Kapalua kickoff: New year, new faces

By Doug FergusonJanuary 5, 2012, 10:49 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Steve Stricker is back on Maui, a familiar place for a guy who has won on the PGA Tour in each of the last three years to qualify for the season-opening Tournament of Champions.

Not so familiar are some of the guys he’ll be trying to beat.

Twelve players in the 28-man field are at Kapalua for the first time, more evidence of change on the PGA Tour. A year ago, Stricker didn’t know who most of them were.

Keegan Bradley? He was known more as the nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley until he won two times, including that unlikely comeback in Atlanta to capture the PGA Championship in his first try at a major.

Jhonattan Vegas was the first PGA Tour member from Venezuela. Scott Stallings? Brendan Steele?

“I know them now a little bit,” Stricker said Thursday on the eve of the opening round.

The PGA Tour season gets under way Friday. It wants to get away from the NFL playoffs on Sunday, so the final round will end Monday just before the BCS Championship game starts.

The Tournament of Champions will be missing 11 players who didn’t or couldn’t make it to Hawaii. It’s the biggest list of no-shows since this tournament moved to Kapalua in 1999, though it’s a product of the changing world of golf.

Three of the players are recovering from injuries, five of them are based overseas and Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, just finished a whirlwind trip around the world that took him deep into December. Like many other players, this is his offseason.

That’s not the only change.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are no longer part of the top 10 in the world ranking. There are no Americans among the top five in the world ranking for the first time in nearly two decades. And even without the likes of U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel or Martin Kaymer in Hawaii, the young guys are making a strong push.

There were 13 winners in their 20s last year, and nine of them are at Kapalua.

“There’s been a transformation of players out here, and it was going to happen eventually,” said Stricker, who turns 45 next month. “We saw Tiger and Phil slip out of the top 10, and we have some European players coming in there – young European players and young Americans – playing well and stepping right up early on in their careers. So it’s fun to see.

“Right now it seems that young is good.”

His hope is that experience still counts for something, especially on the Plantation Course at Kapalua that is unlike any other course the players will see all year. The course was built on a mountain, offering severe changes in elevation, massive greens with slope and grain, and uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean.

The surf has been particularly strong on Maui this week, and it creates quite the contrast. Players working their way along the back nine can look down the cliffs and see the ocean littered with surfers off the point at Honolua Bay.

It’s relaxing, but it’s still work.

The winners get a small head start on the rest of the PGA Tour in a short field with no cut, essentially free money from the $5.6 million purse and a jump in the FedEx Cup standings.

It worked beautifully last year for Jonathan Byrd, who won his final event of 2010 to qualify for Kapalua, then opened his season with a playoff win over Robert Garrigus.

Byrd was walking through the Maui airport when he saw promotional posters of him on the wall. His son, Jackson, looked at the poster and said, “Dad, I think you’re famous.”

“I said, ‘At least for this week I am,”’ Byrd replied. “You get out there and you just get excited to get the year started.”

So many of these players are looking for an encore – especially Bradley.

A year ago, he was getting ready for his rookie season to begin at the Sony Open and being more nervous than he cares to remember. He never would have imagined winning a major, much less returning to Hawaii a week earlier to start his season.

“I was a mess. I was so uptight about it,” Bradley said. “At this time last year, I wasn’t thinking this tournament at all. I was thinking about how I wasn’t ready to play on the Tour, how I needed to practice 12 hours a day to get ready. So it’s pretty remarkable to be here.”

Now comes the hard part.

Bradley will try to build on his big year, the same as FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, who was second in the FedEx Cup and lost out on the money title to Donald in the final event. Simpson didn’t qualify for this tournament until the week before the FedEx Cup playoffs began.

Vegas won the Bob Hope Classic, and then didn’t do much the rest of the year. Woodland won in the Florida swing and made the cut in every major. He has big potential to go with his big swing, though he starts the year by taking on a new agent (Mark Steinberg) that wound up costing him his old coach (Randy Smith).

And while the 28-man field ties the Kapalua record for the smallest number of players, it could get even smaller. Lucas Glover sprained his right knee while paddle boarding over the weekend and is not sure he will be able to play.

“I hate to come out here and not be able to compete,” he said. “But it could be worse. I could be somewhere not as pretty.”


Watch live coverage of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel: Fri.-Sun., 6-10 PM ET; Monday, 4-8 PM ET.

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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.