Big Easy goes from the top to bottom without losing hope

By Doug FergusonAugust 24, 2011, 10:26 pm

EDISON, N.J. – Ernie Els sure didn’t look to be down in the dumps for someone who has tumbled so far in the FedEx Cup.

It was only a year ago that the Big Easy was the No. 1 seed going into the PGA Tour’s version of the postseason. He went to the top of the standings by winning a World Golf Championship in March, and stayed there for the next five months.

This year, he wasn’t even sure he would make it to The Barclays.

Els was just outside the top 125 - the cutoff to make the FedEx Cup bonanza - and had to play last week in the Wyndham Championship to have any chance of making the playoffs. He tied for 30th and moved up to No. 118.

“It’s a little different,” Els said Wednesday. “But I think this is almost a better mentality. I feel I need to be aggressive and get up the bloody points list. Otherwise, I’m going home. Last year I was the No. 1 seed, but I wasn’t quite playing as good as I was in March. This year, I feel like I have to make a move. And I feel a little more comfortable with that.

“I had three good rounds last week, and I feel my game is coming along,” he said. “It’s a good feeling going in.”

Els is among five players who have made it to the Tour Championship - and a shot at the $10 million bonus - each of the last four years. His chances of being in the top 30 are much more remote starting out at No. 118.

Even so, his optimism remains high, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

One is Heath Slocum, the poster boy for opportunity in the playoffs. Two years ago, Slocum barely got into the playoffs at No. 124, and then won The Barclays to secure a spot in the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake.

Another is Martin Laird. He faced elimination in the first tournament last year until he was the runner-up at The Barclays, moving him up to No. 3 in the standings. He wound up 11th in the final standings and picked up a $300,000 bonus.

The fifth year of the FedEx Cup playoffs gets under way Thursday at Plainfield Country Club, the fourth course used for the opening event, one that ends with a 285-yard par 4 that should deliver plenty of excitement.

Along with a different course, there’s a different look to the 125-man field.

Tiger Woods, a two-time FedEx Cup champion and the No. 1 seed in three of the four years, failed to qualify for the first time when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

The No. 1 seed is Nick Watney, whose two wins this year include a World Golf Championship at Doral.

“I feel like I’m in the best position I can be, and I’m very pleased with the year so far,” Watney said. “But we have a long way to go. I’m excited to see if I can hold up in these next four events.”

Phil Mickelson kept alive his streak as the only player to be among the top 10 seeds in every year of the FedEx Cup. He is at No. 6 this year, and he has listed winning the cup as one of his goals.

The change can be found more toward the bottom, where Els has plenty of company.

Padraig Harrington, a three-time major champion, nearly missed the playoffs. He closed with a 68 last week to tie for 47th. He then had to wait some two hours to see if it would be enough to qualify for the postseason. He barely made it, finishing at No. 124.

He studied accounting in college, so the Irishman knew how close he came to missing out. And yes, he already has done the math at The Barclays, figuring he needs to be in the top 30 at Plainfield to be among the top 100 players who move on to Boston next week.

Much like Els, he sees only opportunity.

“I’m of the opinion that I’m in a great position going into this, that I’m just like every other guy,” Harrington said. “In order to win the FedEx Cup, you’re going to have to win one of the first three events, and the last event. I’ve got nearly the same chance as anybody else of winning this outright. I just need to perform a little bit quicker than other guys.”

Some of that is misleading, some of that is true.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen has been among the top 24 seeds the last two years. Now he’s at No. 101, meaning his season will end if he misses the cut, or perhaps if he finishes toward the bottom of the pack.

His hopes are not as great, mainly because of a freak accident on his way to New Jersey.

Before leaving home in Orlando, Fla., Goosen watched the track of Hurricane Irene. Just in case it turned toward Florida, he decided to push his boat into the garage. The front wheel of the boat trailer went over his right toe.

“It went blue instantly,” Goosen said. “I had X-rays and they said it was a fracture. But I don’t think it is. It’s not as sore as it should be. But all the other toes are getting sore now because I’m walking funny.”

Indeed, it will be an uphill climb this week at Plainfield.

“You just have to go for it, move up as much as you can as quickly as you can,” Goosen said. “When you’re in the top 20, you know you’re playing well. When you’re 101, you know you’re not playing well, and you come into this event not as confident as you’d like to be.”

And then there are players such as Rod Pampling, who aren’t sure what to think.

One year, when the points system was too volatile, Pampling started at No. 33, missed the cut in the first two events and failed to be among the top 70 who advanced to the third round in Chicago. He has started much lower, at No. 98, and didn’t last more than two weeks.

This year he is at No. 115, remarkable for a player who only had conditional status this year.

“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Pampling said. “You see these guys with what they’ve done. If you finishing in the top three in one of these tournaments, you’re good for the Tour Championship. Just to say you’ve got a chance to do something in one event is huge.”

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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 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.