Notes Lucky bounces and a Tiger sighting

By Associated PressMarch 28, 2010, 3:13 am

Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, Fla. – Chris Couch guesses he wrote to Arnold Palmer about 18 straight years asking for an exemption at Bay Hill – with no luck.

He finally caught a break Saturday.

Couch’s approach on the 18th from 152 yards out bounced not once, not twice, but three times off the rocks – narrowly missing the water – and skipped onto the green. He saved par and closed with a 3-under 69 in the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, finishing 7 under for the tournament and three shots behind leader Ernie Els.

“I kept thinking, ‘Please, please, bounce on the green, baby, bounce on the green,”’ Couch said. “I’ve never considered myself a very lucky person on the golf course. But that was a great break at the right time.”

Couch has long waited for this chance.

A high school phenom who now lives in the Orlando area, Couch qualified for the 1990 Honda Classic at age 16 but missed the cut. He gained entry at Bay Hill this year because he was high enough in the FedExCup standings.

“I was very thrilled,” he said. “It was nice to get in, being a local. I have a lot of friends around that love to come out and watch and it was enjoyable having them out there today, and hearing their screams and yells and having my wife out there.”

Even being able to play this week could be considered an accomplishment.

Couch had to withdraw at the Transitions Championship last week with a right knee injury that prevented him from walking, even though he couldn’t figure out how it got hurt. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in 2007, and then he had an episode known as “frozen shoulder” in 2008 where he had no movement.

“A lot of rehab, a lot of prayers,” Couch said. “It’s been frustrating. “

So imagine the relief when the ball bounced on the green on 18. For Couch, it was merely another footnote to add in an up-and-down career.

“I don’t know if it will make ten worst or ten best,” he joked.


CHANCE MEETING: Brad Faxon played golf at Isleworth on Saturday morning and ran into Tiger Woods on the back of the range.

“I haven’t seen him since the accident and he hasn’t seen me,” Faxon, an NBC Sports analyst, said during the telecast. “I was as nervous to see him as anything. I walked out there and said, ‘Do you need a putting lesson?’ He started laughing.”

Faxon, an eight-time winner who played on two Ryder Cup teams, is regarded as one of the best putters in golf.

He said Woods was getting ready for the Masters and appeared on edge.

“And what I think he’s most nervous about is getting there on Monday in front of everybody who he hasn’t been in front of for a long time,” Faxon said. “I feel for him. It’s going to be hard for him that day. I have no problem believing that when he puts that peg in the ground on Thursday, he’ll be fine. But those first few days are going to be tough.”


GETTING THERE: There might not be a better example of how things have changed for Jim Furyk than his final hole Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Furyk hit a 6-iron from 192 yards out so far left that the ball bounced off the grandstands, ricocheted off a railing, redirected off a marshal’s hat and landed safely in low-lying rough for a much easier chip onto the green. He saved par, ended with a third-round 66 and signed the ball for the marshal on his way out.

“You get the one with the green mark on it,” Furyk said, smiling.

And why not?

After ending his longest stretch without a victory on the PGA Tour at last week’s Transitions Championship, Furyk is looking to make it two straight wins. He moved 5 under for the tournament and five shots behind leader Ernie Els.

Not bad for a guy who made the cut by one stroke a day earlier.1

“It’s a little bit of a hangover-type feeling after winning to kind of come back and mentally be prepared,” he said. “But I wouldn’t mind winning again.”

Furyk put himself in position to do so rather quickly.

He made up six strokes in seven holes early in his round when the greens were still moist from the low fog that blanketed Bay Hill before dawn. The run was highlighted with an eagle on No. 6 when he nailed a three wood from 242 yards out to within 33 feet, sinking the putt.

After going 32 months and 58 tournaments between PGA Tour wins until last week, Furyk wants to avoid repeating such a drought. He did capture the Chevron World Challenge in December at Sherwood against a world-class field, but his last win on the PGA Tour came in the 2007 Canadian Open.

With the Masters only two weeks away, Furyk feels his luck is starting to change just in time.

“I feel better than I have the last couple years,” he said. “I’m close. I’m not saying I’m ready, but I’m a lot closer than I’ve been for two or three years.”


ARNIE ADVICE: Arnold Palmer took to the television airwaves Saturday to deliver a similar message again to Tiger Woods as he prepares to make his return in two weeks at the Masters.

“My advice would be to open up to the media,” Palmer said while sharing the booth with NBC Sports’ Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller.

“To bring them in and talk to them, and talk to them like a man. That’s the only way you’re going to accomplish what he wants to accomplish right now. He needs to open the door, let them come in and talk to them like he knows them.”

Woods is missing Bay Hill – just around the corner from his Isleworth mansion – for the first time in his career. It had been the only regular PGA Tour event he played every year. Palmer has said he was disappointed Woods wasn’t playing.


DIVOTS: With rain and thunderstorms expected Sunday afternoon, the final round at Bay Hill will be played with threesomes starting on split tees at 8:30 a.m. Mostly cloudy skies with a high around 82 degrees is forecast before the rain pushes in. The tournament is expected to finish around 3:30 p.m., far earlier than when Tiger Woods won last year with a dramatic 12-foot birdie on the 18th under fading light and popping flashbulbs. … Phil Mickelson started Saturday one shot off the lead, but his third round 75 put him seven shots down entering the final round.

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.

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.