A collection of favorite major championships

By Rex HoggardOctober 23, 2012, 9:36 pm

Like Forrest Gump's mother always told him, major championships are like a box of chocolates ... you never know what you are going to get. So in honor of this week's playing of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, our writers offer up their personal favorite major championships.


Filing back through the 46 major championships I’ve been fortunate to cover, and the countless majors I’ve watched on television, here are my picks:

Masters: It would be nice to be able to say Jack Nicklaus winning in ‘86, but I sheepishly confess I may be the only golf follower alive my age who didn’t actually see a single shot of the Golden Bear’s win live, or at least on live TV. I have to go with Tiger Woods’ record 12-shot romp in ‘97. It was the first Masters I ever covered.

U.S. Open: Standing behind the 18th green at Pinehurst on that drizzly Sunday in '99, I marveled watching Payne Stewart make a final 15-foot putt for par to win. You could feel his elation but admired the tenderness he showed Phil Mickelson with Lefty losing practically on the eve of becoming a father for the first time. Stewart’s unexpected death four months later adds to the weight of the memory.

British Open: It wasn’t the best played, for sure, but Jean Van de Velde’s collapse at the 72nd hole at Carnoustie in '99 was as compelling theater as you’ve ever seen in golf. Theater of the absurd, perhaps, but a most unforgettable finish with Paul Lawrie prevailing in a playoff.

PGA Championship: Sitting behind the 18th green on late Sunday afternoon in 2000, I had a look right down the line as Woods putted from 6 nerve-racking feet to try to force a playoff with Bob May at Valhalla. It's still stupefying remembering how many spike marks Woods’ putt bounced over and yet somehow found the hole. It felt like he willed that tricky downhill putt into the hole to set up his playoff victory.


Well, I’m not quite as – how shall I put this? – “experienced” as some of my more veteran colleagues, so please excuse the relative newness of my favorite major championships that I’ve attended, as I’ve only been covering ‘em since the turn of the century.

For the Masters, I’m going with super-newness in last year’s edition of the event. I know Phil Mickelson’s first was one to remember, and I can still feel the goosebumps from Tiger Woods’ ball trickling in on 16 back in 2005. But I defy you to pop in a DVD of last year’s tournament – from Rory McIlroy pulling one into the cabins on No. 10 through a roller-coaster back-nine that included a myriad of leaders – and be able to walk away even for a few seconds to grab a bag of Doritos. Charl Schwartzel’s name isn’t the sexiest on the winner’s list, but that final round was as dramatic as you’ll ever see.

I never thought I’d witness a cooler U.S. Open than my first one in 2000, when Tiger obliterated the field. Then I went to the 2002 version at Bethpage – near where I spent my childhood – and had a blast covering the event through the eyes of the raucous fans. Each of those was surpassed, though, in 2008, when a perfect storm swirled around Torrey Pines, with the game’s biggest superstar (Woods) with a variety of injuries (torn ACL, fractured leg) defeating a lovable challenger (Rocco Mediate) in a sudden-death playoff (18 holes weren’t enough) at a beautiful locale (it doesn’t get much more scenic than Torrey, Pebble Beach notwithstanding).

My pick for the Open Championship is more for what almost happened than what did, but it was still amongst the most memorable majors we’ll ever witness. Had 59-year-old Tom Watson been able to get up and down from behind the 18th green at Turnberry, this one would have gone down in history as the most improbable of all tournaments. Instead, Watson missed his par attempt, then saw his effort thwarted by Stewart Cink in a playoff. I’ll always remember him walking into the interview room afterward, looking out at the forlorn faces of the awaiting media throng and saying, “This ain’t a funeral, you know.”

Call me obtuse, but my favorite PGA Championship occurred just one month later. Even casual fans could recite Tiger’s major record with a 54-hole lead by heart: 14-for-14. As in, 100 percent. He’d never lost one on a Sunday afternoon, and it didn’t seem likely that would happen at Hazeltine, either, especially with relatively little-known journeyman Y.E. Yang in hot pursuit. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Woods played conservative golf, while his opponent aimed for the flagsticks with nothing to lose. The result was a scene that no one before had witnessed – Woods turning a Sunday morning lead into a loss at a major.


In particular order, the 1986 Masters is the runaway “Best in Show” when grading the Grand Slams. At 46-years-young, two seasons removed from his last PGA Tour title and six years adrift of his last major, the Golden Bear played his last four holes in 4 under to win his 18th major and sixth green jacket.

Tiger Woods, fittingly, wins the second leg with his one-legged victory at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Playing on a broken leg and with a blown-out anterior cruciate ligament, Woods finished his third round birdie-eagle and forced an 18-hole playoff, which he won over Rocco Mediate with a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole.

John Daly’s Cinderella ride at the 1991 PGA Championship easily qualifies as the best story from “Glory’s Last Shot.” A last-minute alternate who had to drive all night just to make his first-round tee time emerges as an unlikely champion. He may not have been the most memorable major champion, but there are few stories in golf that are more inspiring.

Finally, it is Jean Van de Velde . . . eh, Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open. Sure, the Scot won the claret jug, but it was the Frenchman knee deep in the burn that will always define that bizarre week at Carnoustie.


2012 Masters: Freddie Couples in contention at the midway point. King Louie Oosthuizen’s albatross in the final round. Then Bubba Watson’s miraculous shot from the pine straw – and then the waterworks on the 10th green. Gee, this wasn’t a bad first Masters to cover.

2008 U.S. Open: This major, perhaps more than any of his other 13, will define Woods’ legacy. At Torrey Pines he was playing on a broken leg, writhing in pain after every shot . . . and he still won the most demanding test in golf! I called in sick at work that Monday, too, for the unlikely playoff with Rocco. My boss knew the reason.

2002 British Open: Ernie Els won the tournament, of course, but this Open, at least for me, kick-started my fascination with golf’s oldest tournament. The weather was the big winner, remember. Tiger was blown away during a Saturday 81. It was a battle of attrition. I enjoy watching that type of golf . . . well, once a year.

2011 PGA Championship: The playoff may not go down in tournament lore, but it was a compelling final hour in regulation. It was a stark juxtaposition: Jason Dufner free-falling, major-rookie Keegan Bradley surging. It ended with Bradley in the parking lot, packing up his courtesy car, alone, and marveling, “Can you believe that?'

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.