A learning loop

By Rex HoggardMarch 15, 2011, 1:55 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – By the fifth hole my towel was dry and my feet were wet and the thought quickly occured that caddying, like the NFL, whose greed and ego threatens to derail another season, is not a game for scrubs.

You know the ones, those grizzled types who know just the right amount of pressure to apply to a rake to properly manicure a sand bunker, not to mention the correct amount of pressure to apply to a jittery pro with a bunker mentality.

Your scribe is adept at neither, yet somehow landed a gig looping for Gavin Coles at Monday’s open qualifying for this week’s Transitions Championship near Tampa.

“The range finder, really?” I asked incredulously on the first tee, flummoxed by the addition of unnecessary weight yet feeling the pressure of already lowering expectations. I’d already violated two-thirds of the caddie creed – show up and shut up – and the added weight only magnified my anxiety.

Starting on the back nine of Innisbrook Resort’s Island Course, a rolling and tree-lined 7,300 yards, Coles was 1 under through four holes when I made the first of many moonlighting miscues, suggesting he play a safe shot to the middle of the 14th green.

“We’re attacking,” Coles, a longtime friend and genuinely nice fellow who is plying his trade on the Nationwide Tour this year, calmly explained. “We’re trying to take it on on every hole.”

With that the Australian roped a hybrid to 3 feet for birdie and I resigned myself to the role of pack mule for the day. Nothing says “shud it” like a tap in from 220 yards.

There was a measure of redemption at the 16th hole when Coles asked me the “number” for his approach shot – 227 yards. “No . . .,” he said before recalculating, “You’re right . . . but I got you on the par 3 (13th hole, where my math resembled the World Golf Ranking arithmetic and was off by some 20 yards).

But then on the par-5 15th hole we mindlessly forgot to give Coles back his golf ball after he’d putted to 1 foot. “They don’t do ‘gimmes’ at Monday qualifiers,” I smiled.

Just past the turn another often-uttered Tour cliché came to mind: what doesn’t last long? Dogs that chase cars and pros that putt for pars. Despite a 6-footer at the 18th and a 5-footer at the first to save par, we were 2 under and the sprint that is Monday qualifying was starting to feel like the dog days of a marathon.

Through 14 holes we remained 2 under, including three pars on the par 5s, when Coles announced, “We have four (more holes) to make our number.” Six under, he reasoned, may be good enough for a playoff for one of the four qualifying spots.

He was right, when we completed our round a group of three players was tied at 67 and one player was at 66 (Travis Hampshire 66; Russell Knox 67; Jason Kokrak 67; Will Claxton 67). We were not among that group, but Coles came close with a birdie at the par-5 seventh from 12 feet and another at the ninth after hitting his approach to 4 feet.

“I knew it,” he said. “Six (under) was the number.”

For the day Coles hit 11 fairways, 13 greens in regulation and 27 putts; while your scribe didn’t lose any clubs or fall down. A victory of form, if not function.

“Come on, I’ll buy you lunch,” he smiled, “it’s the least I can do.'

It didn’t seem like the right time to tell him he may also want to look into buying a new range finder to replace his old one which I left lying on the 12th tee. In this game every stroke, and ounce, counts.

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.