Anticipation builds for Masters

By Doug FergusonApril 4, 2012, 11:22 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods couldn’t see the green through the trees, though that was only a minor obstacle. He choked up on a 5-wood and played a sweeping draw around the pines, over the water and onto the back of the green.

As he approached the Sarazen Bridge to the 15th green Wednesday, the grandstand rumbled when fans suddenly rose in unison to see him walk by. Some of them held cameras as high as they could, clicked and hoped for the best.

Woods is worth watching at the Masters for all the right reasons.

All it took was one win at Bay Hill two weeks ago for Woods to even remotely resemble the guy who once dominated golf. He won by five shots, and, just like that, was elevated to the favorite at Augusta National.

“Everything is headed in the right direction at the right time,” Woods said.

But he’s not the only star of this Masters.

Rory McIlroy has all the traits of the heir apparent – an easy swing that produces enormous power, a U.S. Open title at age 22, a tennis star for a girlfriend, and an engaging personality – something that Woods is not. In his last 12 tournaments, McIlroy finished third or better eight times, including two wins and a brief stay at No. 1 in the world.

“I’m in a great place,” McIlroy said. “I feel like my golf game is in great shape.”

There is so much anticipation about this clash of generations it’s as if they were the only two players competing for a green jacket, much like the days of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Far from it.

“There probably hasn’t been a Masters with more legitimate chances,” Geoff Ogilvy said before heading out for a final practice round. “I can understand people seeing this as a two-man race, but it’s never been further from the truth. There are more horses in this race than ever before.”

Luke Donald returned to No. 1 in the world three weeks ago by winning at Innisbrook. He is one of eight players among the top 20 in the world who have won this year, a list that includes Woods and McIlroy, along with Hunter Mahan (twice), Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, a threat at Augusta even when he’s not playing well.

“And you’ve got a guy like Keegan Bradley,” Ogilvy said, referring to the PGA champion who won the first major he ever played. “Nobody ever talked about a Masters rookie with a chance. There’s more people in the conversation, isn’t there?”

One conversation that was kept short Wednesday was Masters chairman Billy Payne refusing to discuss the all-male membership at Augusta National. The topic returned this year because IBM appointed Virginia Rometty its CEO, and the last four chief executives of Big Blue were invited to be members.

“All issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members, and that statement remains accurate, and remains my statement,” Payne said.

Despite a few more attempts – including a tense moment when Payne cut off a series of questions by saying, “Thank you” – the focus at Augusta quickly shifted back to golf.

Still fresh are memories from last year, when eight players had at least a share of the lead in the final round – McIlroy early, Woods in the middle, Adam Scott late – until Charl Schwartzel finished with four straight birdies for a two-shot win.

It could be anyone this year – not just Woods and McIlroy.

“Rory has never won here,” Lee Westwood said. “Tiger has not won here since 2005. So I think everybody in this room would have to be naive to think it was a two-horse race, wouldn’t they? There’s more. I think Phil might have a little bit of something to say about that. Luke might. I might.”

Adding to the wide-open feel is the weather.

An unseasonably warm spring, which caused the azaleas and dogwoods to already lose their blooms, gave way to storms that dumped 1 1/2 inches of rain on the course before dawn Wednesday and toppled a few trees, including one that crashed onto a restroom.

Another storm arrived in the afternoon and cut short the Par 3 Contest, along with making Augusta National even softer. Mickelson said to brace for birdies in such soft conditions. His fear was that players could fire at pins, instead of thinking their way around a course that can require so much strategy.

The forecast was for occasional storms the opening two rounds, followed by sunshine on the weekend. That’s all it takes to change the dynamics of this major. The greens are more receptive, yet a soft course also becomes a longer course.

Soft conditions might favor McIlroy. Remember, Congressional also received plenty of rain at the U.S. Open last summer when Boy Wonder set the championship record at 16-under 268.

“He plays without fear, which is a great way to play,” Mickelson said. “When you get soft conditions like at the U.S. Open, he’s going to light it up. And I think that he’s going to continue his great play. If he ends up learning this golf course, I think he’s going to win here a number of times.”

Then again, that’s what Nicklaus and Palmer said about Woods when they first saw him at Augusta as an amateur and predicted he would win as many green jackets as they had combined – 10. Instead, he is stuck on four Masters.

McIlroy will be playing with Angel Cabrera the first two rounds, a replay from last year. They were in the final group, when McIlroy shot 80 on the final day to go from a four-shot lead to a 10-shot deficit.

Asked if he felt sorry for McIlroy going through such a meltdown, Cabrera said:

“No, because when I play bad, nobody feels sorry for me. It was a shame, but I didn’t feel bad for him. I knew it was going to be hard for him. When we got done, I told him, `This is a tournament you can win many times.’ “

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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.