Packed leaderboard at Honda Classic

By Associated PressMarch 5, 2010, 4:53 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Alexandre Rocha nearly stopped playing golf last year, until two moves by the International Olympic Committee changed his mind.

And that’s just one tiny part of his unbelievable story.

The world’s 711th-ranked player – who needed to survive a pre-qualifier, then a Monday qualifier, then a playoff, just to get into the field at PGA National this week – shot a 4-under 66 on Thursday, one shot back of Nathan Green and Michael Connell after the first round on a windy and unseasonably cool first day at the Honda Classic.

“I needed a day like today like, you have no idea,” Rocha said. “And it was for nobody. It’s for myself.”

The Honda is only his fourth PGA Tour event; the last was in 2003, and he’s never made a cut. He lost his European Tour card last year and got status earlier this year on the Asian Tour, only after deciding that he wanted to continue playing golf for a living.

The IOC had much to do with that. First, they awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics to his native Brazil, then added golf to that program. Rocha – who didn’t know a word of English when he arrived at Mississippi State – took those moves as signs of what he was supposed to do, so he recommitted to the game with hopes of finally making something happen.

After three straight birdies to open Thursday’s round, something was happening.

And plenty of luck was on his side, too. He pulled his drive into a row of houses on the seventh hole, got a fortunate bounce off something and made par. He knocked in 30-foot par-saving putts that he was just trying to get close, saying bogey was a good score. Somehow, he never lost composure.

“I am surprised at how calm, how relaxed and how confident I felt all day,” Rocha said. “That surprises me. I am not surprised about the fact that I can play proper golf. I’ve been working at it, and hard. And it has come out of me in the past before. I’m very satisfied with it, yes. Am I surprised to be in a good position on the leaderboard? Yes. But I wasn’t shocked, you know, to see myself playing well.”

Only two men did any better.

Green’s card was mistake-free, five birdies, no bogeys, and a mere 25 putts. Not bad, considering he was the other guy in a group with major champions Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington.

“You don’t like embarrassing yourself in front of a crowd,” Green said. “It can also help you, and I think that’s sort of what it did today, playing with those guys. You definitely feed off them a little bit I think, just how calm they keep themselves.”

It was a day of redemption for former Mississippi State players.

Connell – like Rocha, a former Bulldog – was a PGA Tour rookie in 2006, making the cut in four of 22 events. He never got back on the tour until this year, got a kickstart with an eagle on the par-5 third hole, and caught Green for the lead with a birdie at the par-3 17th.

Oliver Wilson and Camilo Villegas also were tied for second with Rocha at 4 under.

Singh, Bubba Watson and D.J. Trahan were all two shots back after shooting 67. If there was a surprise out of that group, it might have been Singh. Once the world’s No. 1 player, and still ranked No. 5 less than two years ago, Singh’s ranking has since fallen to No. 35.

“I know I’m not supposed to be there,” Singh said. “The bottom line is, you play well, it’s going to be OK. If you play well, the ranking is going to fix itself.”

Y.E. Yang had a lot to fix on Thursday.

Yang at the Honda has been an all-or-nothing proposition. He was last after 54 holes in 2008 and played the final round that year by himself in less than two hours, then was a surprise winner at PGA National last year – giving him a boost that he said helped carry him to a breakthrough year and the PGA Championship.

Maybe his title defense at Whistling Straits will go better than his defense at the Honda. Hard to imagine it going worse.

Yang started with a bogey, followed by a quintuple-bogey, leaving him 6 over after two holes and the downward spiral never got turned around. Yang wound up shooting 79, leaving him 14 shots off the pace.

For him, it was a day to forget.

Not for Rocha.

He’ll come back Friday afternoon in position to finally make a cut, which for him might be as significant as a victory. He’s so far down in the world rankings that if he was a Villegas brother, he’d be third in the family— Camilo’s younger brother Manuel actually checks in three spots ahead of Rocha.

Rocha was a first-team All-American in 2000 for Mississippi State, joining, among others, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III, Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder. He points to what that group has done professionally as some proof that he’s underachieved.

Not on Thursday, he couldn’t.

How much did he need one good day?

“Like my life depended on it, really,” Rocha said

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia


And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

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.