Comfortable Vegas finds a home in Houston

By Associated PressMarch 31, 2011, 12:26 am

2007 Shell Houston Open

HUMBLE, Texas – Jhonattan Vegas could barely speak English when he made his first appearance in a PGA Tour event, as an amateur at the 2003 Houston Open.

He was 18 then, and qualified less than a year after moving from his native Venezuela to Houston to fine-tune his game with Franci Betancourt, an instructor who had taught him as a boy.

Vegas missed the cut, but felt secure enough to make the city his adopted hometown. He’s back at Redstone for the Houston Open this week, now a fast-rising tour rookie with a victory already under his belt.

The big-hitting Vegas is one of 33 players in the field who have already qualified for next week’s Masters. But a win in Houston would have additional meaning to Vegas, a former University of Texas star who now lives only 20 minutes from the course.

“That first Tour experience was this one here and since that time, it’s great to be back,” Vegas said. “I think just the whole state of Texas, I’ve been in a pretty ‘home’ feeling. When I’m here, I feel really comfortable. I like everyone around.”

Vegas earned his invitation to Augusta when he won the Hope Classic in January in just his fifth career start on the tour.

“I knew that I could win here – I didn’t know it was going to be that quick,” he said. “You never know when things are going to happen. That’s kind of what I do and just try as hard as I can every single time and hope for the best.”

Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Fred Couples are also in the field, using the tournament to tune up for the season’s first major. Anthony Kim is the defending champion.

Organizers have embraced the Houston Open’s distinction as the run-up to the Masters, setting up the Tournament Course with conditions similar to those at Augusta. The fairways are wide and mowed toward the tees, the rough is light, the greenside mounds are shaved and the greens themselves are lightning-fast.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen is playing the course for the first time after hearing positive feedback about it.

“A lot of the players said it’s as close as you can get it to the Augusta setting or grass,” Goosen said. “That definitely made me decide to play this year.”

The course can also boast one of the tour’s toughest holes, the water-lined, 488-yard 18th. It ranked as the 20th most difficult hole on tour last year, with a 4.317-stroke average, and usually yields final-round drama.

In 2007, Adam Scott had a one-shot lead, but pulled his tee shot into the water. He took his drop, hit his approach safely away from the water, then holed a 48-foot par-saving putt to win.

In 2009, Paul Casey bogeyed the 18th on the final day to slip into a playoff with J.B. Holmes. The players returned to the 18th tee, Holmes found the water with his drive, and Casey won with a conservative bogey.

Last year, Vaughn Taylor rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 18 in the final round to tie Kim and force another playoff. Taylor then hit the greenside bunker to the right off the tee, while Kim made a routine par for the victory.

“It’s a tremendous hole,” Kim said. “When the wind blows, it’s as tough as it gets. You can’t bail out anywhere. Right is no good. The second shot is actually harder if you’re in that bunker than if you’re right of the bunker.

“You have to hit a couple of quality golf shots,” Kim said, “and the green’s not very easy, either.”

Westwood tied for eighth in 2010 and finished second to Mickelson at the Masters the following week, bolstering the notion that Redstone works as a suitable tuneup. Westwood is playing at Houston for the fourth time in five years.

“The main point is they try to get the greens as quick as possible which, when you get to Augusta next week, it’s not as big a shock,” Westwood said. “They’re pretty immaculate this week and run at a great pace.”

But Westwood is looking for more than just a few practice rounds this week. Now No. 2 in the world behind Martin Kaymer, Westwood has failed to crack the top 10 in six starts.

His routine of playing the week before a major has served him well, though it has yet to produce a breakthrough victory. He was the runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen at last year’s British Open, and tied for third at both the British Open and PGA Championship in 2009.

“I like to be competitive going into the week of a major,” Westwood said. “You look at all the major championships, I’m playing the week before. Like if I come into it, have another couple of weeks (without playing a tournament), I could be rusty for even nine holes, and that’s too much in a major championship.”

Shell Oil Company has sponsored the tournament since 1992. On Tuesday, the oil giant extended its title sponsorship through 2017.

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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.