Which rookie will have the biggest '12 impact?

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2012, 2:00 pm

New names, new faces. They're a big part of the delicious anticipation of a new season. Some will remain anonymous. But others will become the household names of tomorrow. We asked our senior writers to predict which rookies on any tour will make the biggest impact in 2012.

By REX HOGGARD

The highest-profile rookie in 2012 will be Lexi Thompson. Not since Michelle Wie has there been a newcomer with as much potential and pressure, but that’s a cautionary tale for another day.

For pure rooting potential, to say nothing of playing abilities, we’ll take Erik Compton as the “newcomer” to watch. We add the quotations based on Compton’s age (32) and PGA Tour history (29 starts as a professional).

Even Compton doubted his status as a rookie until it was verified by Tour officials. “Great,” was his less-than-ambiguous text message when he was informed of the good news.

The Tour’s curious criteria for identifying rookies aside, Compton’s story has the ability to transcend sport. He was 9 years old when he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, has survived two heart transplants and may have only one chance to leave his mark on the Tour.

Although he has the game to compete at the highest level, the rigors of 72 holes take a toll which at least partially explains why it took him so long to earn a Tour card.

But with full status this season Compton will be able to set a schedule that will not be as physically demanding. He’s also enjoyed his first true “offseason” in years thanks to his 13th-place finish on the Nationwide Tour money list.

He may not be the most high-profile rookie in 2012. He may not be a rookie at all by many standards, but a solid season for Compton would be unforgettable.


Jason Kokrak

By JASON SOBEL

A few years ago, I covered a late-season event on the Nationwide Tour and took an informal straw poll of more than a dozen players on which of their peers would become the next star on the next level. The unanimous answer was Jason Day – and, of course, those guys were right. Day has transitioned from the developmental circuit to one of the world’s top10 players.

There’s a similar groundswell of support entering this season for another Jason, as fellow players have been unilaterally impressed with Jason Kokrak.

Coming off a year in which he won two Nationwide titles and finished fourth on the final money list, the former Xavier University golfer owns a game that should translate well to the big leagues. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the masher led the tour by averaging 318.6 yards per drive. We’ve seen guys who can bang it like that in the past, but they’re usually wild. Kokrak, on the other hand, found more than 63 percent of fairways, ranking in the top half of the tour.

We won’t see another rookie class in 2012 like we did a year ago, but we may never see a rookie class like that again. Last season’s crop included major champions in Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley, plus four other PGA Tour winners.

This year’s class should be led by Nationwide promotions Danny Lee and Ted Potter Jr., and Q-School grads Noh Seung-Yul and Harris English. I’ll take Kokrak in a close race over those guys, based largely on the gushing reports from his fellow pros last season.


Danny Lee

By RANDALL MELL

Danny Lee’s bounce-back continues in 2012.

Look for Lee, 21, to distinguish himself in the newest class of PGA Tour rookies.

The South Korean Kiwi got off to a rough start in his professional career, but he showed last year that he’s on the rise again.

After becoming the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur at 18 years and one month in 2008, Lee dazzled us again six months later, still as an amateur. He became the youngest winner of a European Tour event, taking home the Johnnie Walker Classic trophy.

Born in South Korea, and later gaining New Zealand citizenship while growing up there, Lee didn’t exactly take the professional game by storm. After turning pro following the Masters in ’09, he fell short in a bid to win a PGA Tour card through sponsor exemptions. His pro career took a dismal turn when he failed to advance past the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School later that year.

The old spark was back in Lee’s game on the Nationwide Tour last year. Despite wrist problems that kept him out for a month last summer, Lee still earned his PGA Tour card, finishing sixth on the Nationwide Tour money list. He claimed his first victory as a pro (WNB Classic) in October. He led the Nationwide Tour in scoring (68.98), birdie average (4.66 per round) and top-10 finishes (9). He was sixth in putting and 12th in greens in regulation. Those numbers make Lee a formidable addition to the PGA Tour this year.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

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.