Leonard Looking for His Match

By Associated PressNovember 12, 2003, 5:00 pm
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Justin Leonard had just missed a short par putt when a voice from the gallery turned his glare into a scowl.
'I'm walking to the 10th tee and this guy says, 'Nice putt,' and I turned around and looked at him like he was crazy,' Leonard recalled. 'I had to fight myself from walking back there to say something.
'Then, I realized he was probably talking about last week. At least I hope he was.'
The year was 1999, and the week before, Leonard stood 45 feet away from the hole on the 17th green at The Country Club with nothing less than the Ryder Cup on the line and his country counting on him.
What followed became one of the most famous shots in golf.
When the ball banged into the back of the cup, the Americans were assured the half-point they needed to pull off the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history. Leonard was the hero.
Little did the patriotic Texan know when he walked off the course, it would be four years before he would get a chance to return to the atmosphere he cherishes.
Leonard and Jim Furyk will represent the United States in the World Cup this week at Kiawah Island, S.C., then join the rest of the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup in South Africa.
'I've missed it a lot,' Leonard said.
Certain shots can become a player's legacy. David Duval's 6-foot eagle putt to shoot 59. Hal Sutton's 6-iron into the 18th green to hold off Tiger Woods at The Players Championship. Ben Hogan's 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion in the U.S. Open.
Leonard is a major champion. Coincidentally, the decisive blow when he won the '97 British Open at Royal Troon also was a long birdie putt on the 17th. A year later, he came from five strokes behind to win The Players Championship.
But mention his name, and the first thing that comes to mind -- maybe the only thing -- is the Ryder Cup. The twisted part of Leonard's fame is that he's never even won a Ryder Cup match.
Everyone remembers the putt, but not many realize that Leonard only halved his match against Jose Maria Olazabal. Throw in the Presidents Cup, and Leonard's record in team matches is bordering on pathetic -- one victory, nine losses, five ties.
'I know it's pretty bad,' Leonard said. 'I know I haven't won a lot of matches. I've tied a lot of matches, but I've lost a bunch. I'd certainly like to change that.'
Leonard, who played in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup four years in a row, never imagined having to wait so long for the next opportunity. Some of it was bad play. Some of it was bad timing.
He went through a slump in 2000 and just missed out on the Presidents Cup. Leonard hired Butch Harmon to retool his swing, and he didn't adapt to the changes until after the 2001 Ryder Cup team was selected. Then came the one-year delay because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
'It's been strange the last couple of times to be on the outside looking in,' he said.
Leonard seems to have all the right ingredients for match play, especially the team variety. He is easily paired. He generally keeps the ball in front of him. While he's not a power player, Leonard has a gritty short game and a knack for making pivotal putts.
So, what gives with that 1-9-5 record? Nothing that can be explained. Nothing for which he should apologize.
'He's a guy you want out there making putts that are important,' said Davis Love III, who walked with Leonard during his comeback against Olazabal in the Ryder Cup. 'His record is not that good, but he played the best stretch of six holes maybe in Ryder Cup history. He knows he can do it.'
One of the most overrated aspects of the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or Solheim Cup is an individual's record, especially the team variety. There are countless stories about two guys who play well enough to win any match during that session except the one they're playing. Records never reflect how well, or how poorly, a partner is playing.
'His record is not the greatest,' Furyk said of Leonard. 'But he's a hell of a teammate.'
Love would be the first to admit that he played below his standards in the 1998 Presidents Cup by hitting a few errant tee shots and plenty of missed putts. He and Leonard were 0-1-1 as a team, and that halve was courtesy of Leonard's approach into 6 feet on the final hole for birdie.
'I put him under some trees,' Love said. 'We were both not good, but I killed him. If not for me, he would have won a few matches.'
Raymond Floyd was as tough as they come, yet his record was 12-16-3 in the eight Ryder Cups he played -- and he was on the winning side seven times. Tiger Woods is 10-13-2 in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
'People don't talk about Bernhard Langer's record or Nick Faldo's record in the Ryder Cup,' Woods said. 'They talk about how many teams they made. That's what is important.'
Leonard is back on the team. To him, that's what matters the most.
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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.