Tiger Should Make it Five in a Row But If Not
Let's say one thing here and put it to bed early - if Tiger is playing well, forget it. It's over. But if he's not playing particularly well and someone else is playing very well, then it could be a horse race. Sergio Garcia certainly has a chance.
Garcia had to take a lot with him when he left Fort Worth after winning his first U.S. tournament, the MasterCard Colonial. There's no way to gauge how much of a confidence boost it gave him. It doesn't seem like he would be particularly well suited to the concise shots that have to be hit around the Track that Hogan Built - but he did it. He finished 64-65 at the Nelson on a course that was nowhere near as difficult as this one, then came and went 66-63 on the weekend to nail the Colonial. And he did it against Phil Mickelson, who is No. 2 after Tiger amongst the world's golfers. Mickelson doesn't do Sundays, at least very well, but he still would have won at Colonial had it not been for Garcia.
Garcia is just 21 years old, of course, and he would be finishing his senior year in college had he attended. He beat a field in Fort Worth that included just about every top golfer in America save Woods, and he looked confident doing it. Over 72 holes, that is plenty of time for all the warts to come to the surface. And believe me, there weren't many.
'Ben Hogan and me - everyone talks about how similar we are,' Sergio said while making his victory remarks following Colonial. No, I don't think he meant it the way it sounded. But let's recognize one thing right off - Hogan at 21 wasn't nearly as good as Sergio at 21. Of course, Hogan at 30 or 35 was an entirely different matter. But then, the Sergio at 35 is going to be a lot better than the Sergio of 21.
No, he's not as polished as Tiger, not as gifted off the tee or on the green. He may not even be the second-best or third-best, but you don't know what will happen if a hot golfer such as Garcia stays on fire for a month.
A lot of players said that the winner of Colonial should be a favorite at Southern Hills. The courses are very similar and they have the same architect in Perry Maxwell. Both are par-70s, and both have rather small greens. Sergio Garcia, perhaps?
Woods will, of course, be the favorite. He didn't win Colonial because he didn't play it. He was busy that week winning in Germany. He only played at Colonial one time, in his rookie year of 1997, and he was in contention all the way until he self-destructed on the back nine Sunday.
He should win at Southern Hills, regardless of how you slice it, dice it and chop it. He may not have as big an advantage with the shorter holes and tighter fairways, but an advantage is still an advantage.
But if not Tiger - and if not Garcia - then who? Here's a list of possibles, and why they should or shouldn't contend:
PHIL MICKELSON - Never on Sunday, he seems to be saying this year. However, he has beaten Woods a couple of times before. This year he has been in the top three seven times. That seems to be just dandy, until you realize that those seven have netted him exactly one victory. Three of those Tiger didn't play. One of them (Bay Hill) Tiger won after bouncing a ball or two off gaping spectators, defeating Mickelson in the process.
Mickelson seems to have developed the art of missing the three-footer at the most inopportune times, or blowing his driver into the next area code when it absolutely, positively has to be in-bounds. If he ever fixes such recurring tendencies, watch out! He's 30, which is considered the prime golfing age. And he is a hot golfer - every day but Sunday.
LEE WESTWOOD - Normally he would be expected to lead the contingent from Europe, but this year his wife just had a baby and he's not thinking golf at the moment. It's probably too early to make him a serious contender.
VIJAY SINGH - Early in the year, he made some threatening noises, but lately he's back to missing the putts again. If he gets his game straightened out, he could be a problem. He certainly has the right kind of head for it.
DAVIS LOVE III - Oh, what an enigma. For four or five years he was the ultimate professional when it came to the majors. Last year he took a back seat. This year he looked suspiciously like a contender again with three or four great tournaments on the West Coast, but now it's the same old thing - injuries. This time it's a problem neck. He has had to withdraw from three tournaments, and there's not much time get the rust out.
HAL SUTTON - The real thing. Unfortunately, at 43, he picks up dings to his body and they can linger on. He's not a great putter, but at Southern Hills it's not how many 30-footers you make, it's how many 5-6 footers. He doesn't seem intimidated by Woods, though he certainly respects him. A U.S. Open trophy certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility.
ERNIE ELS - The big fella just isn't gonna make it this time. He tried to make a swing change right before he teed it up in the Byron Nelson, and of course it didn't work. It's a little too late to expect him to catch a wave this time.
JESPER PARNEVIK - Another one that won't be intimidated by the Feline Factor. He has the right kind of game for a course like Southern Hills. His record hasn't been particularly sparkling of late, but he has a knack of heating up at the most unexpected times.
DAVID DUVAL - This guy seems to find it at the majors every time. He is injured pretty often, but if he can swing a club, he'll probably finish in the top-10 - he has the past three years at the Open, you know.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE - It looks like the years ran out on him. During the '90s, it seemed so certain that one day he would win one of these things. But the last two or three years have not been kind to him as far as the majors are concerned. And it doesn't look like this year will be much different.
TOM LEHMAN - Has the right attitude, but looks again like a top-10er without much hope of being a top one. He has won only once since 1996, two if you're counting Loch Lomond in Scotland in 1997. He's 42 now, and while that doesn't mean as much in this Open, he never has been the same golfer since he separated a shoulder at the British Open in 1998.
David Toms, Joe Durant, Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn all rate a mention. Each of them has played well at some time the past two seasons, though it would frankly be a shock if any of them won.
It would frankly be a shock if anyone won but Tiger, as a fact. But you can dream, as well as a whole bunch of golfers. And Sergio, who did beat a sick Tiger last year in 18 holes of match play in prime time, still is young enough to dream.
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.