Harrington: 'I owe a few people favors'

By Doug FergusonMarch 4, 2015, 2:39 am

DORAL, Fla. (AP) - Padraig Harrington's game slipped so badly last year that he failed to keep full status on the PGA Tour for the first time. He wrote letters to tournaments asking for a sponsor exemption and received one from every tournament but the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

Some of the tournaments responded within an hour of his request. It was easy to see why, and not just because he's a three-time major champion.

The Honda Classic was the fifth straight tournament Harrington played, and he wound up winning in a playoff for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2008 PGA Championship. The immediate perk is a spot in the Masters through 2017.

And he's about to be very busy.

He has received exemptions to the Valspar Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Valero Texas Open and Shell Houston Open. That's followed by the Masters, and it might be prudent for Harrington to return one of the exemptions so he's not worn out before Augusta National. That won't be happening.

''I've got four invites the next four weeks, and I'm committed,'' he said. ''One thing about getting an invite. I said, 'If you give me an invite, I'll be there.' While it's terrible preparation for the Masters to play four, I took the invite to Tampa, Bay Hill, San Antonio and Houston. And I will honor those invites because I got them. And I do appreciate them. ... It doesn't change it now because I'm busy. I owe a few people favors.''

His solution was to play the tournament and perhaps do less in the days leading up to the events. Except for one thing. Sponsor exemptions typically are asked to fill in on Monday pro-ams, or perhaps attending a sponsor party, sometimes both. Harrington now will be a draw for the Wednesday pro-am.

''I'll be taking most Tuesdays off,'' he said.

Harrington said he played 35 times last year - 32 were official world ranking events - and he wouldn't be surprised if he played that many or more this year because of his commitments and tournaments for which he now is eligible, such as two World Golf Championships, the Masters and The Players Championship. He also plays in Europe to keep his membership. One tournament he didn't get in was the Cadillac Championship at Doral.

And he was relieved.

''I couldn't do it,'' he said.

Some 20 hours later, he was home in Ireland with a trophy and a much-needed rest.

BUBBA'S BIG SHOT: Bubba Watson is famous for that sand wedge he hooked out of the trees on the 10th hole at Augusta National to win his first Masters. He hammered a drive over the dogleg on the 13th last year when he won another green jacket. He holed a bunker shot at the HSBC Champions to force a playoff that he won.

His best shot? None of the above.

Watson went back some half-dozen years ago to Bay Hill when he hit a shot that no one remembers, though it does sound vaguely familiar.

He said he tried to clear the bunker on the 16th hole and hooked it into the trees, with rough and leaves all around.

''Had a tree in front of me,'' he said. ''Had roughly 202 (yards) to carry, 210 (to the) hole over that little creek. And I said, 'I'm going to hit a low 6-iron.'''

The plan was to hit it low, feeling it would carry that far. His caddie was skeptical and finally stepped out of the way.

''That was probably the best shot,'' Watson said. ''It probably got 10 feet off the ground at the most. Hit a low 6-iron out of the thick rough, punched it, just kept it under the tree, hit it to about 15 feet.''

Why does it sound familiar?

Another lefty, Phil Mickelson, was in that area in 2002. He was trailing Tiger Woods by one shot and felt his best option was a thin 4-iron under the branches and over the water. He didn't quite pull it off and wound up finishing with three straight bogeys.

WHO'S NO. 2: The top 50 players in the world are at the Cadillac Championship, making this the first time all top 50 are in the same tournament since the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. The ranking points are high and it could shake things up.

It won't change anything at the top, of course. Rory McIlroy has a stranglehold on No. 1.

However, the next seven players - Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose - all have a mathematical chance to be No. 2 if they were to win at Doral.

All of them have reached No. 2 or higher at some point in their careers except for Day and Rose.

THE BLACK DOTS: Those black marks seen on Padraig Harrington's golf ball at the Honda Classic are there for a reason. He likes to have a mark on which to focus during his swing, and the black dots provide that. Because he can't move the ball except on the tee and putting green, the additional dots ensure that Harrington can see at least one of them (except for lift, clean and place).

This was not new.

A year ago, caddie Ronan Flood sat by his bag on the range at PGA National and marked each ball with the black dots. Harrington is known for peculiar drills, so the explanation wasn't all that surprising.

About that time, Harrington walked onto the range. When asked what his caddie was doing, Harrington smiled and said, ''That Ronan. He's obsessive compulsive, isn't he?''

DIVOTS: The American Society of Golf Course Architects said that Jay Moorish died Monday at age 78. Moorish was a past president who worked on golf course design with Jack Nicklaus and more famously with Tom Weiskopf. The 12-year partnership with Weiskopf included designing Loch Lomond. ... Both years Bubba Watson has won the Masters, he was runner-up at Doral. So maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing to finish second this week? ''Two different styles of golf courses. You can't even compare them,'' Watson said. ''I don't think about it. It's just one of those weird things that it just happened that way.'' ... The Golf Club of Tennessee has been selected to host for the 2018 U.S. Women's Amateur. ... The BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour, is raising its purse to 5 million euros ($5.6 million).

STAT OF THE WEEK: The last two winners on the PGA Tour, James Hahn and Padraig Harrington, both were at No. 297 in the world. Both finished at 6 under par, and both won in a playoff.

FINAL WORD: ''Winning is so much better than anything else. I'd rather win in Indonesia than finish second anywhere else.'' - Padraig Harrington.

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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.