Fred Couples makes Champions Tour debut

By Associated PressJanuary 22, 2010, 7:37 am
Champions TourKAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii – Fred Couples and Tom Watson are featured on the larger-than-life Mitsubishi Electric Championship posters that greet travelers at tiny Kona International Airport.

While Watson is identified as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Couples has a more humble title underneath his smiling mug: “Rookie.”

There’s no mention of his 15 PGA Tour tiles, 1992 Masters win or 2009 U.S. President’s Cup team captaincy.

“It’s just a different deal,” Couples said. “Everyone seems like a winner out here. Even the guys that didn’t play on the regular (tour) come and do well.”

Couples and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin will make their first official starts on the Champions Tour on Friday in the season-opening Mitsubishi. They each received sponsor exemptions, making them the first players to make their tour debuts at the winners-only event.

“It’s nice to be a rookie, but it’s also nice to feel extremely comfortable out here as well,” Pavin said. “When you’re a rookie on the PGA Tour, your eyes (are) wide, and trying to figure out what to do. Out here, I have a pretty good idea what I have to do. The guys have been incredible in welcoming me out here.”

Both players turned 50 late last year, have 15 U.S. PGA Tour wins and are fitting right in. They were loose and smiling as they chatted with players they haven’t seen in years—or ever.

“I’ll soon get to know a few of those guys, although right now I don’t have any idea who they are,” Couples said.

But the players know who he is.

“We need Freddie to come out and play, and Corey, and Paul Azinger, those kind of guys,” said 2006 champion Loren Roberts, who is coming off his second Charles Schwab Cup title in three years. “We need guys that are major champions to come out here and play on this tour.”

Couples made his senior debut last weekend, teaming with Nick Price to finish third in the Champions Skins Game at Kaanapali.

A total of 36 players are entered at Hualalai, one of the easiest courses on the tour that features generous fairways and immaculate greens. It is the first of 26 events on the 2010 schedule, which is one more than last year.

Last year, Berhard Langer held off Andy Bean by a stroke, winning the Mitsubishi for the first of his tour-high four 2009 victories. This season, Langer is going for an unprecedented third straight player of the year honor.

Pavin is hoping for some similar success. The 1995 U.S. Open champion plans to play six events on the U.S. PGA Tour and 18 on the 50-and-over circuit.

“I certainly want to get in a position where I can win some tournaments and I think I have a better chance of that out here than on the regular tour,” said Pavin, coming off a tie for 52nd at the Sony Open.

He said there’s a noticeable difference on the two tours.

“How should I say this? The guys (here) understand the big picture really well,” Pavin said. “They understand the sponsorships and what makes this whole tour tick. It’s really nice to have everybody understand that and work together as a team. But obviously when we go out, we’re competing against each other and it’s pretty serious competition and tough competition.”

Couples, meanwhile, aims to play 12 events on the U.S. PGA Tour and 10 senior events. Next year, he plans to concentrate on the Champions Tour.

“People want to know a goal. It’s not winning, it’s really to see if I can play that many tournaments,” said Couples, long troubled by back problems.

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 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.