Stricker, MacKenzie share Valspar lead; Spieth makes cut

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2016, 12:43 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Jordan Spieth holed three shots from off the green and made the cut with one shot to spare Friday in the Valspar Championship.

Now he has to figure out how to catch up to Steve Stricker and Will MacKenzie.

Stricker, playing for only the fifth time this year, holed out from the 10th fairway for eagle and made a 60-foot birdie putt across the fourth green for a 5-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with MacKenzie, who had a 67.

They were at 5-under 137, one shot ahead of Bill Haas (67), Graham DeLaet (66) and Daniel Berger (68).

Spieth is just happy to be joining them. He opened with a 76 and was in danger of missing the cut, especially when the wind began to pick up just as he was starting his second round on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

And then he hooked his tee shot on the par-5 opening hole into a bush, had to take a penalty shot and made bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

''I'm walking off that green going, 'Oh, boy. We can either somehow flip this one around today or ... I don't want that to be the key of me not being able to be here for the weekend.' I thought it was really strong what we did after that,'' he said.

Nearly five hours later, after he nearly holed a bunker shot on the 17th to save par, Spieth exhaled on the 18th tee and said with a smile, ''This was grinding today. I've got some good stuff coming on the weekend.''


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He wound up with a 68 and was at 2-over 144 to make the cut by one shot. That's all he was thinking about until he chipped in from behind the green on the 15th for a birdie, and his tee shot on the 16th narrowly cleared the water.

It was hard work, and there is plenty left.

More than just trying to make up seven shots on the weekend, he had 42 players in front of him.

Stricker began to cut back on his schedule a few years ago, and he had back surgery at the end of 2014 that limited his playing even more. But the strength is starting to return to the 49-year-old with the pure putting stroke, and he has looked solid for two days.

Stricker was tied for the lead early on Thursday until three straight bogeys late in his round. This time, he took the eagle and keep running, adding a short birdie putt on the par-5 14th and a 10-foot birdie on the 16th hole to catch MacKenzie.

''There are times I escaped with a few good breaks,'' Stricker said. ''Holing out on 10, you don't expect to do that. And that putt at No. 4 was going pretty quick, and that ended up going in. So some things evidently went my way. I'm starting to play a little better. Definitely putting better. And slowly, things are coming together.''

The large group at 3-under 139 included Justin Thomas, who hit a sharp slice to escape the trees on his first hole of the day (No. 10) and turned potential bogey into birdie on his way to a 67. Also at 139 were Augusta, Georgia, native Scott Brown (69), who has yet to play the Masters; past champion Retief Goosen and Charles Howell III, another Augusta native who had a 72.

Only eight shots separated the top and bottom of the leaderboard, leaving the weekend wide open.

That includes Spieth, the defending champion, whose first goal was get to Saturday. It wasn't easy, but he settled into his round with a 6-iron over the water to 5 feet on the third hole. He used the blade of his sand wedge to hole a birdie putt from the collar the par-5 fifth - the first time he has used that shot in competition - and putted one from off the green on No. 7 for another birdie.

He lost an easy birdie opportunity on the par-5 11th when he barely got out of a greenside bunker and was in deep rough. But he holed a 4-foot par putt that could have sent his momentum in the other direction, and despite missed birdie chances on the next three holes, the chip-in on the 15th was key.

''Today it was all about the cut,'' he said. ''All of a sudden I'm over the green on 15, kind of sitting down in the bluegrass rough just trying to hope to chip that one to tap-in range. ... Then all in all, we get finished and we're back in the tournament.''

Among those missing the cut were Keegan Bradley, who followed his 67 with a 79. It was more critical to Harris English and Webb Simpson, who were outside the top 66 in the world and will not qualify for the Dell Match Play in two weeks.   

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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.