Knees and Knee-Jerk Reactions
By the end of the week, it was Tiger Woods against David Toms in the final match, and no one had any problems with that.
'If the No. 1 player in the world has played four times and been in the finals twice, I don't see anything broken with it,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
'You've got to look at these things over time,' he said. 'There's a role for match play, and you have to accept it for what it is.'
Indeed, the first two months of the golf season have been a case study in knee-jerk reactions -- including the left knee of one particular player.
Exhibit A comes from the Mercedes Championships, where Ernie Els hit a tee shot on the 15th hole at Kapalua that traveled about 400 yards to the bottom of a hill. Equally alarming was his score, 31 under par, which shattered a PGA Tour record.
A week later at the Sony Open, Els reached the 501-yard ninth hole at Waialae Country with a driver and a wedge, and there were murmurs about the ball going too far.
Never mind there was virtually no wind on either island.
True, Finchem and the U.S. Golf Association are starting to look more closely at equipment issues, particularly the golf ball.
But a case can be made for waiting until the PGA Tour has gone to a variety of courses in a number of states under all kinds of weather conditions.
Woods was hitting 4-iron into some of the par 4s at Torrey Pines, which was soaked by rain that kept the fairways from rolling like linoleum. The pins were tucked at the Buick Invitational and Nissan Open, although Riviera's greens are so tough that no one has come close to the 72-hole record -- 20-under 264 -- that Lanny Wadkins set in 1985.
'Look at the conditions at Kapalua, Hawaii, Phoenix, Hope and the AT&T,' Jeff Sluman said. 'Beautiful weather. Hard, fast fairways. I don't care what ball you were playing, it was going a long way.'
All of the top 10 players in driving distance are averaging more than 300 yards off the tee, although Finchem says the data is 'overblown a bit' at the beginning of the year.
USGA executive director David Fay also preaches patience.
'I'd like to reserve my comments until we hit the straightaway,' he said. 'And the straightaway is usually some time after Florida.'
It will take a little longer to overcome the knee-jerk reaction that women are taking over the PGA Tour.
So far, Annika Sorenstam and Suzy Whaley are the only women who have entered PGA Tour events. Whaley qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a club pro sectional from a shorter set of tees.
She went from a national story to a local story when Sorenstam, the best woman in golf, decided to play the Colonial in May.
Sorenstam has brought the LPGA Tour more attention during its three-month break than when the tour is in season. There is enormous curiosity over whether she can contend, compete or keep up -- and what the outcome will mean for women's golf.
'I hope she shoots her best,' Finchem said.
Others are shooting off at the mouth. One guy who finished dead last at Q-school is so offended by a woman playing on the PGA Tour that he said he would enter the U.S. Women's Open -- which is against rules that say an entrant must be born a woman.
If Se Ri Pak wins three majors this year, will she want to play on the PGA Tour? What about Michelle Wie, the eighth-grader from Hawaii who already tried to Monday qualify at the Sony Open and beat half the men in the field.
Finchem isn't bracing for a wave of women.
'I think the novelty will probably wear off,' he said. 'It creates interest, and I don't think there's any huge danger.'
No one is overreacting to Woods -- only to his knee.
After taking off two months because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Woods won two of his three starts and might have won them all if not for a tee shot that was closer to the tennis courts than the first fairway at Riviera.
Not a round went by at La Costa that he wasn't asked how his knee was holding up. At one point, Woods jokingly said he would have to get it amputated.
During his practice round two days before his official return, Woods said he probably would get at least one question about his knee every day through the Masters.
Oh, yes -- Augusta National.
The club added 300 yards to its golf course last year. After one tournament -- a wet and sloppy week -- everyone said the extra length took away from the back-nine drama that helped make the Masters so special.
A month from now, that might prove to be another knee-jerk reaction.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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
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.