Tiger the Masters Favorite But Not the Lock
If there wasnt the little matter of having to play the back nine on Sunday, we might as well name Woods the Masters champ and take the week off. But theres the business of having to play all 72 before they award the jacket. And surprises have happened since he won by an incredible 12 strokes in 1997, his rookie year.
Last year, it was a matter of two bad holes the first day. A double bogey on 10 and a triple on 12 sent him spiraling to a first-round 75, and he never could recover. It was the only major to elude him. Putting killed him in 1999 ' I just didnt give myself a lot of opportunities, he said. He shot 40 on the front nine Sunday. In 1998 he was busy revamping the swing that had won by such an awesome number in 1997.
If not Tiger, who surely is the favorite here, then who?
Well, somebody else has been able to do it the last three years. Last year it was Vijay Singh, and he has that face on again. He may finally have mastered the final piece of the Masters puzzle.
Singh appears to have finally made his peace with the greens of Augusta. No, no one ever gets comfortable with them. But he won last year by making all the putts he had to make on Sunday. He didnt do anything stupid on the greens, which is exactly what he needed to do, said his caddy at the time, Dave Renwick.
Singh is obviously playing well. He has two wins in the Far East this year. He finished second at L.A. in the Nissan, tied for third in the Genuity at Doral, tied for fourth at Bay Hill and was second at the Players in his last four starts. One faulty swing was all it took to doom him at Ponte Vedra Beach. He splashed down in the lake at 14 Sunday, and it was a mistake from which Tiger never let him recover.
Putting used to be his shaky statistic, but he has rolled it beautifully this year, standing third in that category. And no one, not even Woods, has birdied the par-5s with such regularity as Singh has this year. He stands No. 1 on the PGA Tour, and the par-5s are critical at Augusta. Both back-nine par-5s are completely fronted by water, so the price is severe if you go for it in two and come up short. That can be huge come Sunday afternoon.
Phil Mickelson has this thing going for him: he is absolutely fearless. Of course, he has a lot of golf shots in his bag, too. He won a playoff at the Buick Invitational, finished second to Woods at Bay Hill and tied for third at AT&T.
But Mickelson has had his down moments, too. He finished in a tie for 28th in a small field at the Mercedes and missed the cut at Phoenix and Nissan. He tied for 33rd at the Players Championship. But he has no bad statistics. Somewhat of a streaky player, if the streak happens to be on, watch out!
Mickelson has finished in the top 12 at Augusta the last five years, except for a missed cut in 1997. Hes finished in a tie for sixth and a tie for seventh the last two years. He never has played in the final group with Tiger when they both had a chance to win, but in head-to-head battles, Mickelson has won a couple of times. It should really be enlightening should they be the ones competing for the jacket Sunday.
Davis Love III is an interesting study. Hes had some impressive Masters in the not-to-distant past ' second in 1999, ties for seventh place in 96 and 97, a second in 95. He finished in the top-10 in five of seven tournaments this year, including a win at the AT&T and a playoff loss at the Buick Invitational. And he is the low scorer on Tour this year.
Negatives? He missed the cut at the first big tournament this year, the Players Championship. And he has been a mediocre putter.
Europeans? Jose Maria Olazabal, who has won twice at Augusta and whose balky driver doesnt hurt him nearly as much here as most PGA Tour courses, stands the best chance. Colin Montgomerie, who seems perplexed by these greens, did win the money title in Europe seven years in a row but has never played this course particularly well. Longshots Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn rate a look-see.
One other player merits a mention. David Duval has finished tied for second, tied for sixth and tied for third the last three years. Injuries have beaten him up last year and this year, however. He says the Masters is his sole focus, but he hasnt been able to play enough to be in top shape.
Still, the mind wonders
Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament
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.