Punch Shot: Best finish of the top 4 at The Open?

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 13, 2016, 12:20 pm

TROON, Scotland – Golf's oldest major returns to Royal Troon for the first time in more than a decade. Less than 24 hours from Colin Montgomerie striking the opening tee shot at the 145th Open, we know that weather is expected to play a large role in the festivities. What else do we know? Read below, as the GolfChannel.com team at Royal Troon weighs in with answers to the following three questions:

Americans have won 41 of the previous 144 Opens including 13 of the last 21. They’ve also won the last six at Troon. Will an American win this week?

REX HOGGARD: Yes. History is on the red, white and blue’s side. Two out of the last three Open champions were American and five of the last six major champions were born in the Lower 48, so it statistically stands to reason that this week’s winner would emerge from the far side of the Atlantic. That the hottest player in the game today, Dustin Johnson, is American also gives the USA an advantage when play begins on Thursday.

RYAN LAVNER: No. The claret jug has gone to the red, white and blue each of the last six Troon Opens, but the hunch here is that trend stops. Sure, it would surprise little if Dustin Johnson continued rolling or Jordan Spieth picked off the major that eluded him last year, but that’s where the strong list of American contenders ends. Will Zach Johnson go back-to-back? History isn’t on his side. Will Phil Mickelson capture another Open? He hasn’t won anywhere in three years. Will Rickie Fowler nab his first major? He hasn’t been a factor in months. There are far better bets among the Europeans (Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, etc.) and international contingent (Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, etc.) to predict another U.S. winner.

BAILEY MOSIER: Yes. There are six Americans in the top 15 in the OWGR with The Open defending champion Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson (who has two runner-ups and an additional three top fives this season) and Jim Furyk not far behind rounding out the top 20. You could make a strong argument for any one of the Americans in the top 20 to win and an even stronger one for them collectively.

MERCER BAGGS: Yes. You won’t get great odds on them at the betting parlors, but Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are too good to pass up. Johnson is coming off back-to-back, big-time wins. Spieth has the short game to work magic around Royal Troon. They might not get a lot of help from the rest of the U.S. contingency, but they should be able to shoulder the load.

JAY COFFIN: No. Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth obviously would be the two best options but there are too many others who have a chance to think another American wins. Day, McIlroy, Stenson, Scott, Grace and Garcia would be the group that could deliver a claret jug for the non-Americans. The list of contenders just seems deeper for those not bleeding red, white and blue.

The Open: Full-field tee times | Photo gallery

Full coverage from the 145th Open

The top four players in the world have won six of the last eight major championships. Who will have the best finish among the top four?

HOGGARD: Dustin Johnson. He appeared unbeatable through two rounds last year at St. Andrews, finished runner-up at The Open in 2011 and got on the major board with his Grand Slam breakthrough at last month’s U.S. Open. Although you could make a solid argument for any of the top four players in the world, the easiest thread to weave would be for DJ.

LAVNER: Dustin Johnson. He’s on the kind of roll that many have expected for years. DJ has overcome distraction (U.S. Open) and a large weekend deficit (Bridgestone) to win his last two events, and now he heads to The Open, where he has four top 15 finishes. Johnson’s excellent driving gives him a massive advantage at a course that is playing softer than the R&A probably anticipated, and the small, relatively flat greens lessen the effectiveness of great putters like Day and Spieth. The Summer of DJ should continue here.

MOSIER: Dustin Johnson. Coming in with seven top fives in his last nine starts including back-to-back wins (U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone), he’s showing no signs of slowing. Since the 2010 Open, no one has more rounds in the 60s (10) in The Open than DJ. Don’t forget he was in contention through 36 holes last year and now that he’s broken through to capture his first major, weekend ballooning will be a thing of the past. Early reports from players are that they haven’t been able to reach some of the par 4s in two. DJ’s length will serve him well.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. He’s highly motivated and coming off a T-3 finish in Akron. The last two winners at Royal Troon have been Texans who have relied on short game and grit, rather than power. Let’s make it three. Friday’s conditions are supposed to be messy. As long as Spieth doesn’t get bad luck with the draw, he is prime to win the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. Something tells me he is going to have a little extra motivation this week. He had a chip on his shoulder on Tuesday, is sick of the talk that he’s a distant member of golf’s Big 4 and missed The Open last year at St. Andrews because he was injured. So, no, he’s not the defending champion, but the last time he played The Open, he won. I like Rory with an edge, and I like him to finish better than the other three, if not win it all.

Pick a player outside the top 50 in the world who can contend?

HOGGARD: No. 242, Ernie Els. At 46, Els’ best golf is behind him and he hasn’t exactly blazed a trail this year with just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. But the World Golf Hall of Famer can still have his moments. He’s four years removed from winning the claret jug and finished runner-up to Todd Hamilton the last time The Open was played at Troon. As Tom Watson proved in 2009, the game’s oldest championship brings out the best in ageless champions.

LAVNER: No. 52, Martin Kaymer. Predicting success for Kaymer has been a difficult task in recent years – see his red-hot May and June in 2014, after a miserable slump – but he’s back on an upswing, with five top 15s in his last eight worldwide starts. His Open record includes only three top-25s in eight career appearances, but all of those went for top 12s, including last year at St. Andrews. He also has plenty of motivation this summer, as he currently sits outside the qualifying bubble for the Ryder Cup.

MOSIER: No. 55, Jason Dufner. The major champion and world No. 55 got back in the winner’s circle this year at the CareerBuilder Challenge and has quietly notched four other top-10s this season including a T-8 at the U.S. Open last month. His best finish in The Open is a T-26 in 2013, but he’s making his seventh start at golf’s oldest major and I expect that experience to bode well for him this week.

BAGGS: No. 74, Graeme McDowell. G-Mac has a steady record in this major, with a pair of top-10s in the last four years. He tied for 10th last week at the Scottish Open and needs to play well during this huge stretch to earn his way onto the European Ryder Cup team.

COFFIN: No. 52, Martin Kaymer. He has quietly played well over the past two months, with three top-10 finishes in his last five events. His worst finish in that span was a 37th-place tie at the U.S. Open. Kaymer has only one top-10 finish in eight Open appearances but he’s also made seven cuts. So I’ll take a guy in decent form who should easily qualify for the weekend. He won’t win, but a top-10 finish is quite possible.

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.

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.