Match Play offers snapshot of golf scene

By Associated PressMarch 1, 2011, 7:43 pm

MARANA, Arizona (AP)—The PGA Tour could have skipped the West Coast swing andgone straight to the Match Play Championship, which provided a perfect snapshotof everything going in the world of golf.

Europe looked as strong as ever.

Martin Kaymer showed why he is No. 1 in the world ranking. Lee Westwood madepeople wonder why he was.

Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler , when they’re not making videos for Twitter,offered more evidence that their homemade golf swings are just as compelling astheir fashion accessories.

Martin Kaymer of Germany hits …
AP - Feb 27, 5:26 pm EST

And has anyone seen Tiger Woods ?

Europe has been the strongest continent in golf over the last year, and DoveMountain was no exception. Luke Donald of England and Kaymer (Germany) reachedthe championship match, the second straight year for an all-European final.

Donald was so good that he never trailed after any hole in any of his sixmatches, and wound up playing fewer holes (89) than the winner of the Bob HopeClassic (92). Who would have guessed that?

After winning, Donald said European golf was going through a “purplepatch.”

For the Americans, it’s more black-and-blue.

Only two Americans have reached the championship match in the last fiveyears—Woods and Stewart Cink in 2008. One year ago, Americans were Nos. 1-2-3in the world ranking. Europe now occupies the first four spots in the rankingfor the first time in nearly two decades. Woods is the highest-ranked Americanat No. 5, his lowest position since the week before he won the 1997 Masters.

Before anyone writes the Americans off too quickly, they have had sixwinners on the PGA Tour this year. Then again, their average ranking when theywon was No. 171. Watson at Torrey Pines was the only winner inside the top 75.

The best American at the moment? Good question.

Mark Wilson has won twice, at the Sony Open and Phoenix Open, which doesn’texactly make him a favorite at the Masters, where he will be playing a major foronly the fourth time.

Wilson advanced to the second round of the Match Play, and that wasnoteworthy for whom he beat—Dustin Johnson .

There was little debate that Johnson was the most promising young Americangoing into 2011, if not one of the emerging talents in the world. Two monthsinto the season, however, he has only made news because of Natalie Gulbis andJim Gray.

He was linked romantically to Gulbis until the LPGA star said that Johnsonwas handling their PR. Meanwhile, Gray was sent home by the Golf Channel forasking Johnson in the middle of his round why he was late to the tee for atwo-shot penalty.

Speaking of tardiness, the Match Play Championship renewed talk about thepace of play.

One week after Kevin Na nearly turned Riviera into a five-day tournament,J.B. Holmes took some of the shine off a riveting match because he was sodeliberate. Watson rallied from 5 down with eight holes to play to square thematch on the 18th and win it on the 19th. But the match took nearly five hoursto play, and not all of that is down to rulings from the desert on the final twoholes.

The opening match of the tournament between Cink and Ian Poulter took overfour hours before it reached the 18th hole. Part of the delay was when they eachmade double bogey on the par-3 sixth, prompting rules official Stephen Cox totell Poulter on the next fairway, “Look, I realize you’ve both taken a trip toIn-N-Out for a double-double, but I’d appreciate it if you would pick up thepace.”

Watson and Fowler won’t get accused of slow play.

Both of them bring old-school qualities to the game, and both are reachingthe point where they can move the needle.

Watson, with the pink shaft in his driver and a $525,000 watch he sportedfrom a Richard Mille endorsement, came within one hole of winning the PGAChampionship last year. He held off Phil Mickelson to win at Torrey Pines, andshowed off his tremendous shotmaking at Dove Mountain. He’s always had rawtalent. Now he is getting comfortable with the spotlight.

Fowler, dressed in pink from his shoes to his cap, hit two of the mostimpressive shots all week with his 4-iron to 15 feet for eagle on the 11th and a4-iron to 2 feet for eagle on the 13th to hand Mickelson is worst loss ever inthe event.

Fowler went down the next day, not unusual at this tournament. He has allthe tools to be a star except the most important asset, which is a trophy. Butas Mickelson said in defeat, “I think he’s going to do a lot for Americangolf.”

Mickelson remains an enigma. He played six straight weeks, from Abu Dhabi toDove Mountain, with only one chance at winning.

That’s still one more chance than Woods, who remains the biggest mystery ingolf.

There is not much to say about the former No. 1, although that didn’t stopTV commentary from gushing that swing coach Sean Foley said Woods’ spin rate andlaunch angle were leveling out. Good to know.

He lost on the 19th hole to Thomas Bjorn with a swing Woods had to rehearsetoo many times and a 3-wood into the desert. It wasn’t as awful as it looked,for the right side of the fairway is the best angle to make birdie. Even so, hewould have been better off missing the 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole thatforced overtime than losing the way he did.

Johnny Miller compared Woods with Mike Tyson, not because of Iron Mike’scriminal behavior and outrageous comments, but because he was never the sameafter losing to Buster Douglas.

The longer Woods goes without winning, it’s not unreasonable to wonder aboutthat.

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 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.