Notes: Phil, Tiger Augusta match falls through

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2012, 11:48 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The last time Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were spotted together on Augusta National was in the final round of the 2009 Masters. They nearly got together this week until plans fell through.

Mickelson and Woods talked about playing a practice round this week, but something came up and Woods couldn’t make it. He said he was home the last two days, practicing in his backyard short-game area or at The Medalist.

They have been fierce rivals and rarely social over the years, though one reason a practice round was even discussed is that Woods no longer has Steve Williams as a caddie. Williams disparaged Mickelson at a dinner in New Zealand late in 2008, and they don’t get along particularly well. Just his luck, Mickelson is in the same group this week with Adam Scott, who now employs Williams.

Mickelson, never shy about delivering one-liners, saved one of them for Woods this week. 

A reporter mentioned that Ernie Els declared that “Tiger is back” after Woods closed with a 62 at the Honda Classic, and Mickelson was asked his assessment of Woods.

“Yeah, obviously he was paying attention a couple of weeks ago, which is nice to see,” Mickelson said, heavy on the sarcasm. That was a reference to Mickelson closing with a 64 to win Pebble Beach while paired with Woods, who shot 75.

The reporter didn’t get it, even though the room filled with laughter.

“At least I thought it was funny,” Mickelson said, brushing his hand over his head to suggest the reporter missed out on the line.

“It is good to see him back and playing well,” Mickelson added. “He’s always the name that you look at. He’s the first name that you look at on the leaderboard to see how he’s doing.”

BACK TO WORK: Paul Casey already has missed five tournaments this year after dislocating his shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays. It’s a bad time for an injury, especially in a Ryder Cup year, though Casey has a good reason to feel optimistic.

It could have been worse.

One of the doctors he saw in the aftermath of his injury said that surgery was a possibility, and he would be out four to six months.

“That was a little bit worrying,” Casey said Wednesday.

After getting more opinions, he was convinced that surgery was not needed. It was the first time he had dislocated the shoulder, the labrum was in good shape and there was every reason to believe he could return to 100 percent.

Casey figures he’s at about 90 percent at the Cadillac Championship at Doral, which has a 74-man field with no cut.

“It’s feeling strong,” he said. “All that work I’ve been putting into the shoulder, now I have to do a lot of work on the golf game.”

Casey said he heard a sound coming from his shoulder when he fell, felt pain and within minutes could not move his arm. When he got down the mountain and had an X-ray, he was told it was dislocated. Then, the shoulder was put back in the socket and the pain went away.

“I thought it was great,” Casey said. “I thought maybe I can be ready for Abu Dhabi or Qatar or something like that. I had absolutely no clue how long a dislocation takes to repair. Finding out that I didn’t need surgery was a relief because the surgery … basically would have wiped out the whole season. 

Now, he has some catching up to do.

Casey is at No. 41 in the European points list (based on European Tour earnings) and No. 19 in the European ranking list. The top five players are taken from each list.

At least it didn’t cost him any of the four majors, which offer the most ranking points. Casey is playing the next two weeks in Florida, taking a week off, then playing Houston and the Masters. 

“I think I’ll throw in some events as the golf game gets stronger and as the year goes on,” he said.

MASTERS PREVIEW: Mickelson wound up playing Augusta National on Tuesday with PGA champion Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson, giving the three-time major champion his first look ahead of the Masters.

Mickelson reports a lot of grass on the course, which is a good sign (and yes, it will be cut back severely), along with some minor changes to the greens on the par-5 eighth and the par-3 16th.

He said the eighth green was widened in the front, and the slope on the left side was softened. He said a back right hole location would be more accessible with the changes.

More interesting was the green at No. 16. One of the most dangerous locations was front right, a tiny target. Anything too strong was over the green and into a bunker, while short meant the ball would roll down the hill. That area has been slightly expanded.

Also, the bottom of the green toward the front has been built up, so that players who leave their shots on the top shelf don’t have to worry about the putts rolling down the slope and into the water.

“After looking at them, I think that some of the more challenging pin placements on those greens were softened a little bit, and made to be not quite as difficult,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson rarely gets together with Johnson and Bradley without a friendly wager. Word is that Bradley had to reach for his wallet when they finished. When asked if they kept score, Mickelson replied, “Just 1 Up, 2 up.”

That was accompanied by a big grin.

RIVALS: There was talk of a Rory McIlroy-Lee Westwood rivalry during the Match Play Championship, and now that McIlroy has gone to No. 1, some are mentioning a McIlroy-Tiger Woods rivalry.

Hunter Mahan says there are too many good players for any one rivalry, especially involving Woods.

“Tiger doesn’t have a rival.” he said. “Just look at the record. I mean, there is none. His rival is Jack Nicklaus. It’s hard to put anyone up there right now with him. I understand his last few years haven’t been his best and everything that’s going on, but that guy, he’s had numbers that no one has even thought about reaching.”

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 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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.