Tiger Top Seeds Ready for Rd 1

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureTUCSON, Arizona -- Steve Stricker was at the Presidents Cup last fall when he learned he had risen to No. 3 in the world ranking. Then came a message from his wife, which would not easily be mistaken for a call of congratulations.
'Overrated,' she said.
Stricker still laughs about that. And yes, he's still part of the Big Three.
As far as he fell off the world ranking charts, he's not someone who is looking for respect. And it's not like he doesn't know what it's like to get little recognition for a major achievement.
The Accenture Match Play Championship begins Wednesday, and Stricker is one of five past champions at Dove Mountain.
You don't remember?
He was among two dozen players who only got into the 64-man field because it was held in Australia to start the 2001 season, and the stars -- Americans and Europeans alike -- didn't want to travel halfway around the world a few days after Christmas.
Stricker was No. 90 in the world ranking and got the No. 55 seed. It's not surprising that he didn't get much credit for winning against what many perceived to be a watered-down field. Greg Kraft was the No. 64 seed that year, at No. 104 in the world ranking.
What gets forgotten is whom Stricker defeated.
He knocked off Padraig Harrington in the first round, then Scott Verplank in the second. Stricker holed two bunker shots and demoralized Justin Leonard in the third round, then beat Nick O'Hern in 20 holes to reach the semifinals.
The final two victims were Toru Taniguchi and Pierre Fulke.
'I shouldn't say I catch a lot of flak for winning that event,' Stricker said. 'But it's not looked at, I don't think, as favorably as winning with Tiger in the event, or Ernie there -- well, Ernie was there.'
Els lost in the semifinals that year to Fulke.
'I keep telling myself I beat a lot of good players to win that event,' Stricker said.
That's what he has to do on The Gallery Course at Dove Mountain, perched in the high desert above Tucson. It is a course that favors power hitters and discriminates against the paying customers, who can only watch one hole at a time from one side of the fairway on terrain that slopes away from the action. Call this the anti-stadium course.
First up for Stricker is Daniel Chopra. Stricker doesn't need to hear the tired old line that 'anyone can beat anyone over 18 holes.' It was only seven weeks ago that Chopra beat him in a four-hole playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Tiger Woods is the No. 1 seed, and while the top seed has lost in the first round only one time, Woods is facing big-hitting J.B. Holmes, who took out Phil Mickelson in a playoff to win the FBR Open up the road in Scottsdale a few weeks ago.
Mickelson plays Pat Perez, the eternal pessimist.
Els is the No. 4 seed and plays Jonathan Byrd, who won the John Deere Classic last year, and that's one more PGA TOUR victory than Els has over the last three years.
Nothing comes easily, and no one needs a reminder about the vagaries of match play more than Els.
He is a seven-time champion of the World Match Play Championship in England, in which matches are contested over 36 holes each day. At this World Golf Championship, Els has never advanced to the third round in America.
Not many were surprised when he said he would not be coming this year. The shock was when he changed his mind.
Els was supposed to be on holiday this week in South Africa with his family. But he figured he had taken a long break in the winter, so he was playing on Dove Mountain as his kids toured the Grand Canyon.
If nothing else, Els' expectations are probably tempered.
'My record is not great in this tournament, as we all know,' Els said. 'If I have a better game and I get a bit lucky, you win a couple of matches and you can find yourself in the quarterfinals or semifinals. I'm really aiming at that. And basically, that's why I'm here.'
Woods is the only No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, to Peter O'Malley in 2002. He didn't even know who was in his bracket, much less who he would play in the second round if he were to beat Holmes.
The circumstances are slightly familiar for Woods at the Match Play.
A year ago, he came to Dove Mountain in search of his eighth straight PGA Tour victory. He has another winning streak this year that is slightly complicated, but no less impressive.
Since finishing second on Sept. 3 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Woods won the last two playoff events in the FedEx Cup and opened his '08 season on the PGA Tour by winning the Buick Invitational by eight shots. He also won his unofficial Target World Challenge in California against a 16-man field by seven shots. On the European Tour, he rallied from four shots down to win the Dubai Desert Classic.
Unofficially, that's five straight wins spread over five months.
Officially, he has to win six straight matches over five days, with his first objective to get past Holmes.
'This is always going to be probably a little more difficult to win because you could be playing well and still go home,' Woods said. 'It's not about the marathon. It's not about the long race of four rounds to position yourself for winning a golf tournament. It's a sprint. You've got to get it done in 18 holes. If you get two or three behind in this format with only 18 holes, generally the guys lose.
'But in stroke play, if you get off to a slow start, you can still win a golf tournament.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Brackets - WGC-Match Play Championship
  • 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.

    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.