Rejuvenated Stricker back at Sony, wants to win again

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2016, 6:22 pm

HONOLULU – Steve Stricker decided three years ago to start cutting back on his schedule. Now he can't wait to get started.

That's why he left Wisconsin for the California desert the day after Christmas for six days of hard work, followed by a trip to the North Shore of Oahu for a week of work and play before starting his season at the Sony Open.

At first, he barely beat his daughter. Bobbi Maria, a senior in high school who devoted the fall to tennis, shot a 79. Her dad, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, shot 73.

''And then I shot 8 under and 10 under the next two days. I beat her by 20 after that,'' Stricker said with a laugh.

He turns 49 next month. He helped bring a Champions Tour event to his home state of Wisconsin this year. On the practice green Tuesday at Waialae, he was surrounded by players who had not even started kindergarten when Stricker began his PGA Tour career.

And he's not ready to stop just yet.

''I feel younger this year than I did at times last year,'' Stricker said.

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The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the new year, and this won't be a cameo appearance for Stricker. He still plans a limited schedule. Being home for his wife and two daughters remains a priority. He also wants to give himself a fair chance at winning.

''My No. 1 goal is to win again,'' he said. ''I'm hitting the ball not much differently from five years ago. It's about getting it in the hole, and I've been grinding on my putter for the last five months.''

Stricker, who had surgery on his back on Christmas Eve in 2014, didn't play until the Masters last year and tied for 28th. He played only nine more times and didn't fare much better, and he faced the harsh reality of a player in semi-retirement. He wasn't eligible for any of the World Golf Championships, and he wasn't in the U.S. Open for the first time in five years. This year, he isn't guaranteed a spot in any of the big events.

His world ranking, which reached as high as No. 2 in September 2009, has dropped all the way to No. 245.

It's about the world ranking. It's not about the money. It's not even about hanging on.

Stricker didn't mind easing his way back into golf last year, especially after back surgery. And he concedes to feeling older than he really was. Maybe it was the time away from the competition that rekindled his excitement.

Whatever the case, he plans to compete 15 times and play enough to get into a rhythm. He played back-to-back weeks only one time last year. His plan is to head from Honolulu to La Quinta, California. He'll go to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (with country singer Toby Keith as his partner), and he might play Riviera if the forecast is right.

''I'm excited to play,'' he said.

Jordan Spieth, who won by eight shots last week on Maui, is taking the week off. Brandt Snedeker is the only player from the top 5 at Kapalua who is playing the Sony Open, a traditional course just beyond the shores of Waikiki with smaller greens and tighter fairways.

The field also includes Adam Scott, who at No. 11 is the highest-ranked player in the field, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Kisner from the top 20.

Stricker spent an hour on the putting green. There were no chalk lines on the grass, tees in the ground or anything else to help with his alignment. He putts for feel, and that carried him to a remarkable resurgence that took him from no PGA Tour card to three Ryder Cup teams and contending in majors again.

Can he get back to that?

Stricker already has signed up as a vice captain for Davis Love III in the Ryder Cup. And he is aware of the huge generation shift on the PGA Tour, particularly among Americans such as Spieth and Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

And to think it was just over two years ago when Stricker and Spieth played a money game with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Stricker made seven birdies and an eagle to carry the day, and then he helped Spieth settle into his matches during their partnership at the Presidents Cup.

''I remember those days,'' Stricker said with a smile. ''Those days are long gone.''

He can't spend as much time on the range because of the wear and tear on his body. But he can still putt. He feels rejuvenated. And he wants to see how far that will take him.

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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 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.