Francesco Molinari stays in front of Westwood

By Doug FergusonNovember 6, 2010, 4:21 pm

WGC-HSBC ChampionsSHANGHAI – The No. 1 ranking belongs to Lee Westwood for at least another week, which is the least of his concerns.

No matter how well he played Saturday in the HSBC Champions, where he kept bogeys off his card and matched the low score of the third round at Sheshan International with a 5-under 67, it still wasn’t enough to overtake Francesco Molinari.

Molinari holed a 7-iron from 160 yards for eagle. When it looked as if there might be a two-shot swing, he knocked in a 10-foot par putt on the 16th hole to stay in the lead. And after Westwood chipped to tap-in birdie range on the par-5 18th, Molinari ended his up-and-down day with a 10-foot birdie for a 67 to stay one shot clear.

So when Westwood was asked how it felt to stay No. 1 in the world – virtually a lock the way Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson all fell apart – he made his intentions perfectly clear.

“I haven’t thought about world rankings or anything like that,” Westwood said. “I’m here to try and win the HSBC Champions. The world rankings are just something that reflects the way you play.”

After his answer was translated into Chinese, Westwood took hold of the microphone for one last comment.

“Can I follow on?” he said. “When I play a golf tournament, I look at the leaderboard, but I don’t see any other names. I see my name and the scores. And right now, I’m one behind the leader, which won’t win the golf tournament. So I’ve got to get above.”

That’s proving to be quite a chore.

Molinari has more recent experience playing with the world’s No. 1 than anyone, and he’s faring much better this week.

He faced Woods in singles at the Ryder Cup, where the former No. 1 put on a dazzling display of shotmaking to reach 9-under par through 15 holes when he closed out the match.

Now comes Westwood, who replaced Woods atop the ranking last week and is playing as if he belongs there.

“They are both exceptional players,” Molinari said. “Tiger played really well at the Ryder Cup against me, and Lee is playing very well this week. To be honest with you, I can’t see a lot of difference between them.”

Molinari stayed in control with a shot he never saw – a soft 7-iron right at the flag on the 13th. Once it cleared a ridge in front of the green, he tamped down his divot and heard a loud cheer, then smiled when he realized it went in.

Westwood followed with a 9-iron to 6 feet for a mere birdie, doing his best to stay in range.

“It was a really eventful round, and it was a bit of a roller coaster, because I hit some great shots and some not-so-great shots,” said Molinari, who was at 14-under 202. “To still be one in front of Lee going into Sunday, it’s a really good position.”

Luke Donald of England squeezed everything out of his game for a 68 that left him four shots behind on a Shanghai leaderboard that had a European Tour feel. A year after an All-American final group, the top six players in the final World Golf Championship of the year are European Tour members.

The best American this year has been Woods, which isn’t saying much.

He could have returned to No. 1 by finishing ahead of Westwood, but that went awry quickly. He hooked his tee shot into the hazard on the par-5 second for bogey, then came up well short of the third green with a wedge for another bogey. Woods finished with a 73, and was 11 shots behind the leader.

Barring the greatest comeback in tour history, it will end his streak of 14 straight years with at least one PGA Tour victory. The record is 17 years, held by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Woods turns 35 next month, and this isn’t a streak he can start over.

“Not a very good day,” Woods said. “I missed a lot of makable putts, didn’t hit the ball very well and just never got anything going.”

Mickelson, the defending champion in Shanghai, made only one birdie against five bogeys in his round of 76, falling 14 shots back. Kaymer, the PGA champion who also had a chance to go to No. 1, shot 74 and is 13 shots behind.

Molinari, looking for his first victory of the year, has stayed one shot ahead of Westwood since the opening round. About the only player capable of interrupting this duel is Donald, who will join them in a final group filled with European Ryder Cup players.

Ernie Els, who can join Woods and Mickelson as the only players to win two World Golf Championships in one year, recovered from a 38 on the opening nine to shoot 71. He was at 8-under 208, along with Ross Fisher (69) and Richie Ramsay (71).

Padraig Harrington was in the group at 6 under thanks to the shot of the tournament. He holed a fairway metal for an albatross on the par-5 14th hole, although he dropped two shots after that in his round of 70.

“I’ve never had an albatross,” Harrington said. “I was hoping it was going to go close, but obviously when they all jumped up – you can never quite be sure in China – but when they all jumped up, I suspected it got in the hole. It was a nice bonus.”

As far as catching the leaders? Harrington feels they are too far ahead.

Westwood only has one shot to make up, but that has proved difficult through three rounds.

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.

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.