for.”

Although the tournament is well known for its hospitality and philanthropy (PGA Tour-best $112 million for charity), it has a tough spot on the schedule – the middle of a three-week run in Texas and the same weekend as the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. The lure across the Atlantic was especially strong this year, with Europeans eager to make the Ryder Cup squad as their side tries to reclaim the trophy.

But this event still bears Nelson’s name, always draws large crowds and is the rare “home game,” as Mahan called it, for the dozens of Tour players like himself who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The course also has gotten rave reviews for a redesign by D.A. Weibring several years ago that’s reached maturation.

“I am a little surprised (by the low-caliber field), personally a little disappointed,” said Rory Sabbatini, another local and the defending champion. “I see it, in a sense, as being a little disrespectful to Byron Nelson’s name.”

Tom Watson was here Tuesday, and the four-time tournament champion still has a prime parking spot with his name on it. Alas, he was only here to collect an award.

Former champions like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had to send their regrets for various, well-publicized reasons. Former champ Ernie Els is at the BMW and Adam Scott, the 2008 winner, is taking the week off after winning in San Antonio last weekend.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made it to the final round of qualifying and would’ve made a big splash if he’d gotten in the field. A conflict with his day job forced him to drop out; odds are, he wouldn’t have shot the 65 needed to get in anyway.

Still, there are some good story lines among established players, like Pavin and Vijay Singh, and some young up-and-comers, like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

Haven’t heard of Spieth?

Well, he won just last weekend – the Texas high school state tournament.

A 16-year-old junior at a Dallas high school, Spieth was late to the course Wednesday because he had to make a presentation in his physics class. But the folks who run this event didn’t let him into the field simply for the local-boy-makes-good angle; the last high schooler they invited was Woods, in 1993, and Spieth is the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion.

He’s been coming to this tournament since he was 5 and he’s played the course enough that he won’t be too wide-eyed when he tees off Thursday.

“When I’m out there, I don’t think of myself as a 16 year old; I think of myself as a competitor in this tournament,” Spieth said. “Everyone here has more experience than me, but it’s a game of momentum, at least for me out here. You start getting it going and making a few putts, you might get it to where nothing can stop you. … Obviously I know the percentage chances of me winning an event like this right now, but anything can happen.”

Fowler, a PGA Tour rookie with four top 10 finishes this season, needs a top-five finish to automatically qualify for both the U.S. and British Opens. He would get in as a reward for being in the top 50 by Monday.

Singh is facing the same deadline.

He was in the top 50 from August 1992 until this past Monday, when he dipped to No. 51. He’s already secured his spot in the British Open, so he needs to play well enough to move up one spot to secure a place in the U.S. Open.

As for Pavin, his focus is all over the place these days – playing some PGA Tour events, getting comfortable on the Champions Tour and doing leg work as the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. On Wednesday, he chatted up Fowler and others on his radar for his four captain’s picks.

But he also has another goal this week: become the first person to complete the Texas Slam. He’s already won in Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston.

Although he hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2006, he’s coming off a tie for seventh at a Champions event.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” Pavin said. “The last probably two months I’ve hit the ball quite nicely, and oddly enough my putting hasn’t been where I wanted it to be. … If I can get in contention on Sunday that would be fantastic.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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 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.