Punch Shot: Who has toughest road out of pool play?

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 22, 2016, 3:30 pm

The bracket is set and now it's time to rumble at the WGC-Dell Match Play. There are plenty of juicy matches in pool play, so who has the toughest group of the top 16 seeds? Our writers weigh in. For more on the Match Play, click here for Day 1 tee times and click here for the full bracket.


Patrick Reed seems to thrive on direct confrontation. He’ll get plenty of it this week.

A motivated Phil Mickelson is in the midst of a career resurgence at 45, and although his history at this event isn’t stellar – he’s never gotten out of the round of 16 and hasn’t even played in four years – Mickelson seems to be bucking a lot of his recent history thus far in 2016.

Matthew Fitzpatrick is not well known to American fans, but this could be his breakout week in the U.S. The 21-year-old has already shown an ability to win and is in this field on the strength of seven European Tour top-4 finishes in 2015, including a win at the British Masters. He won’t be afraid.

Daniel Berger, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year, has struggled thus far in his sophomore campaign but has the talent to take down any of the three.


If searching for the toughest group in the WGC-Dell Match Play, look no further than the top of the draw.

Sure, much will be made this week about the ping-pong balls bringing together friends and former collegiate rivals Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. But given the format, the strength of the group extends to its other participants, as well.

It was less than two years ago, remember, that Jamie Donaldson clinched the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles for Europe. Last year, the Welshman pulled an upset of Sergio Garcia in pool play, and he would’ve been 3-0 were it not for a 21-hole loss to eventual quarterfinalist Tommy Fleetwood.

Victor Dubuisson’s record in this event needs no introduction, as Jason Day probably still sees the Frenchman escaping from cacti in his sleep. Like Donaldson, Dubuisson played well at Gleneagles and both players would love nothing more than to knock off a top-ranked American with Hazeltine looming in the distance. 

And should Spieth navigate both of those tricky openers, he’ll be faced with a not-so-friendly match against Thomas, whom he famously defeated at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Spieth can advance from this group, sure, but if he does he will have certainly earned it.


Brandt Snedeker gets the toughest draw by virtue of the fact that he drew the hottest player outside the top 16 seeds. He has to get through Charl Schwartzel to get out of pool play.

Schwartzel is already a two-time winner this season, with victories at the Tshwane Open and the Valspar Championship. Schwartzel showed his ball striking is sharp two weeks ago by winning at Innisbrook, a tough track. Plus, a year ago, Schwartzel warmed quickly to the WGC-Match Play’s new pool-play format. He swept through his pool, winning all three of his matches to advance to the Round of 16, where he was eliminated. Yes, Patrick Reed gets a tough draw with Phil Mickelson playing with a lot of confidence and good form, but Schwartzel comes in with two more victories than Mickelson. There’s no better confidence builder than winning. 

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.