Tiger a silent host with a mediocre field
Consider the case of one player, whom every tournament would love to have in its field. He had no intention of playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year, for no other reason than he wanted to change up his schedule leading to the Masters. The young star was at Seminole in early March when he ran into Palmer, who greeted him with a smile, a firm handshake and a question.
Are you coming to my tournament? Palmer asked him.
Strangely enough, his plans changed that moment.
As far as anyone can tell, Woods never had that kind of moment with any of the big names who were somewhere other than his AT&T National last week. Only four of the top 12 players showed up at Congressional.
Would it have helped if Woods had done some recruiting?
Ive never asked anybody to play, Woods said. I dont I feel awkward doing that. If the guys can find time in their schedule to play, wed love to have them.
Congressional managed just fine without them.
The golf course, which will host its third U.S. Open in two years, is a classic that rivals any on the PGA Tour.
The tournament honors the military over the Fourth of July holiday outside the nations capital. Kids not only get in free, one marshal named Ron Fitzsimmons plucked a dozen of them out of the gallery each day and parked them behind the seventh tee so they could see. Proceeds will go toward building another Tiger Woods Learning Center, this one in the Washington area.
In three years, the AT&T National has become a model event.
Along with those trappings, it was quite a show inside the ropes. Woods played in the final pairing with the dynamic defending champion, Anthony Kim. He wound up beating another rising star, Hunter Mahan, who threw down a 62 in a final round that some 40,000 fans didnt want to see end.
To no ones surprise, the overnight TV rating was up 200 percent from last year.
Youve got Tiger and Anthony Kim in the last group, Fred Couples said. Does it really matter whos not here?
Even so, it was clear Couples was perturbed by the no-shows, and he wasnt alone. There was plenty of grumbling going on outside the Beltway as tournament organizers quietly took roll.
More than 100 players earned over $1 million last year, and most of them owe that to Woods.
Was it too much to return the favor by playing his tournament?
None of the no-shows would have sold any more tickets. The crowd was estimated at over 160,000 for the week, and that doesnt include Wednesdays pro-am when Woods played with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in Redskins territory.
In a twist of fate, perhaps it was only fitting so much attention was paid to absentees.
Strength of field has been a debate since the days of Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, into the era of Couples and Greg Norman, yet no one has brought more attention to it than Woods.
Ask tournament directors if they would rather have nine of the top 10 players in the world without Woods, or only one player in the top 10 as long as that one was Woods. If they take Door No. 1, its only because they dont have Tiger.
The perception is that if Woods plays, its a great field, even when it really isnt. And when he doesnt play, golf is irrelevant.
Four PGA Tour events that Woods missed this year had a higher-rated field than he attracted to the AT&T National, yet there was a story every week, in Los Angeles and Houston, in Fort Worth and Phoenix, about why Woods wasnt there.
Remember, the only reason the AT&T National exists is because Jack Vickers folded his tent at Castle Pines after spending a decade trying to lure back Woods to the International (ignoring that he had Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia every year).
The AT&T National has everything a player could want, much like Quail Hollow and the Memorial.
So why dont more top players show up?
A strong field starts with a great course and a good spot on the schedule. What once appeared to be a great date ' a week involving the Fourth of July ' is starting to look suspect.
Sure, the Western Open rarely suffered when Woods, Nick Price and Tom Watson were winning against a strong field. However, that was when the PGA Tour season ended in early November, not the middle of September in the FedEx Cup configuration. A contracted schedule means more choices, and good events get crammed together in the summer.
Plus, more Europeans are in the top 50, and this is when their schedule actually takes them to Europe ' France last week, the Scottish Open this week, then the British Open.
Dont be surprised to see the AT&T National move to May if a spot in the schedule opens up in 2012, if not sooner.
In the meantime, Woods said all the right things Sunday night.
For the guys who have come here over the last three years and played, he said, hopefully theyve enjoyed their time.
Thats all he can ask.
And as long as Woods is host of the tournament, thats all it needs.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
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
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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.