Hoffman builds four-shot lead at Masters

By Will GrayApril 6, 2017, 10:48 pm

Conditions were brutal during the opening round of the Masters - for everyone except Charley Hoffman. Here's how things look after the first round at Augusta National Golf Club, where Hoffman successfully battled blustery winds and now leads by four shots:

Leaderboard: Charley Hoffman (-7), William McGirt (-3), Lee Westwood (-2), Phil Mickelson (-1), Justin Rose (-1), Sergio Garcia (-1)

What it means: With winds whipping across the course and reaching up to 30 mph, any score under par seemed like a prudent goal to begin the day. The leaderboard was packed for much of the morning, but McGirt was the first to break 70 and briefly held the top spot until Hoffman went roaring past him. A winner last year at the Valero Texas Open, Hoffman now has a significant edge on the field as he looks for the biggest win of his career.

Round of the day: Hoffman had a strong round going when he stepped to the 12th tee, but from there he kicked it into high gear. Five birdies across Nos. 12-17 gave Hoffman a commanding lead, and he made a total of nine birdies during his opening-round 65. It's clearly the best round of his Masters career that already includes three top-30 results in three prior trips and a T-9 finish in 2015.

Best of the rest: McGirt gained entry into this week's field with his breakthrough win at last year's Memorial, and he made the most of his first trip around Augusta National with a 3-under 69. McGirt's bogey on the short third hole was his lone dropped shot of the day, and he added four birdies including circles on Nos. 13 and 16 in just his fifth career start in any major.

Biggest disappointment: The tournament was dealt a significant blow when world No. 1 Dustin Johnson withdrew just minutes before his opening-round tee time. Johnson informed media on Wednesday that he had sustained a back injury after falling down some stairs, but it was still a shock to see him struggle to warm up on the tournament practice facility and ultimately walk off from the first tee box after attempting a few practice swings but never hitting a competitive shot.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Jordan Spieth blew a five-shot lead over the final nine holes last year, so clearly this is far from over even though Hoffman is now four shots clear. All eyes will be on the 40-year-old as he looks to back up perhaps the best round of his career on a day when the winds are again expected to be a big factor. While Hoffman will be in the spotlight, don't forget about Westwood alone in third as well as the logjam at 1 under that includes the likes of Mickelson, Rose and Garcia.

Shot of the day: Martin Kaymer gave the patrons early reason to cheer when he pitched in from nearly 50 yards away for eagle on the par-5 second hole. Unfortunately for Kaymer, there weren't many other highlights during a round of 6-over 78 that left him ahead of only eight other players in the 93-man field.

Quote of the day: "I step on this property, and it just feels special. It just fits my eye off the tee and on the green." - Hoffman

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.

Getty Images

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.