Stricker leads TOC by 5 after 36 holes

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2012, 3:00 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Steve Stricker, considered the best putter on the PGA Tour, felt as though he couldn’t miss Saturday at Kapalua. That meant big trouble for the rest of the field at the Tournament of Champions.

Stricker made even some of the longer putts look like tap-ins on his way to a 10-under 63, giving him a five-shot lead over Webb Simpson halfway through the PGA Tour’s season opener.

Stricker played the final five holes in 5 under, which included a 3-wood up the hill and into a blazing sun that settled about 12 feet away for eagle. That allowed Stricker to get some separation from Simpson, and from the amazing eagle-eagle finish by Kevin Na.

Stricker was at 15-under 131, two shots off the 36-hole record that Ernie Els set in 2003.

Na, six strokes back at 9 under, wasn’t even part of the picture until he holed a 5-iron from 221 yards for eagle on the 554-yard 17th hole, then hit 3-wood down the hill on the par-5 18th to about 10 feet for another eagle.

“I think it’ll be the best finish of my life,” Na said.

It turned a good round into a 64, and it at least kept Na in the hunt against a 27-man field that suddenly felt much smaller when Stricker put together a strong finish of his own.

Only eight players were within 10 shots of Stricker.

As much as he loves starting his year in Kapalua – this is his third straight trip, the longest streak of anyone in the field – Stricker has yet to hoist a trophy with a lei draped around his neck. He took a big step toward that on another day of glorious sunshine.

Starting with a simple up-and-down on the par-5 ninth, Stricker was 7 under over the last 10 holes.

“I felt like I was going to make every putt I looked at for a while,” Stricker said.

His big run began with a wedge against the wind that landed softly 7 feet below the hole on No. 14. After his eagle on the 15th, Stricker holed a 15-foot birdie from the front of the green on the 17th, and finished with a long two-putt birdie from just off the 18th.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under for the week.

“I’ve had some good success here,” said Stricker, who has lost in a playoff and tied for fourth over the last four years. “The more times you can play it, the better off you are. I’d sure like to get off to a good start this year.”

Rory Sabbatini has been here before, though that didn’t keep him from a two-shot penalty at the start of his round for being late to the first tee. It was a bizarre penalty, only because the putting green is about 25 yards below the first tee.

His caddie, Mick Doran, took the blame. Instead of looking at the group ahead tee off, he was checking his watch – and his watch was four minutes slow. They rushed to the tee, but it was too late.

Sabbatini had a 70 – including the two-shot penalty – and was 12 shots behind.

“It’s the first time ever for me on Tour. I know it’s the first time for Mick,” Sabbatini said. “I guess neither of us were really paying attention. Just one of those goofy moments.”

Last year, Doran was on the bag for Camilo Villegas, who was disqualified for tapping down grass as his ball was rolling back toward him.

Martin Laird had a birdie putt on No. 13 to get within one shot of Stricker, his playing partner. Four holes later, he was seven shots behind, hurt mostly by missing two short birdie putts and by hitting his tee shot into the trees on the 17th. A search party found more than a dozen balls, none belonging to Laird.

The Scot had a 70 and was at 8-under 138, along with first-round leader Jonathan Byrd, who had a 71. Chris Kirk was among the early starters and shot 66, though that turned out to be ordinary by the end of the day.

The trade wind has been strong enough to get players’ attention, yet gentle enough to allow for good scoring. The key is to keep the ball out of trouble, to be in the right spots on the greens and to make a few putts.

It’s that final area where Stricker has few peers.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that when he arrived in Hawaii from a short winter break in Wisconsin – with a three-day detour to Phoenix to play some golf – he focused primarily on his putting.

The closest he came to make a bogey came on the par-4 sixth, when he found a bunker at the top of the hill, failed to reach the green and chipped 8 feet by the hole. He poured in the par putt, rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the seventh and was on his way.

“I kind of ran with it,” Stricker said. “I felt good. I started making some birdies, and I was patient when I wasn’t making some. So it was good, and that’s what you have to do when you get it going, it just kind of keep it going.”

Even so, Stricker was quick to point that while a five-shot lead usually comes in handy on Saturday, this is only the halfway point for an experimental Monday finish. Besides, Stricker doesn’t always make it easy on himself with a big lead.

In his most recent win, he had a four-shot lead at the turn at the Memorial and hung on to win by one shot.

Simpson, playing in the group ahead of Stricker, birdied three of his last four holes to get into the final group. He had made only two birdies until that point, but wasn’t about to fret.

“It’s the kind of course where you’re going to have plenty of birdie opportunities,” Simpson said. “So if you can keep your ball in play, you’ll probably make a few.”

He might need a few more to put pressure on Stricker, who came to Hawaii to see what kind of shape his game was in, and got a pretty good idea after the first two rounds of the year.

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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 GolfChannel.com 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.