A strong field, a weak decision for Pate to play PGA

By Doug FergusonAugust 10, 2011, 12:00 am

JOHNS CREEK, Georgia – There was a charm about John Daly winning the PGA Championship that was more than just his awesome length.

It was his opportunity.

Daly was the ninth alternate 20 years ago, a PGA Tour rookie and the last man in the field when Nick Price withdrew to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. It was an example why the final major of the year might be the toughest to win because it has the strongest field. Even the alternates are good enough to win.

What a coincidence that Daly and Jerry Pate will be in the same group this week at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Pate asked the PGA of America for a special invitation this year as his “farewell to golf” in his home state, where he won his only major back in 1976, when Gerald Ford was still in office.

The PGA of America for some reason obliged.

And because of that invitation, an alternate – like Daly was in 1991 – won’t have a chance to win.

This is ceremonial golf at its worst. The 57-year-old Pate confirmed as much Sunday when he finished the 3M Championship in Minnesota on the Champions Tour, where he tied for 73rd.

“I’m not going there with high expectations about my golf game as far as being competitive in the field,” Pate said. “But I’m going there for the enjoyment of just seeing old friends and playing the golf course.”

Paul Goydos, who shot 59 on the PGA Tour last year, is the first alternate. A little bit farther down the list is Chad Campbell, who tied for fifth last month in the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

Pate isn’t the oldest player at the PGA Championship this week.

Larry Nelson is 63, hasn’t won a Champions Tour event in seven years and stands little chance of making the cut. He didn’t ask for a special invitation because he didn’t need one – Nelson is a two-time PGA champion who is exempt for life, although he stopped playing this major five years ago.

This is the 30-year anniversary of his PGA win at Atlanta Athletic Club. And on Wednesday night, he is being honored with the Distinguished Service Award, the group’s highest honor.

Pate not only didn’t win a PGA Championship, the last time he made the cut in this major was in 1983, the year Herschel Walker left Georgia and signed with the USFL.

The PGA Championship, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Open, is known to celebrate major champions if there is a special connection with either the tournament or the course. There’s nothing wrong with that. What seems out of place with this invitation is that the PGA already gave one to Pate the last time it was in Atlanta.

That was 10 years ago.

“There are a few times in the history of the championship that we’ve looked at players who have won majors connected with a certain venue,” said PGA chief executive Joe Steranka.

He mentioned Hale Irwin in 1999 at Medinah, the Chicago area course where Irwin high-fived his way to a U.S. Open title in 1990 when he was 45. Irwin was four shots off the lead going into the weekend and tied for 41st. When the PGA returned to Medinah in 2006, Irwin did not merit another invitation.

So why is Pate back at Atlanta Athletic Club?

“Jerry asked,” Steranka said. “He said he’d like to make this his farewell to major championship golf, and do it at a place where he had a special relationship. We thought it was a good idea.”

A farewell to major championship golf.

Even in Atlanta, it doesn’t quite evoke the same image as Jack Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

When asked if he went to the PGA for an invitation, Pate said, “No, they invited me to play,” and then he shared tales of his U.S. Open win that would have made Johnny Miller proud.

“It was a pretty historical event, being 22 and hitting a 5-iron to 2 feet on the last hole,” Pate said. “They got a plaque out there in the fairway. I would say it’s a historical event for the club. I was born in Georgia. My family moved to Georgia in the 1800s, so I’m a Georgia. It’s like going back home to Atlanta.”

Pate had Hall of Fame talent and never had a chance to fulfill his potential because of injuries to his shoulder and back. Despite his short time with good health, he won eight times, including the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, famous for Pate using an orange golf ball and shoving former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and TPC Sawgrass architect Pete Dye into the lake on the 18th.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things.

The PGA of America can invite anyone it wants, and past champions who have achieved great things can be more appealing than a tour player hardly anyone knows.

And the alternates – Goydos would be the first to agree with this – have no one to blame but themselves for not being in the field. Of all the majors, the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players. The PGA uses invitations to make sure it has the top 100 in the world (100 out of 102 this year), it uses what amounts to a PGA Tour money list to take the top 70 players and beyond.

The 156-man field includes 20 top club pros, who also belong in the field. That’s the PGA’s heritage.

But a former U.S. Open champion who already was given a chance to soak up the memories 10 years ago? For a major that promotes the strongest field in golf, that was a weak decision.

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 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.

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.