Advantage Tiger

By Jason SobelAugust 1, 2011, 10:32 pm

When Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf at last year’s Masters Tournament after a lengthy self-imposed hiatus, it was speculated that the lords of Augusta National would ease him back into competition by grouping him with a few buddies.

Maybe old pals like Mark O’Meara and Fred Couples. Perhaps newer allies in Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan.

Instead, tournament officials gave him exactly what the situation called for, placing him in a threesome with Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi – two players with little extenuating prior relationships with Woods, meaning they were neither great friends nor were they competitive enemies.

Too bad the PGA Tour didn’t learn from that decision.

Golf Channel learned on Monday that in his first appearance since withdrawing from The Players Championship three months ago, Woods will be paired with Darren Clarke during the first two rounds of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Not only are the two men very good friends, but their friendship has made headlines recently, as Clarke acknowledged he received text messages from Woods offering advice prior to the final round of last month’s Open Championship and congratulations after his victory.

Which means this pairing can’t be seen as anything but pandering to Tiger in his return to competition.

With “featured groupings” sprinkled into the opening two rounds at every PGA Tour-sanctioned event this year, the folks in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., offices have finally conceded that not all tee times are of the computer-generated, random variety. Rather than specifically place Woods with a player with whom he has little prior relationship, though, officials have offered him a favorable partner in longtime buddy Clarke.

How tight are they? In a 2007 interview with Golf Digest magazine, Clarke said of Woods: “He's a good guy. A real good guy. With everything he's achieved, he hasn't changed since the first day I met him. He called me ‘Double F’ when we first met, and he still does.” As to what that nickname stood for, he claimed, “There will be asterisks all over the place if you print this.”

There’s nothing wrong with players competing alongside buddies – and with so many close relationships throughout the PGA Tour, it would be impossible to weed out any such pairings on Thursdays and Fridays.

In this situation, though, with all eyes of the golf world affixed squarely on Woods, the PGA Tour made a poor choice in pairing him with a friend.

Of course, officials could have gone the other way, too.

The most enticing potential partner for Woods would have been Adam Scott, who now has ex-Tiger caddie Steve Williams on the bag full-time. Such a matchup would have brought fireworks to Firestone, as the two men who were once so close are apparently no longer on speaking terms.

Even though interest in the event may have been sparked by such a pairing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the PGA Tour balked at placing them together.

Nor should it be a shock that Woods didn’t draw golf’s newest superstar in Rory McIlroy, or his career-long rival in Phil Mickelson, or his vengeful enemy in Rory Sabbatini.

Instead, the PGA Tour should have taken a cue from the folks at Augusta by placing Woods in a pairing that serves no competitive advantage nor disadvantage; one that would be neither socially acceptable nor unacceptable from Tiger himself.

The way it is now, it appears as if there’s been a wink-wink, nod-nod agreement in place. As a way of basically thanking Woods for returning at one of its premier events, he was offered a cozy pairing that should help his comfortability level.

This decision will set well with both Woods and Clarke this week, but it should remain more than a bit perplexing for the rest of us.

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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 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.