Masters champion Angel Cabrera gives back to caddies

By Doug FergusonSeptember 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
BMW Championship 2007 Logo  LEMONT, Ill. – At most PGA Tour events, caddies can find a good meal in the “Caddywagon,” a trailer that essentially serves as a diner on wheels. Whether it’s eggs and bacon at breakfast or a burger and fries at lunch, the cost is usually under $5.

The exception was last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

It was free.

Masters champion Angel Cabrera walked into the Caddywagon at the TPC Boston and put an entire week of caddie meals on his tab. It was a particularly busy week because the wagon was parked conveniently next to the driving range, accessible to caddies and equipment agents. Cabrera settled up Sunday night, declining to say how much it cost.

“It’s not important,” he said.

The caddie whose player won the previous week typically will pick up the tab for one meal (breakfast or lunch), a tradition that has been around almost as long as the Caddywagon. But a player paying for an entire week?

“That’s unheard of,” said Chuck Mohr, the looper for Bob Estes.

Cabrera simply said the gesture was overdue. After winning the Masters, he said he “wanted to give the guys a present,” but his playing schedule on the PGA and European tours didn’t allow him an opportunity sooner.

“It is customary in Argentina that when you win a tournament, you invite the caddies to dinner,” said Cabrera, who started out as a caddie himself. “I was just waiting for the right time.”

Dale McElyea, president of the Professional Caddies Association, runs the trailer and was surprised by the gesture. He said players often pick up the tab for a day (Stewart Cink), and Robert Garrigus once paid for three days.

“No one has ever done this for a week,” McElyea said. “And this has been a busy week.”

A couple of caddies estimated the bill at close to $5,000, which can be considered a drop in the bucket for a guy who will end up making about $3 million in tournament earnings this year. Like Cabrera, they said it wasn’t about money.

“It was an incredibly nice gesture,” said Jim Mackay, who works for Phil Mickelson.

PEBBLE IN EUROPE: Brett Quigley missed by one spot advancing in the FedEx Cup playoffs. His next stop is Europe, although not because he has nowhere else to play. He was looking forward to this even before the playoffs began.

Quigley and Brad Faxon will head to Scotland the first week of October for the Dunhill Links Championship, the European Tour’s version of Pebble Beach. It’s a pro-am held at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarn. It helps that they were allowed to choose their partner, so Quigley is taking Tom Haggerty, while Faxon is taking Paul Salem.

The courses are among the best in the world. The weather? Not so much.

“We went in 2001, and the 10 days we were there, we had the rain gear out for nine days,” Quigley said. “But it’s a fun week. It’s a neat golf experience. And for Fax and I to play with two good friends, it makes it that much more fun.”

GRADUATION DAY: The LPGA picked up 10 new members for 2010 now that the Futures Tour season is over. The top 10 players from its money list earned their cards for next year, with 19-year-old Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., leading the list.

The 10 graduates include Jean Reynolds, who was in contention most of the week at the U.S. Women’s Open, and Alison Walshe, who went to three colleges (Boston College, Tulane and Arizona) and was 5-0 in the Curtis Cup in St. Andrews.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Reynolds said. “It will probably around Christmas, when I haven’t had to go to qualifying school. I’m looking forward to next year. It’s going to be a fun journey.”

KIWI CHALLENGE: Hunter Mahan is returning to New Zealand in November for the second edition of the Kiwi Challenge, which features four players in their 20s playing a 36-hole event with a $2 million purse at Cape Kidnappers Golf Resort.

Mahan will be joined by Anthony Kim (runner-up last year), Camilo Villegas and Sean O’Hair.

“I played some of my best golf ever on the final holes to win last year’s event, so I’d sure call it one of my favorite places for a few reasons,” Mahan said. “The course is fantastic and the views are incredible, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

TOUGHEST WIN: Rick George, the PGA Tour’s chief of operations, said the FedEx Cup was the toughest thing in golf to win because it required eight months of good play, which required a peak performance over three straight weeks, then the best four days at the Tour Championship to claim the $10 million prize.

Jim Furyk could think of one other trophy that’s even harder to win.

“The PGA Grand Slam is harder to win,” he said with a smile. “Because you have to win a major to qualify for it. And then you’ve got to beat three other guys.”

He soon waffled, however, considering he won last year in Bermuda as an alternate.

“I guess you can get someone who sneaks in like me,” he said. “So it must not be that tough.”

DIVOTS: The Byron Nelson Championship, one of the best on the PGA Tour at raising money for charity, announced this year’s donation for local children and families at $4.4 million. That’s down from $6.114 million a year ago. … Charlie Wi, who was born in South Korea and moved to California when he was 10, needed another South Korean to be ranked inside the top 100 to be his partner in the World Cup. Then Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship. They will play at Mission Hills in China the week of Thanksgiving. … Tiger Woods tied for 11th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the first time in five playoff events that he did not either win or finish second.

STAT OF THE WEEK: In his 425 starts on the PGA Tour, Paul Goydos has played only four 72-hole events that did not have a cut.

FINAL WORD: “It’s going to take the International team winning a few times to annoy the U.S. and get them geared up like they are in the Ryder Cup.” –Geoff Ogilvy on the Presidents Cup.

“We all know who the guy is out here,” he said.

That would be Tiger Woods, who averages more victories in a year than some players have in their lifetime. Even though Stricker replaced Woods atop the FedEx Cup standings with his birdie-birdie finish to win at the TPC Boston, he knows there are two playoff events remaining before someone kisses the trophy and takes home the $10 million prize. Or at least takes home the money.

Even so, the prospects of Stricker being voted player of the year suddenly has merit. And there’s a good chance that the FedEx Cup could go a long way at the polls.

“The players are voting,” British Open champion Stewart Cink said Tuesday. “And they think it’s important.”

Majors are the most important trophies. No one disputes that outside PGA Tour headquarters. Only three times since the PGA Tour player of the year award began in 1990 has the winner not captured a major that year—Wayne Levi (1990), Greg Norman (1995) and Woods (2003). There were no multiple major winners those years except in 1990, but Nick Faldo was not a PGA Tour member.

“Stricker and Tiger are ahead of everyone right now,” Cink said. “The four of us didn’t do a whole lot. Yang won another tournament, but I would think you’d have to do more than that over the course of the year.”

Woods said two weeks ago that “absolutely” the FedEx Cup could be decisive. Asked to handicap the race at the start of the playoffs, he mentioned the four major champions “and I think my name might be up there, as well.”

Woods has won five times this year and has a $2.3 million lead on the money list, which remains the easiest barometer to understand.

“Playing well at the end of the year in the big events … it can swing votes, because usually guys remember what you’ve done later in the year,” Woods said. “There have been guys that have won three or four tournaments, but they were all at the beginning of the year. Somebody does it all late in the year, then people remember those.”

That might be happening now. U.S. captain Fred Couples said as much Tuesday when talking about possible partners in the Presidents Cup next month in San Francisco.

“They all want to play with Tiger, and now they all want to play with Steve Stricker,” Couples said. “Every text I’m getting is, ‘I want to play with Steve.”’

All this does is make the end of the year even more compelling.

It already was heading in that direction. Consider the last two weeks. Five players came to the 18th tee at The Barclays with a chance to win the tournament, a group that included Woods, Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els. A week later at the Deutsche Bank Championship, six players had a chance on the final hole, including Harrington and Masters champion Angel Cabrera.

Those who spend too much time poking fun at the FedEx Cup are missing a good show.

Now, there’s an additional element—Woods or Stricker?

First, the FedEx Cup must be decided.

“Whoever is going to win this, whether it be him or me or anybody else, you’re going to have to play some pretty good golf for two more events,” Stricker said. “And it’s going to lead to a lot of excitement.”

Heath Slocum, who won The Barclays and is No. 3 in the standings, said his wife Vicky brought up player of the year as they were driving back to their hotel Monday night.

“She said, ‘Does this put Stricker in the mix?’ And I say, ‘Yeah,”’ Slocum said. “The next two weeks will say a lot about my vote.”

Stricker probably would have to win at least one more tournament. If it’s the Tour Championship, that would give him four victories and the FedEx Cup, and that might be enough.

If neither wins the FedEx Cup, the vote probably goes to Woods, unless a major champion wins the FedEx Cup.

What can’t be ignored, however, is that Woods still has more PGA Tour victories than anyone. He will have won the Vardon Trophy by a bigger margin than Usain Bolt in the 200 meters. He likely will have won the money title, which he still holds dear.

Working against him is his own history. Woods already has won the award nine times. And while five victories this year would be great for anyone else, it has become standard for him.

Woods has had nine seasons of at least five victories. In the last 25 years, only two other players have won five times or more—Nick Price in 1994 and Vijay Singh in 2004.

“It’s not Tiger’s fault, but he’s set the bar so high,” Slocum said.

Slocum had another idea. What if Stricker were to win player of the year, and Woods won comeback player of the year? Remember, Woods missed eight months after reconstructive knee surgery.

“No,” Stricker said. “The guy won with one leg.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''