Eckroat wins Junior Invitational with closing birdie

By Nick MentaApril 23, 2016, 9:51 pm

Graniteville, S.C. - Austin Eckroat was hitting his drives right and his irons left. His five-shot lead to start the day at the Junior Invitational had evaporated. He stood in the right rough on the 18th hole at Sage Valley 235 yards from a back-left pin, needing par just to force extra holes.

"I had no idea what I was doing," Eckroat said. "I got to the point that I was just testing things. ... Then on 18, I just forgot everything and swung."

Eckroat roped a 2-iron that landed on the middle of the green and skipped back to the upper level, leaving him 12 feet for the win.

"I knew it was good when I heard the claps," he said. "It was the most clutch shot I ever hit."

When he walked up on the green and found his ball, Eckroat faced the exact putt he practiced earlier in the week and never made.

"I couldn't get it high enough," he said. "I kept under-reading it. So on that one I made sure I hit it high enough. I thought I made it dead center, so I took a step, and then it broke even more, and went in the left side.

"I walked it in."

2016 Junior Invitational leaderboard

Eckroat, a 17-year-old Edmund, Okla., native and an Oklahoma State commit, won the most prestigious event in junior golf, the Junior Invitational, with a closing round of 3-over 75 and a three-day total of 6-under 210. He edged Australia's Min Woo Lee, brother of two-time LPGA champion Minjee Lee, by a single shot after Lee rallied from nine shots back with a Saturday 67.

Up five to start the day after rounds of 65-70, Eckroat began leaking oil on the very first tee, when his opening drive found the hazard right of the fairway. He started off double bogey-birdie-bogey and his lead was down to three after only three holes.

Lee, separately, got off to a torrid start, making four birdies on his first seven holes before a double bogey at the ninth - briefly - halted his momentum. Undeterred, he poured in four more birdies across a back-nine 33, punctuated by a 40-foot birdie bomb at the par-4 17th.

"It was probably the best shot I ever hit," he said. "Down the hill, left to right, right to left, double breaker. It just trickled in the hole."

Eckroat, at roughly that same time, followed a birdie on 15 with a bogey on 16 and found himself tied for the lead, at 5 under, for the first time since he vaulted to the top of the board on Thursday.

"I heard the loud roar, and I knew it was Min Woo, and I knew what I had to do," he said.

With his closing birdie, Eckroat became the second wire-to-wire winner of this event, joining inaugural champion Nicholas Reach, who did it in 2011.

The only freshman to ever win the Oklahoma Class 6A individual championship, the current junior said before his final round that a victory at this event would be the most important of his young career.

"It's even more special now," he said. "I was really down on myself because I thought I was giving it away for a while. I just wasn't hitting it good. To hit that 2-iron on the last hole ... it was just really nice."

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.

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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.

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.

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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.