Watson confident ready to open Champions season

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2011, 5:20 am

Champions TourTom Watson is confident, ready to get the season started and feeling right at home.

Watson spent the last three weeks at his home at Hualalai preparing for the Champions Tour season, which opens Friday with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

“At the beginning of each year, there is a certain amount of anxiety. There’s always that pressure I put on myself,” he said. “You always want to start your year off with a good showing. It’s just like the first drive on the first hole. You always want to start off with a good first drive.”

Watson got off to a strong start and finish last year, leading wire-to-wire for his 13th Champions Tour win. He birdied the final two holes last year to beat senior newcomer Fred Couples in a classic showdown.

“This is what I live for in my career – to do what I did today,” Watson said after the victory.

He closed with a 7-under 65 to finish at 22-under 194 for his first victory in 34 career starts in Hawaii on the two tours.

“I’ve always loved to play in Hawaii, but I’ve never really played well in Hawaii,” he said. “It’s nice to finally say I’ve won here in Hawaii. The menehunes (mythical Hawaiian trolls or small people) were definitely kept at bay last year.”

The 61-year-old Watson is one of seven members of the World Golf Hall of Fame in the record field of 42. He is also just one of four players in their 60s.

Two-time Hualalai champion Hale Irwin is the oldest at 65 and making his 16th straight appearance. Irwin’s 2007 victory was the last of his 45 career titles on the Champions Tour.

While Irwin, Watson and the others in the 60-and-over club come plenty of trophies and accolades, the younger players are quickly making their mark.

“People know the names and the faces. It’s like a reverse pecking order,” said Watson, who will play about a dozen events on the Champions Tour and three on the regular tour. “Every year there are young, new faces and you wonder who’s going to run the table this year. Bernhard Langer has challenged for it the last three years.”

Langer, the 2009 champion, is seeking an unprecedented fourth player of the year honor. He won five events last year, including consecutive major championships and became the first to win three straight player of the year awards.

Couples, who made his Champions Tour debut here a year ago, won four events last year. After his runner-up finish at the Mitsubishi, Couples won three straight starts and set the career Champions Tour scoring record last year, averaging 67.56.

Six players are making their first Mitsubishi appearance, including Russ Cochran, David Frost, Gary Hallberg, Larry Mize, Ted Schulz and Rod Spittle, who all won events last year to earn an invite to Hualalai.

“Everybody said it was something special and they weren’t wrong,” Mize said about Hualalai.

The par-72 oceanside Hualalai has been the easiest layout on the Champions Tour for seven of the last eight years, with an average score of less than 70 since 2003. The course features wide fairways, few trees and immaculate greens. But one poor shot into the surrounding black lava rock fields will quickly take a golfer out of contention.

Besides the course, the players are more relaxed than on the regular tour.

“It’s a much more laid back and relaxed atmosphere,” said Mize, who earned an invite by winning the Montreal Championship last year. “The PGA Tour is like a family, but this is much more so. We’re still very competitive, but it’s really kind of in fun now.”

The 54-hole Mitsubishi has no cut and is the first of 25 official events on the 50-and-over tour.

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.