Stat attack!: British Open preview

By John AntoniniJuly 15, 2014, 5:14 pm

The Open Championship is the tournament Father Time forgot. It’s the one major championship won more often than not by a veteran player. Since 2004, when 38-year-old Todd Hamilton took the title at Royal Troon, only Tiger Woods in 2005 and Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 were less than 30 years old. Woods was all of 29 at the time and Oosthuizen was 27, so it’s not as if they were young guns. Since Oosthuizen, every winner has been at least 35, with the last three champions – Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson (above) – having surpassed their 42nd birthday. Age might just be a number, but more 40-somethings and fewer 20-somethings have won the British Open than any other major in the last decade.

Age of major champions: 2004-2014

 Major Youngest age 20-25 26-29 30-34 35-39 40+ Oldest age
 Masters 26 0 3 4 4 0 39
 U.S. Open 22 1 4 3 3 0 37
 British Open 27 0 2 1 4 3 43
 PGA 23 3 0 2 4 1 41

When Phil Mickelson won in 2013 it marked the first time in memory that the last three winners of any major were over 40 years of age, and when you’re talking about the players with the most tree rings at the British Open, who can forget Tom Watson’s near miss in 2009 at age 59 and Greg Norman’s close call a year earlier at age 53.

Angel Cabrera (44) and John Senden (43) are the only 40-year-olds to win on the PGA Tour this year, but that doesn’t mean other veterans aren’t able to take home the claret jug. Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson are 38; Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald are 36; and Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker are 35. They all rank among the top-10 players age 35 or older who have accumulated the most world ranking points in 2014.

World Ranking points gained in 2014 by players currently age 35 and older

 Player Age Points gained in 2014
 Bubba Watson 35 236.61
 Matt Kuchar 36 178.58
 Jimmy Walker 35 156.56
 Jim Furyk 44 139.18
 Stephen Gallacher 39 124.98
 Zach Johnson 38 114.83
 Henrik Stenson 38 103.09
 Thongchai Jaidee 44 99.31
 John Senden 43 92.04
 Luke Donald 36 97.79

Even Tiger Woods is the right age to break his major slide. The 14-time major champion is 38 year’s old, right where you’d want to be to take the British title. Woods, as you know, has had incredible success at the year’s third major with three victories – 2000, 2005 and 2006 – and seven top-10 finishes since 2000. Only Ernie Els has more top-10s than Woods at the British Open since 2000.

Most top-10 finishes at the Open Championship since 2000

 Top 10s Player Best finish
 9 Ernie Els Won 2012
 9  Tiger Woods Won three times
 7 Sergio Garcia 2 in 2007
 6 Retief Goosen T-5 in 2005 and 2009
 4 Lee Westwood 2 in 2010
 4 Thomas Bjorn 2 in 2000 and 2003

Goosen is not in the field this week, but the other five are, and three of them finished in the top 10 at Royal Liverpool in 2006, the year Woods taught the field a lesson in course management, his 18-under 270 beating Chris DiMarco by two strokes. Woods led the field in driving accuracy, having shunned his driver on all but one hole. Not once did he hit into a fairway bunker. He hit 85.7 percent of the fairways, and that led to him hitting 80.6 percent of his fairways, tied for the second-best total in the tournament. Regardless of whether those numbers are a result of the course layout at Hoylake, only one other winner since 2003 – Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 – has hit more than 80 percent of the greens and fairways at the British Open. Els was third in 2006 and Garcia was T-5. Westwood and Bjorn both made the cut finishing T-31 and T-41, respectively. There are 26 players in this week’s field who made the cut in 2006, including six who finished in the top 10.

British Open competitors who finished in the top 10 at Liverpool in 2006

 Player Finish Scores
 Tiger Woods 1 67-65-71-67—270
 Ernie Els 3 68-65-71-71—275
 Jim Furyk 4 68-71-66-71—276
 Sergio Garcia T-5 68-71-65-73—277
 Angel Cabrera 7 71-68-66-73—278
 Adam Scott T-8 68-69-70-72—279

Scott and Furyk are also among the group of seven players who have finished in the top 15 at each of this year’s first two majors. Scott, in fact, has made the cut at the last 12 majors, and has been in the top 15 in 10 of them.

Players with top-15 finishes in the 2014 Masters and U.S. Open

 Player Masters U.S. Open
 Rickie Fowler T-5 T-2
 Matt Kuchar   T-5 T-12
 Jimmy Walker T-8 T-9
 Henrik Stenson T-14 T-4
 Adam Scott T-14 T-9
 Jim Furyk T-14 T-12
 Justin Rose T-14 T-12

You might have noticed that many of the players listed above are the “right” age for the Open Championship, and have been playing well in 2014. But the list of British Open champions who also played well at the year’s first two majors isn’t a very long one. Since 1990 only Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo have finished in the top 15 of both the Masters and U.S. Open and won the British Open. Woods did it in 2000 and 2005 (he missed the cut in the 2006 U.S. Open in his first tournament after the death of his father), and Faldo did it in 1990 and 1992. Since 2006 only two players have made the cut at the Masters and U.S. Open, and then won the British Open. Here’s how the Open Champion has fared at the year’s first two majors since Woods in 2005.

British Open winner in the year’s first two majors: 2006-2013

 Year British winner Masters finish U.S. Open finish
 2013 Phil Mickelson T-54 2
 2012  Ernie Els DNP 9
 2011 Darren Clarke DNP DNP
 2010 Louis Oosthuizen MC MC
 2009 Stewart Cink MC T-27
 2008 Padraig Harrington 5 T-36
 2007 Padraig Harrington 7 MC
 2006 Tiger Woods T-3 MC

One final note: The only player to win the British Open in his first appearance since Tom Watson in 1975 was Ben Curtis in 2003. Erik Compton is the only first-timer who was in the top-10 at a major this year, having finished tied for second at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

Getty Images

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.

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.