Stricker starts of the year with a win in Hawaii

By Associated PressJanuary 10, 2012, 9:59 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP)—Steve Stricker had a silver trophy in his hands and awhite-and-purple lei around his neck, a photo opportunity at Kapalua that didn’tseem likely four months ago when he could barely hold onto a golf club.

He withdrew from the BMW Championship outside Chicago because of weakness inhis left arm. It was a nervous time, even when it was diagnosed as a neckinjury. The first doctor he saw recommended surgery, and Stricker nearly wentalong with it.

Stricker decided against surgery, opting for therapy, rest, a series ofmassages and two cortisone shots.

It looks like it was the right choice.

Stricker opened the PGA Tour season with a final round Monday on Maui filledwith more tension that he needed, even if he is used to it by now. Staked to afive-shot advantage at the Tournament of Championship, his lead was down to asingle shot after just six holes.

As he does so many times, though, Stricker’s short game bailed him out. Hebirdied back-to-back holes at the turn to regain control, answered Jonathan Byrd with a wedge into 2 feet for another birdie on the 16th, and wound up with a4-under 69 and a three-shot win for an ideal start to the year.

“It was tough,” said Stricker, who now has won eight times in his last 50tournaments. “I never let up today. It’s always tough trying to win, and it’seven more tough when you have a lead like I did. I’m very proud of what I didtoday.

“And it’s always cool to get a hug from your family walking off at theend.”

That was the best part of the day, seeing 13-year-old Bobbi Maria and5-year-old Isabella greet him on the 18th green. It was the second time he haswon when both his daughters were at the golf course. That never gets old.

Stricker finished at 23-under 269, three shots clear of Martin Laird (67).

The final round came down to those two, along with Byrd and Webb Simpson ,who each closed with a 68. All three of the challengers got to within one shotof Stricker, but not for long.

He has made a habit of losing big leads in the final round, and of holdingon for the win. Stricker is not sure what to make of these dynamics, althoughhe’s glad the outcome has been the same.

Last summer at the John Deere Classic, he lost a five-shot lead on the backnine and had to birdie the final hole for a two-shot swing to beat Kyle Stanley .A month earlier, he had a four-shot lead at the Memorial and hung on to win byone shot.

At Riviera two years ago, his six-shot lead was reduced to two shots afteronly six holes, before he steadied himself to win by two.

So this was nothing new.

“I’ve been there before. It’s not a great feeling, either,” Stricker said.“It’s just the nature of our game. I realize that, and I’ve gone through itbefore. It always seems close, and you always have to perform to get it done.”

The way his left arm felt four months ago outside Chicago had himquestioning whether he could.

Stricker turns 45 next month, and he knows his window is closing even iffully healthy. One doctor told him by having surgery he could be back in timefor the Presidents Cup the week before Thanksgiving in Australia. The moreadvice he sought, the more Stricker realized he would be better off trying totreat it with therapy.

He had a cortisone shot before the Tour Championship. He had another one theweek before Christmas, along with other therapy and a series of massages. Theidea is to manage this injury, and he feels a lot better about that after his12th career win.

Stricker felt stronger than he did last year, and that much was evident.

He played the final round with Byrd, with whom he also was paired during thetournament last year. There were times when Byrd was hitting his 3-wood fartherthan Stricker hit his driver. This year, Stricker was hitting it past Byrd attimes.

As for the chipping and putting? They remain Stricker’s biggest weapons.

“I don’t want to have surgery,” Stricker said. “I don’t think at thispoint I need it. I’m just going to go ahead and try to do this maintenance thatI’ve been doing the last couple of months and see if that’ll remedy the problem.And it’s been better, and my strength is better. I’ve got a couple cortisoneshots I think that have helped quite a bit.

“But from what my physical therapist says, it’s just something that I needbe on top of it all the time. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

If nothing else, he appears to be on top of his game, especially this earlyin the year.

Stricker hit the ball beautifully all week. The difference was the size ofthe hole: It started to look smaller.

Laird ran off three birdies on the front nine. Simpson made an eagle on thepar-5 fifth. Byrd make three straight putts, one of them for par, as they creptcloser to Stricker.

He was making a mess of a few holes, and a mess of the final round.

Stricker three-putted the fifth hole for par, then played a poor flop shoton the sixth that came up short and led to another bogey. Just like that, hislead was down to one shot.

“You realize you still have a chance,” Laird said.

Just not for long.

Stricker was angry with himself as he stood on the back of the sixth greenas Byrd made a short birdie. He stared at the ground, shaking his head.Perspective soon followed.

“I was kicking myself on the back of that green,” Stricker said. “I hadjust made two dumb plays. I was kind of beating myself up a little bit, notfeeling too good about what had just happened. But then walking down 7, I said,`We’re still all right.’ If I would have told myself early in the week, I have alead going down the seventh hole in the last round, I would take it.

“So I tried … to make myself feel good.”

Birdies helped him feel even better, starting with the 5-iron to 25 feetthat he poured in the cup on the par-3 eighth. Another birdie put his lead backat three shots, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

Getty Images

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.

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.