Great course, great city struggles for great field

By Doug FergusonJune 30, 2011, 12:58 pm

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Location isn’t always everything when it comes to attracting a strong field.

It’s as much about the calendar.

The AT&T National gets under way Thursday, and it appears to have everything in its favor. For the second straight year, it is being played at Aronimink Golf Club, a course so highly regarded that there is reason to hope for a major. It is located about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia, one of America’s top sports town with an affinity for golf.

About all that’s missing are some of the top players.

For the first time since this tournament began at Congressional in 2007, it doesn’t have a single player from among the top 10 in the world ranking. Part of that is because Tiger Woods – the former host whose foundation still benefits from the charity dollars – is no longer in the top 10 or even playing at the moment.

But there are other reasons, most of which have to do with the time of the year.

The Fourth of July weekend was a big hit outside Chicago when the old Western Open was played. It was the biggest event between the U.S. Open and the British Open, and a tournament that most PGA Tour players entered. Then again, that was when PGA Tour players ruled the world ranking. Now it has a distinctive European flavor, not only at the top but throughout the top 50.

Most of them are either playing the French Open this week, or taking a week off before the Scottish Open, the final tune-up before the third major of the year. Bubba Watson decided to go to France, too, which was only strange in that he said he planned to return home before going back to the British Open.

The highest-ranked player at Aronimink is Nick Watney at No. 15. The other three from the top 20 are past champion K.J. Choi, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk, with Adam Scott at No. 21 also in the field.

That leads to another question: What constitutes a strong field?

The ultimate measure is the world ranking, and the AT&T National (along with the French Open) will be assigned points once the tournament starts on Thursday. This tournament has nine of the top 50 in the world. Considering that it’s a PGA Tour event, the AT&T National at least can boast 27 of the top 50 from the FedEx Cup standings.

And of the 25 players who have won tour events this year, 11 of them are at Aronimink.

Then again, is a ranking more important than appeal when it comes to selling tickets? Is it more attractive to have a player from the top 50 in the world, such as Ben Crane or Brandt Snedeker, or a three-time major champion like Vijay Singh? Anthony Kim is barely on any list the way he’s been playing, but his appeal is likely greater than someone like John Rollins.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he looks at fields differently from the public, and he used star power as an example.

“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘How much does a player who finishes 125th on the money list earn outside of official money?’ It depends on who the player is,” Finchem said. “If Freddie Couples was 125th, it would be a very different thing than a lot of other players. So those things move the needle in terms of your interest among the media, enthusiasm of the television announcers, how the fans are going to react to it, how tickets are sold.

“All those things are affected by a range of players, not just the players who happen to be in the top 20 or top 30 or top 50 in the world ranking. So we look at it different ways.”

The AT&T National has a short history of strong winners—Choi and Kim when it was at Congressional, Justin Rose last year at Aronimink, giving him two wins in three starts.

Among those outside the top 50 is one who is sure to attract a decent crowd. That would be Sean O’Hair, who makes his home in the Philadelphia and joined Aronimink a few years ago. He was getting plenty of club and hometown support during the pro-am, despite his gaffe at the Red Sox-Phillies game Tuesday night, when he threw out the first pitch and was just a little bit off target.

“I think I hit the camera guy right in the head,” O’Hair said. “The worst thing about it, I didn’t even ask how he was doing. I was so nervous. But it was fun to be there. I wish I would have thrown a little bit better pitch, but it’s not what I do for a living.”

O’Hair is trying to get his golf game back together, as is Jim Furyk, who is slipping into a deep slump in the year after he won the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize. Furyk, who grew up closer to the other side of Pennsylvania, has only two top 10s this year, and both those were a tie for ninth. He has missed the cut in his last three starts, the first time that’s happened since the end of the 2004 season when he was recovering from a wrist injury.

Furyk has been around long enough to understand that ranking and form can go in cycles. Even though there are only nine Americans among the top 20 in the world, he is not pessimistic about the future.

“I think if you look at the under 30s, you look at Hunter Mahan, you look at Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler … I’ll take those four,” he said. “You pick four players under 30 from any other region, I’ll take my four, and I’ll be quite happy with where my money goes.”

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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.