Reifers took long road to first Players Championship

By Doug FergusonMay 11, 2016, 9:24 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Jordan Spieth referred to The Players Championship as one of the hardest tournaments to win.

Kyle Reifers had no idea it would be this hard just to play in it.

Reifers was among 25 players who gathered on the lawn Wednesday outside the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, all of them presented as ''rookies'' because they are taking part in golf's richest tournament for the first time.

The 32-year-old Reifers is not the oldest first-timer in The Players Championship this year. With his pedigree (former No. 1 amateur in the world) and early success out of Wake Forest (he won the first Nationwide Tour event he played), he just never imagined having to wait nine years.

''Crazy, isn't it?'' he said with a smile. ''I thought it was going to be easy.''

The path sure looked that way. Reifers, who grew up caddying at Muirfield Village, finished up his college career by winning the Monroe Invitational in 2004, the Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett a year later and being named to the Walker Cup team in 2005 that featured an entire team that earned PGA Tour cards.

''He was one of the guys in college who I thought was pretty good,'' said J.B. Holmes, a Walker Cup teammate. ''Then he won those two big amateur events and I thought, 'Wow. This guy is better than I thought.'''

And it got even better for Reifers. After graduating from Wake in 2006, he made it through a Monday qualifier for the Chattanooga Classic on the Nationwide Tour, shot 61 on the final day and beat Brandt Snedeker in a playoff.

He was diagnosed with syncope a few months later after passing out on his way to a restaurant in Minnesota, had to go through Q-school and made a 20-foot putt on the final hole to earn one of the last PGA Tour cards.

The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Yes, this should be easy. And then reality as a PGA Tour rookie set in. Reifers got in only three tournaments the first two months. He had a three-month stretch where he didn't cash a check. And it was back to the minor leagues for four years before he got back to the PGA Tour, and then back to the Tour.

Two years ago, Reifers was at a crossroads.

Starting the 2014 season, for the first time since he turned pro, he had no status anywhere. He wrote a letter to chief executive David Brown, who arranged for an exemption into a tournament in Chile. He tied for third, almost as critical as his victory seven years earlier. Reifers parlayed that start into two more third-place finishes, two other top 10s and a return to the PGA Tour.

''You feel like you should be on Tour, and you don't even have a tee time on the Tour,'' he said. ''It's not that I wasn't working, but the dedication ... it's a fine line. I think you get complacent and say, 'It'll happen.' But it doesn't happen without hard work.''

With his third chance, he made it work. He kept his card, advancing to the third stop in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. That's what assured him a spot in The Players Championship. The next stop is getting into his first major.

It's not the road he expected when he turned pro and won his first start. That happens to a lot of amateur stars.

But at least he made it - finally.

''It's a crazy game, and I feel a lot better for it,'' Reifers said. ''I would never want to script it like this. You see guys complaining out here all the time. But when you you're down to one tee time in Chile, and you fly 10 hours to get there, and this could make or break whether you play golf, you appreciate that. It happened for a reason. And it will be sweeter when I do - hopefully - win.''

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 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.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.