Backspin Major Nerves and Disappointment

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In our new feature, Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
 
AN ANGEL'S DEVILISH GRIN: Angel Cabrera stumbled home Sunday but a par at the last proved to be enough to crown him U.S. Open champion. The Argentine, who began the final round four shots back of Aaron Baddeley, took a three-shot lead with three holes to play and then promptly bogeyed 16 and 17. Cabrera composed himself, however, with a massive drive on 18 and a two-putt par. That was the difference as Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk couldn't pass him.
 
BackspinCabrera was as visibly shaky as any player you will ever see coming down the stretch of a major championship. He was tighter than Tiger's red shirt. He smoked cigarettes, paced feverishly and almost wasted his hard-fought advantage -- but he didn't. That nervous smile he displayed on the final few holes turned to one of pure joy when Woods missed his birdie effort on the final hole of the championship. Cabrera now joins Roberto De Vicenzo, who won the the 1967 British Open at Hoylake, as their country's only major championship winners on the regular tour.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods couldn't get a putt to drop all week at Oakmont. (Getty Images)
MAJOR LETDOWNS: They were two former U.S. Open champions, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the world, chasing the world's 41st-ranked player. Woods and Furyk, based on past results and pedigree, seemed likely to knock off Cabrera. But, in the end, both fell one shot shy of catching the Argentine.
 
BackspinThough both were seen smiling during the trophy presentation, this certainly was a bitter pill to swallow for two of the world's best. As well as a little dj vu. Furyk's gaff on the 17th led to a second straight runner-up showing at the U.S. Open - both times finishing at 6 over par and one shot out of a playoff. As for Tiger, he again played in the last group on Sunday - like he did at the Masters - and once again failed to come from behind to win the title. He's a spectacular 12-for-12 with at least a share of the lead when entering the final round of a major championship, but now falls to 0-29 when trailing after 54.
 
TALE OF TWO ROUNDS: Vaunted Oakmont was being labeled by none other than NBCs Johnny Miller as the toughest course in the world as the players made their way to the first tee box on Thursday. And first- and second-round scores were, for the most part, backing up Millers assertions. But on Friday, Englands Paul Casey fashioned a near flawless 4-under 66 that had fellow players fawning over the accomplishment, and comparisons to Millers closing 63 in 1973 began to become part of the conversation.
 
Backspin Caseys 66 and Millers 63 are similar in a few ways. Both were nearly 11 strokes lower than the field average for their respective days. Both men hit 13 of 14 fairways. And both men only made one bogey. But there are few glaring differences. Millers 63 came on a softer, more receptive course. But Millers 63 also included 18 of 18 greens hit in regulation ' and it occurred on a Sunday and won him the tournament. Game, set and match Miller.
 
LEAVING ON EMPTY: Phil Mickelson entered this years championship with a lot of uncertainty and plenty of questions, thanks mainly to a wrist injury he incurred during a practice round a few weeks prior at Oakmont. He left with few answers and even more U.S. Open frustration. He also left on Friday. Mickelson shot rounds of 74-77 to miss out on the weekend by a stroke when Cabrera birdied his final hole in Round 2 to push the cut line to 10 over. It was the first time since 1999 that Mickelson had missed the cut in a major championship.
 
Backspin Lefty looked in decent shape after his opening 4-over performance. But a stretch of bad golf on Friday ' playing holes 7-10 in 6 over ' cost him any chance to atone for last years disaster. It may, however, have been a good thing, as Mickelson didnt have to subject his injured wrist to the venues trying conditions. Mickelson's exit was not only premature, but it left a bad taste in many mouths as some felt Phil was whining about the difficultly of the course. Either way, he has five weeks to get himself straightened out ' physically and mentally ' before the Open Championship, which just happens to take place at Carnoustie, site of Mickelsons previous major missed cut.
 
FATHERS DAY ON THE COUCH: This week was billed by some at the ultimate battle: Golfs best players vs. Golfs best course. Unfortunately for some, Oakmont was the clear winner. Joining Mickelson with the weekend off were Colin Montgomerie, Adam Scott, Retief Goosen, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III and Sergio Garcia.
 
Backspin If youll notice, that group contains the majority of the principals in last years dramatic finish at Winged Foot. Mickelson, Monty and Harrington all had chances to win and failed to do so. That opportunity was not extended to them this year; though, that might not be the worst thing considering what Furyk is feeling right now. Garcia is now 0-for-32 as a professional in major championships and has missed the cut in each of the first two this season. He seems to have developed a distaste for pre-tournament press conferences at majors. If he keeps playing like this, he wont have to worry about being invited to any more.
 
NOT SUITABLE FOR THE CHILDREN: Geoff Ogilvy returned to the U.S. Open as its defending champion, and as a newly minted 30-year-old. With his birthday coming last Monday, that meant not a single player in the field under the age of 30 had a major championship to his credit. It was the first time since 1991 that such an anomaly was true.
 
Backspin The way the day began, it looked promising that a 20something could possibly walk away with victory. Paul Casey, 27; Aaron Baddeley, 26; and Justin Rose, 26, all started the final round in the last three groups of the day. And all three imploded - early. Combined, they shot a total of 34 over. Remember, Miller was 26 when he won here back in '73. But the fact is, the game has since changed. Youth is no longer served. The game and its major champions are now more like fine wines - they get better with age.
 
EURO FAMINE: The 1999 British Open at Carnoustie will forever be known as Jean Van de Veldes epic collapse. It is also is becoming increasingly famous for being the last time a European won a major championship. Paul Lawries playoff victory was the last in what has now has become an eight-year drought.
 
Backspin Amazingly, Ireland's Great Potato Famine in the mid-1800s was about half as long as this major-less run. Swede Niclas Fasth was the low European this past week, finishing fourth. Perhaps the drought will end in about a month when the Open Championship is once again contested at Carnoustie. If so, the site may well become the permanent home of the season's third major.
 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: If you were paying attention closely, you would have noticed that the man on the bag for Cabrera was none other than Eddie Gardino, he of 'Big Break' fame; For the fourth straight year, an international-born player won the U.S. Open; 11 amateurs made the Oakmont field, but none made the cut; the 484-yard, par-4 18th played as the hardest hole of the week at 4.602; the 288-yard, par-3 eighth was the fifth hardest at 3.452; the 358-yard, par-4 14th was the easiet at 4.053; Baddeley led the field in putting entering the final round, then took 34 putts on Sunday; Fasth led the field in putting for the week (1.58); Woods led the field in G.I.R (68%); Fred Funk (T30) led the field in fairways hit (73%); Cabrera was second to George McNeill (63rd) in driving distance (McNeill averaged 311.4 yards); former U.S. Ryder Cup member Chris Riley won on the Nationwide Tour, beating reigning NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark in a playoff; Ashleigh Simon, 18, became the youngest ever professional winner on the Ladies European; Johnny Miller shot 63 in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open to win at Oakmont.
 
Backspin Although quite a player himself, Gardino has made a fine career as a caddie, most notably looping for Sergio Garcia in the 2002 Ryder Cup, and now a major champion in Cabrera; This is the first time in U.S. Open history that an American hasn't won the championship in four years; it's rare that the final hole on the course is also the toughest; for all the complaining about the eighth hole, which became the first-ever 300-yard par-3 in a major on Sunday, the players seemed to handle it OK; Cabrera hit 32 percent of his fairways, 61 percent of his greens in regulation, and averaged 32 putts per round over the weekend -- and won; congrats to Riley -- maybe this will awaken his slumbering career; Simon, making just her fourth start as a pro, may well be someone to watch in future years should she compete regularly on the LPGA Tour; Miller shot 63 in '73? Wow, somebody should have mentioned that this past week.
 
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  • 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.

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    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

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    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.