Ernie Healthy Eyes Top Again
It was 1994 when he won the U.S. Open at the tender age of 24. And it was 97 when he won it again. He won the British in 2002. He almost won the Masters in 2004 ' remember that picture of him, forlorn and standing all alone on the putting green munching an apple - after Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th to send him down to bitter defeat?
Ernie is 37 now ' he had a birthday just last week. Hes only about six months older than Mickelson, so he should still be in the prime of his career. But youve heard precious little of him this year. Hes been demoted from the Big 3 or Big 4, whatever the media chose to call it. A devastating knee injury suffered when he ruptured the ACL ligament in July of last year meant that he wouldnt play for five months, and affected his swing for more than a year. He plays in the Chrysler Championship this week, almost a forgotten man.
Actually, it hasnt been that bad of a year, if were talking the average player here. Hes finished in the top 10 three times in the U.S. without missing a cut. On the European Tour, he finished third in the British Open, second in Dubai, and won in South Africa. But ' no one refers to him as one of the best in the world anymore.
Is that a mistake? Well, it could be. Ernie is again making noises like he is about to win.
Lets see, he finished fifth in the WCG-American Express less than a month ago, then finished fifth in the Dunhill Links in Scotland in his last outing. When he returns to the United States after being gone for two months, its difficult to tell that hes lost too much.
Els isnt promising anything dramatic. Ive just got to build for next year, basically, he says. But he could make some real noise this week and next, when he will probably play in the Tour Championship (he currently stands 30th on the U.S. money list and the top 30 make the field.)
Ernie doesnt blame his downturn on his injury unless hes specifically asked. But its glaringly obvious theres been something amiss throughout the year. For a long time, he twitched when he put pressure on the knee. He has slumped to being just 60th in driving distance, losing more than eight yards of his figure of last year.
I felt the knee for a long time, Els said, but what's the use of me saying it's not good? It's not going to do me any good; it's not going to do anybody any good. So you don't want to say how terrible things are.
Ernie has worked diligently with David Leadbetter and at home near London to get his swing back, fighting through the bad habits he picked up while subconsciously favoring the knee. But he says hes found something.
I worked with a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, he said at the Dunhill three weeks ago, and he found something in the swing. I went with it last week (in the American Express) and it went great.
Actually, though, Els turned the corner at the U.S. Open in June, finally feeling stabilized enough that he could really put pressure on the knee. There he finished T-26, but he felt no pangs in swinging the club. It was simply a process of working through the bad habits he had picked up. And since then, Ernie has steadily improved.
Lead (Leadbetter) - he said because of the knee, I don't want to put all my weight onto the knee, on the downswing, said Els. I didn't quite complete my backswing because I was just subconsciously, I think I was just trying to stay away from the knee. And doing that got me into those situations, where I got into that classic stuck position. And from there I hit it either right or left.
You can't do that in a golf swing - you've got to go left. You can't hit the golf ball from the right side. I think it had a little bit to do with this little slump I'm in. And as the knee feels better I can get into better positions in my swing, and I think it's now only a matter of time before things are going to turn around.
Strangely enough, Ernies putting suffered during his absence. He currently stands way down in the No. 82 position on tour in that category, after being as high as ninth only two years ago. But that aspect of his game is coming around, too. At last, he can see some real positives throughout.
It's been pretty tough, he confesses. It's been more than a year now, and I've had a rough time with the game and the injuries. But I feel physically fine. There's really no problem. At the moment that's good. I've done a lot of hard work physically on that and on my golf game. But it's been a tough 12 months, to be honest with you.
But through it all, his love of the game hasnt diminished one iota.
Golf is still my life, he says. That is the core of my life. And without golf I couldn't see myself sitting in an office right now and doing those other things that we are busy with. I've got a good ten years to do what I've always wanted to do. I'm really just 100 percent playing golf right now.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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
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.