Levy could become next breakout star on Euro Tour

By Will GrayNovember 1, 2014, 2:36 pm

He was born in California, plays under the French flag and wears a hat brandishing his nickname: "El Toro."

He is Alexander Levy, and while his player bio may evoke quizzical looks, one thing is clear - the 24-year-old is poised to become the next breakout star on the European Tour.

Essentially off the map of professional golf less than a year ago, Levy took control of this week's BMW Masters in China with a third-round 63 to build a four-shot lead heading into Sunday's finale. Should he win, it will be his third victory on the European Tour this year - joining Rory McIlroy as the only players with three or more wins in 2014 - and his second trophy in less than a month.

Just as friend and countryman Victor Dubuisson did around this time last year, Levy appears ready to ascend from obscurity into a position to become one of Europe's next big hits.

Levy had a decorated amateur career in France, and after turning pro in 2011, he made it to the European Tour two years later, ranked outside the top 600 in the OWGR. He began this year at No. 226, then broke through to claim the Volvo China Open in April for his maiden victory, winning by four shots and beating the likes of Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari in the process.

The victory has served as a launching pad for Levy, whose 15 subsequent starts have netted eight top-25 finishes, including another win at the rain-shortened Portugal Masters last month. There, he took the title at the 36-hole event with rounds of 63-61.

The seeds have been planted for Levy to thrive on an even larger stage. He made his first major championship appearance at the PGA Championship this year, where he finished a respectable T-30. He has also contended this year at high-profile European Tour events like the BMW PGA Championship (T-12) and the Scottish Open (T-21).

Now No. 74 in the world, Levy will only rise further following this week's event, and he is in position to take advantage of an OWGR system in which the rich tend to get richer. He is already in the field for next week's WGC-HSBC Champions, a no-cut event, and at No. 19 in the Race to Dubai, he will continue to accrue points against elite fields through the end of the month.

The carrot at the end of the stick is a spot in the OWGR top 50 at year's end, which would allow him to build a schedule for 2015 that includes multiple stops in the U.S. - notably, The Masters.

Players in the top 50 are able to feast on invitationals and limited-field events, earning access to tournaments that others below them cannot reach, then boosting their relative standing simply by showing up. Players like Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Joost Luiten have used their top 50 ranking in the last two years to play more PGA Tour events, with some even taking up special temporary membership in the States.

Whether Levy goes that route remains to be seen, but based on his play this year it appears likely the opportunity will soon be afforded to him.

While the most notable image of French golf is still Jean van de Velde wading into the Barry Burn 15 years after he gave away the Open Championship, the rising crop of French talent appears eager to leave a more positive imprint on the game. Players like Dubuisson and Levy, who have been friends since they were teenagers, are clearly talented and have translated that talent into wins against some of the game's best, with Levy on the cusp of adding to the recent trophy collection for Les Bleus.

By the time the 2018 Ryder Cup tees off at Le Golf National in Paris, Levy could be a key cog in the European wheel. Before then, though, he's on a path to become a household name in Europe - if not beyond.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

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.