History Spieth's toughest opponent in 2016

By Doug FergusonJuly 25, 2016, 7:37 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Jordan Spieth walked with purpose down the long corridor toward his locker, not stopping to look at the photos and scorecards that cover more than a century of golf history at Baltusrol.

Maybe that was just as well.

History has proven to be his toughest opponent this year, and it was bound to be a losing battle.

Dating to 1934 when the Masters began, Spieth is among 14 players who have won two majors in one year. Only five of those players ever won a single major the following year, and it's an elite group - Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods.

Woods is the only player to win two majors in consecutive seasons.

Spieth is not trying to salvage his season at the PGA Championship. All but four players would love to have his year of two victories and a close call at the Masters. The exceptions are the three major champions and Jason Day, the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year.

It only seems like a struggle for Spieth because of endless comparisons with last year.

That's what led Spieth to try to reason with the media, and perhaps to remind himself, of the reality he is facing.

''I think it's been a solid year, and I think had last year not happened I'd be having a lot of positive questions,'' Spieth said after the British Open. ''Instead, most of the questions I get are comparing to last year and, therefore, negative because it's not to the same standard. So that's almost tough to then convince myself that you're having a good year ... when the questions I get make me feel like it's not.''

Trouble is, last year did happen. Comparisons were inevitable.

Graeme McDowell recalls his magical season in 2010 when he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and delivered the winning point from the final match at the Ryder Cup. He ended the year by taking down Woods at his own tournament in California. It was tough to back up a year like that.

''It feels like a disappointment, like a certain young American who's having the same issue,'' McDowell said, smiling because it was clear he was speaking about Spieth. ''It's the same way when you shoot 62. It's very hard to come out on the golf course and back up a 62. That's the micro version. The macro version is coming off a year like that trying to replicate it. Obviously, there's a lot of traps.''

Are the expectations too high? Is the scrutiny too much?

''The kid is not having a bad year,'' McDowell said. ''But he's in a different stratosphere now. He's in the Tiger stratosphere, where every shot he hits is going to be questioned, every move he makes is going to be questioned. It's something he has to get used to.''

And there's another sobering reality that Spieth will have to consider: History suggests he might never have another season like last year.

Spieth didn't just win two majors. He came as close as anyone to being the first to capture the calendar Grand Slam. He missed the British Open playoff by one shot and was runner-up to Jason Day in the PGA Championship.

Nicklaus had that chance one time in 1972, finishing one shot behind at the British Open. Palmer created the modern Grand Slam in 1960 when he won the Masters and U.S. Open. He never got another shot the rest of his career. Woods' lone opportunity ended in the rain and wind of Muirfield in 2002.

''There are aspirations and goals and beliefs and knowledge that you can achieve such incredible things that Jordan did,'' Adam Scott said. ''But then there's reality balanced in there. History shows it doesn't repeat. One guy (Woods) repeated it a few times. So what's successful after that is what Jordan or any player having that kind of year will have to figure out. I don't know the answer.''

Spieth doesn't believe that last year was as good as it will get, nor should he. He doesn't turn 23 until Wednesday. His career is just getting started, and the last thing any young player wants to hear is that his best - results, not necessarily performance - is behind him.

''If that's a valley,'' Spieth said of his season to date, ''then that's going to be a lot of fun when we get back up to a peak.''

Then again, he alluded to how special last year was even before the U.S. Open.

One swing on the 12th tee at Augusta National cost Spieth another green jacket, though he was able to step back and see the bigger picture. It was his fifth straight major that he had a serious chance to win.

''We've been spoiled the last five of them,'' he said in June. ''We recognize that's not necessarily normal to have a chance of that many in a row. But why do what's normal?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.