Win bolsters Tide's Shelton's case as nation's best

By Ryan LavnerMarch 12, 2015, 1:38 am

LAS VEGAS – Standing on the 10th tee, Alabama coach Jay Seawell sensed there was something amiss with his star player.

Sophomore Robby Shelton is normally very stoic, quiet, reserved.

Not today.

Wednesday at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, Shelton seemed uncharacteristically amped up – breathless, even, so much so that his coach reminded him a few holes into his round to, you know, inhale.

Four and a half hours later, the reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year was in the ninth fairway, sitting at 7 under for the day and pummeling the top field in college golf by seven shots. His adrenaline-fueled coach still wanted more, of course, but while waiting to play Seawell smiled and told Shelton, “You know, I didn’t recognize you this morning.”

“I was tired of losing,” he replied. “I wanted to win this tournament.”

He did that, all right, and in the process also helped remind everyone here – teammates, opponents, coaches, agents, tournament officials, volunteers, media members – just how talented he is.

Playing alongside No. 3-ranked Lee McCoy of Georgia, Shelton dusted him by nine shots in the final round en route to a tournament-record 15-under 201 (67-69-65). After opening the season with six consecutive top 10s, Shelton earned the fourth individual title of his career, and by far his biggest.

Every chance Seawell gets he reminds observers that we’re watching the best player in college golf. He might be right.

“He just doesn’t take weeks off,” he said. “Heck, he doesn’t take shots off – mentally, physically, emotionally. Sure, he has weeks where things don’t go the way he wants them to. But he still finishes fifth.

To his point: In Shelton’s 19 career college starts, he has four wins, nine other top-five finishes and no result worse than 17th. That’s not a misprint.

“Consistency - I base my entire golf life after that,” Shelton said, “because then you’re basically just like an ATM on the PGA Tour.”

Alabama’s players aren’t padding their stats in cupcake events, either. According to the Sagarin rankings, the Crimson Tide’s schedule is the 15th-most difficult in the country. Shelton doesn’t hide. Everywhere he goes, he’s playing the best.

While his shy personality may keep him out of the spotlight, it’s his bulletproof mental game that distinguishes him from the rest of the elite players.

Shelton is infuriatingly unflappable – just ask the field at last year’s NCAAs. In the quarterfinals against SMU, he flipped a late 2-down deficit and won, 2 up. Later that afternoon, against LSU, he made back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 to win, 2 and 1. And then, in the championship match against Oklahoma State, he ran off six birdies in his last seven holes (and nine in his last 13) to stun the Cowboys, 1 up.

It’s cold-blooded, the way he welcomes a challenge and then crushes the competition.

“I love being under the radar,” he said. “I’m a quiet guy. I love just cruising along.”

On Wednesday, while tied for the lead in the No. 1-ranked college event of the year, he knocked his first approach shot to a foot, went out in 32 on the tougher back nine and matched the low round of the week.

“He just kind of plods,” Seawell said. “He jabs you to death. You don’t really notice that you’re getting nicked, but then you can’t keep up."

Sophomore Dru Love likes to say that he will walk past Shelton and can’t tell whether he’s 3 over or 3 under. And then later, when Shelton turns in the lowest score at the end of the day, he’s not the least bit surprised.

“He’s just so steady,” Love said. “It’s hard to explain how good his golf mind is. He does all the right things to win every week.”

Yet this season is markedly different for Shelton, still only 19.

For starters, this Alabama team is in the midst of a rebuilding effort. The two-time defending NCAA champions lost three starters to graduation and a GB&I Walker Cupper last fall because of homesickness. Here, they finished 14th in the 15-team field, and Seawell said this was the first time since May 2010 that his squad started on the back nine on the final day, a spot usually reserved for the also-rans.

Unlike last year, when Shelton was sheltered by three All-American seniors, this is undoubtedly his team. No, he hasn’t become a rah-rah cheerleader or, really, any more vocal; he just prefers to lead by example, with his play.

His body is changing, too. Since he arrived in Tuscaloosa he has packed on 20 pounds of muscle (up to 185), gained 30 yards of distance (now above-average in length) and increased his ball speed by about 15 mph. Despite drawing the attention of every top agent, Shelton has already committed to spending at least another year in school.  

“I just don’t think I’m ready yet,” he said. “I need one more year.”

Looking for a PGA Tour comparison? Shelton possesses many of the same attributes as Jim Furyk: Consistent. Student of the game. Blue-collar attitude. Complete command of his swing. Dogged competitor. Mentally strong. He has the results to back it up, too. 

“He’s ready for his coming-out party,” Seawell said. “He’s not just a little shy kid anymore. He’s ready for what his game is going to give him. Physically and mentally and emotionally, he has a chance to be a star on the big tour.” 

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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.

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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 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.