By REX HOGGARDORLANDO, Fla. – Ernie Els is the undisputed king of the Florida Swing, breaking camp and heading north to Augusta National with two keepsakes and more confidence than he’s enjoyed in a decade. Picking the best tournament from the foursome is not so easy.
From the outset, the young guns made things interesting, with Camilo Villegas, Anthony Kim, Justin Rose and Paul Casey going 1, 2, 3 and T-4 at the most-improved Honda Classic.
The Transitions Championship, quickly becoming the sneaky good stop of the spring, was good theater with Jim Furyk ending one of the game’s most confounding victory schneids on what may be the swing’s best layout.
And Bay Hill, always an entertaining fixture in the cleanup spot, would have taken top honors, thanks in large part to a golf course nip/tuck and stellar leaderboard, if not for a Sunday deluge and Ernie Els’ self-destruct near-miss before the weather delay gave the eventual champion a standing 10-count.
The month’s best, however, goes to the WGC-CA Championship, where the golf world was largely introduced to a rail-thin South African named Charl Schwartzel and a resurgent Els. The Big Easy’s closing 66 is the leader in the clubhouse for round of the year and, if one believes in omens, the start of something special.
By JAY COFFIN
All four events were significant, but the WGC-CA Championship is the one that stands out most in my mind. It marked the return of Ernie Els, the man who has been stung more in the Tiger Woods era than perhaps anyone else. It marked the beginning of what is likely Els last chance at becoming one of the top players in the game again and it’s fitting that it came at a time when the Tour is Tiger-less.
It wasn’t so much the victory itself, but the way Els won at Doral. Charl Schwartzel had tightened the lead midway through the final round and Els could’ve folded. However, it was the Big Easy of old who stepped on the gas pedal and walked away from the competition to win by four shots, proving he still has some fight left in his 40-year-old body.
Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was icing on the cake for Els and essentially sends him to the Masters as the favorite to win behind you-know-who. But Doral was where “The Comeback” began. Now, it’s up to Els to determine how the story ends.
Best event of the Florida Swing
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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
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.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
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.