Notes: Poulter works on putting; Eyes on Olympics

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2015, 7:18 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The golf world has seen Ian Poulter making five straight birdies in the 2012 Ryder Cup to win a pivotal match and swing momentum toward Europe. It has seen him holing key putts in winning a pair of World Golf Championships.

Poulter has seen the statistics. And he didn't like what he saw.

For a guy reputed to be among the best with the putter, Poulter spent the last eight weeks working harder than ever on the one part of his game that wouldn't seem to need much work. Except that when Poulter studied his putting statistics for 2014, he wasn't happy.

''I think too many people comment on putting that's happened probably in the Ryder Cup and seem to think that I'm a great putter,'' he said. ''When you actually dissect the stats like I did at the end of last year, my putting was nowhere near acceptable.''

He was No. 172 on the PGA Tour in putts holed from 10 to 15 feet. And on par 5 scoring performance – a large part of that is putting for players who can't routinely reach the green in two – Poulter ranked No. 122.

Perhaps more disturbing was to realize how much it was costing him.

Poulter added a little mystery to self-analysis by mentioning an unidentified player whose statistics were eerily similar from tee-to-green. This player doesn't hit it further off the tee. They both hit about the same percentage of greens in regulation.

''But he holed more putts from 10 to 20 feet than I did,'' Poulter said. ''He won $3 million more than me last year.''

Poulter wasn't clear on which statistics he was using – he mentioned 10 to 15 feet, 15 to 20 feet and 10 to 20 feet for his putting statistics – but one possibility for this mystery player is Chris Kirk. Poulter said the player was in the top 10 in the area where the Englishman did poorly. Kirk was in the top 10 on putts made from 10 to 15 feet and par 5 scoring performance. He made about $3.2 million more than Poulter last year.

Poulter's broader point is that his putting has been poor and he is determined to fix it. He said some big tournaments where he made a lot of putts can be a ''smoke screen.''

''I am a good putter,'' he said. ''But I miss putts, and that's a problem. I'm addressing that right now. ... The numbers don't lie. You have to take it on the chin sometimes. You think an area is good and you find out something different from the numbers. They are unacceptable numbers and they will be worked on.''

OLYMPIC GOLD AND THE TRICOLOR: Rickie Fowler drew chuckles when he referred to playing in the Olympics as ''a dream come true that I haven't ever dreamt of.'' That makes sense. Golf hasn't been in the Olympics since 1904, and Fowler was still in college when the sport was voted in for the 2016 games in Rio.

Carlos Ortiz never dreamed of being an Olympic athlete, either. But the PGA Tour rookie from Mexico is close to making it a reality. And he has reason to like his chances.

''Of course, I want to play. I'm really excited about that,'' Ortiz said. ''It's a little easier for me than some of the guys out here to get into that.''

Countries can only send a maximum of two players – four players if they are in the top 15 in the world – until the field reaches 60. Mexico only has three players listed anywhere in the world ranking, and the other two are nowhere near Ortiz at No. 135. He won three times on the Tour last year and already has three top 20s in his rookie season on Tour.

Ortiz currently is No. 43 in the Olympic ranking. Fowler is No. 12 in the world, behind four Americans, and thus is not listed.

''If I keep playing good, I believe I'm going to be in the Olympics,'' Ortiz said. ''And I believe that's going to be another major. It's very exciting. I grew up watching Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, the normal sports. With golf, it's a dream come true. Any guy dreams of getting a gold medal for their country.''

TIGER AND TORREY: The wild final round at Torrey Pines on Sunday, where seven players had at least a share of the lead at some point in the final round and Jason Day won in a four-hole playoff, was a reminder of how Tiger Woods once dominated the PGA Tour, especially this golf course.

In the last 15 years of what is now the Farmers Insurance Open, the tournament has been decided by one shot or in a playoff 10 times.

Those five exceptions were Woods winning by four shots in 2013, by eight shots in 2008, by two shots in 2007, by three shots in 2005 and by four shots in 2003.

PGA AWARD: Ron Sirak has been selected to receive the 2015 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism that honors the media for steadfast promotion of golf on the local and national levels.

Sirak is a senior writer for Golf Digest and previously was executive editor for Golf World. He spent 18 years at The Associated Press and was the golf writer prior to leaving for Golf World in 1998.

He will be honored April 8 at the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner in Augusta, Georgia. Sirak is a past president of the GWAA.

''Ron Sirak has brought readers to the heart of a story, connecting us with many of the amazing personalities in our game while also delivering balanced reporting on issues affecting our industry,'' PGA of America President Derek Sprague said.. ''Ron is one of the most trusted voices in golf and a friend to all who play the game.''

DIVOTS: Rory McIlroy is playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time this year, and the King was thrilled. ''I have talked to Rory about playing here, and it didn't work into his schedule in the past, but he told me that when it did work into his schedule that he would be here,'' Palmer said. ''And he is making good on his word. We look forward to having him.''... Thomas O'Toole was re-elected to another one-year term as USGA president during the annual meeting over the weekend in New York. ... Anirban Lahiri of India won the Malaysian Open and moved to No. 37 in the world. ... Tiger Woods is likely to be out of the top 70 in the world when – or if – he plays in the Honda Classic after the West Coast swing.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The five players who have won PGA Tour events in 2015 had an average world ranking of 24. The seven players who won PGA Tour events during the fall start of the wraparound season had an average world ranking of 167.

FINAL WORD: ''He's got 79 wins. Of course, second sucks.'' - Jason Day, when asked what he thought about Tiger Woods' famous comment as a PGA Tour rookie.

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.