Woods break officially begins this week
This was Nicholas Thompson, not Tiger Woods.
And that’s why the “indefinite break” from golf that Woods announced two months ago didn’t really start until Tuesday.
It has been 53 days since golf’s biggest star announced he was stepping away to sort out a private life that has run amok through tabloids and gossip magazines because of his extramarital affairs.
Truth is, little has changed during his absence.
At least so far.
The PGA Tour is only three weeks into its new season, three events that Woods usually doesn’t play. Besides, not as many Americans watch golf during those weeks, from behind the ropes or on the sofa. Not when the tournaments are played on two islands in the Pacific or four courses in the California desert. Not when they are held the same weekend as the NFL playoffs.
Torrey Pines, however, is different.
It’s the first tournament on U.S. network television. It’s where Woods and his chief rival, Phil Mickelson, typically start their seasons.
How much will the Tour miss Woods? Now is the time to start keeping score.
This is a big week for Tom Wilson, the tournament director of what now is called the Farmers Insurance Open. This might be the only PGA Tour event in history that had four names in the span of one year – the Buick Invitational, the Century Club of San Diego Invitational, the San Diego Open and the Farmers Insurance Open.
General Motors filed for bankruptcy, knocking out Buick as the title sponsor. The tournament found a replacement only last week, and Wilson is optimistic that Farmers will be interested in signing on for more than just this year.
It would have helped to have Woods around this week, bringing the energy and crowds that once accompanied him.
Woods has missed this tournament only once when healthy, in 1997 when he was playing for appearance money overseas and won the Asian Honda Classic by 10 shots. He had to skip last year while recovering from knee surgery, although he still managed to steal some headlines by announcing hours after the final round that his wife had given birth to their son, Charlie.
Torrey Pines has become the tour’s signature stop on the West Coast Swing, awarded the prime spot on the calendar between the NFL’s conference championship games and the Super Bowl. It’s no surprise that its TV ratings have dwarfed every other tournament on the West Coast, helped in part by Woods winning five of the last six times he played.
The difference now, of course, is not only what’s keeping him away but the uncertainty of when he will return.
By now, players have accepted that Woods is on leave and that his personal life is a wreck. There really is nothing else to say beyond the daily dose of gossip. What really happened that night he drove his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree? Is he really at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi? Did his wife participate in the program? Does their marriage have a chance?
The bigger question, which no one can answer, is when he will return.
Rocco Mediate is back at Torrey Pines for the first time since that 19-hole playoff loss to Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open. Mediate missed last year with a knee injury, which largely went unnoticed. He went to the putting green on Monday and told his caddie, “A little different here.” Missing were thousands of fans surrounding the practice range on the North Course.
Missing was his adversary that day, Woods.
“Yeah, that’s really different,” Mediate said. “Any time he’s not in the field, it’s obviously not the best field we have. You always want your best guy. It always makes it what it’s supposed to be, especially (since) he’s won here 712 times. So it’s hard to beat that guy here.”
His absence will continue to capture attention if he’s not at the Match Play Championship (where he returned a year ago) or another World Golf Championship at Doral the second week of March, or at Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Nick Watney was reminded of his victory last year, when hours after he left Torrey Pines with the trophy, word leaked that Woods had become a father again. So if Watney were to win again, could history repeat itself with another announcement from Woods? And what would the announcement be?
Watney laughed at the possibility.
“I hope it would be that he’s coming back,” Watney said. “Because we need him.”
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.