Taylor back home – and back in the Masters

By Ryan LavnerApril 4, 2016, 6:50 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Splitting time on the PGA and Web.com tours, Vaughn Taylor didn’t have plans for Masters week a year ago.

With his career sputtering, he hadn’t qualified for his hometown event since 2008 – cruel, really, seeing how he lives about 15 minutes from the entrance of Augusta National Golf Club. And so Taylor, a multiple Tour winner and former Ryder Cupper, took wife Leot and young son Locklyn to the Masters, but as a spectator, after securing practice-round tickets. 

“I had always been a little hesitant to come back,” Taylor said Monday. “I wanted to wait until I got back in the tournament. And the way I’ve been playing and the way things were going, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it back.”

But he did, improbably, shrugging off months (and years) of indifferent play to win at Pebble Beach in February and snap an 11-year winless drought.

The circumstances surrounding Taylor’s victory were even more unlikely.

He described the week before Pebble as one of the low points of his career – he had been violently ill in a hotel room in Bogota, pleading for his body to recover from a rough bout of food poisoning. He didn't have a PGA Tour card, and he only held conditional status on the Web.com circuit. He arrived at Pebble with a carry stand bag, because it was cheaper to travel. And during the final round, he not only needed to hole a 30-footer on 16, but he watched as Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson coughed up the 54-hole lead and whiffed a 5-footer on the final green.

“It was one of those when-you-least-expect-it moments,” Taylor said. 

It wasn’t until a TV interview afterward that Taylor was reminded of more than just his two years of job security. He was heading back to the Masters. 

“It’s a lot different this time around,” he said. “I got here a lot different path, and it’s special. 

“When you’re younger, you expect to play well, and you kind of take things for granted. I thought I would be in every year, but that was just being kind of young and dumb.”

Taylor led the Masters with 21 holes to go in 2007. (He eventually tied for 10th.) A year later, he qualified for his first and only U.S. Ryder Cup team, but he’s fallen on hard times since, failing to clear $600,000 in earnings from 2011-15. 

What to do, then, for that one week a year when the sport’s biggest show comes to his hometown, but he's not invited?

Some years, Taylor played golf at a neighboring course. Other times, he’d watch the coverage on TV.

“But I always wanted to be home,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of the tournament.” 

And last year, he actually was. Taylor and the family headed out to the course for the first time since ’08, just for fun. It turned into a few hours of chasing 16-month-old Locklyn around the course, keeping him from ducking under the ropes or causing a scene, but he was on the grounds nonetheless.

His plans for this year? Well, before his victory at Pebble, Taylor had a tough decision to make.

With only partial status on the Web.com Tour, he was exempt into the first five events on the schedule. That meant he would have needed to fly to Colombia for this week’s event or risk falling further down the priority list. 

“I could be in Cartagena this week,” he said with a laugh. 

Instead, he’s happy to be home. 

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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.