Els on his putting disaster: 'I just couldn't take it back'

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2016, 11:27 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ernie Els’ shocking display of putting yips on the first hole Thursday weren’t his only misses from close range.

They were just the only ones that went viral.

In one of the most bizarre scenes in recent major-championship history, Els, a four-time major winner, missed five putts from inside 3 feet on his way to an opening 9 at the Masters. It’s the highest score ever recorded at Augusta National’s first hole. 

“There’s a short up there somewhere and you just can’t do what you normally do,” he said afterward. “It’s unexplainable. A lot of people have stopped playing the game getting that feeling. I couldn’t get the putter back. I was standing there, I’ve got a 3-footer, I’ve made thousands of 3-footers, and I just couldn’t take it back.” 

After missing the first green to the left, Els nestled his chip within a few feet. That's when the trouble started, as he knocked his ball back and forth around the cup, missing putts from 2 feet, 3 feet, 3 feet, 10 inches and 11 inches.

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The 46-year-old has battled putting yips over the past few years, relying on an anchored putter to win the 2012 Open Championship. (That stroke has since been banned.) But Els’ condition has worsened over the past few months, and he had two recent episodes during which he couldn’t shake in a putt from a foot away. 

Els signed for an 8-over 80 Thursday, matching his worst score in 75 rounds at Augusta. He is ranked last in the field in putting, after taking 39 putts. 

"I don’t know how I stayed out there," he said.

Compounding Els’ issue is Augusta’s notoriously difficult greens, which put even more stress on his short putting. 

"I couldn't putt with a stick," he said. "When you have snakes and stuff going up in your brain, it's difficult. ...

"You make some stuff up in your brain. What holds you back from doing your normal thing? I don’t know what it is. I can go to the putting green now and make 20 straight 3-footers. Then you get on the course and you feel a little different and you can’t do what you normally do."

Jason Day, who was in the same group, said Els’ struggles were “the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that.”

“I didn’t realize he was fighting stuff like that upstairs with the putter,” Day said. “You just don’t want to see any player go through something like that, because it can be sometimes career-ending for guys if they really are fighting it that much.” 

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.

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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 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

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.