Can Rickie and Rory provide a rivalry?

By Jason SobelMay 8, 2012, 10:36 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You can root for Rory McIlroy, the precocious, big-hitting major champion who currently stands at No. 1 on golf’s world ranking. You can root for Rickie Fowler, the self-taught, brightly dressed trendsetter who claimed his first career PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow last weekend.

Or here’s a novel concept: You can root for both.

Over the first baker’s dozen years of Tiger Woods’ professional career, his prominence dominated the game’s landscape. During the past few seasons, parity has reigned supreme, with no player collecting more than two victories in 2011 and only one with multiple titles so far this year.

Missing from this transitioning of eras is a true rivalry within the game, one which many observers believe could be forged between the ultra-talented 23-year-olds who squared off as part of the Wells Fargo Championship playoff.


Video: McIlroy's news conference at The Players

Video: Fowler's news conference at The Players


Unlike most rivalries – Republican vs. Democrat; Yankees vs. Red Sox; Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote – neither side needs to be chosen over the other, because the end goal is the rivalry itself.

It’s something which has been lacking amongst the highest ranks of elite professional golf for nearly two decades. Oh, sure. Maybe Woods and Phil Mickelson could have been considered a rivalry – or, for different spells, Woods and David Duval or Ernie Els or Vijay Singh – but there hasn’t been a real me-against-you, mano-a-mano, head-to-head rivalry since the days of persimmon woods and balata balls.

McIlroy and Fowler may provide the latest, greatest opportunity for a rivalry within the game, but they hardly offer a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it lock for the future. The current field depths have produced more parity than ever, with a bevy of young, talented players all vying for prime position amongst the game’s best.

“There's a lot of really good young players right now, and to count any one of them out of a rivalry would be somewhat unfair to them,” Fowler said Tuesday in advance of The Players Championship. “The game is in a really good state right now with the amount of good, young players that have come out lately, and the guys that are between the ages of 20 and 30 – if I wanted to or had a list, I could go down and name off 10 to 20 guys between Rory and I to Keegan [Bradley] to Dustin [Johnson] to a guy like Jason Day.”

And therein lies a major Catch-22. The game is cultivating so many young stars (a positive result) that it’s nearly impossible to cultivate specific rivalries (a negative result).

Even so, there’s more than a steady groundswell of support for McIlroy and Fowler to break away from the crowd and produce a two-man competitive balance that harkens back to those of previous generations.

“It would be nice if a few people separated themselves from the rest,” McIlroy opined. “Hopefully I will be in that group at one stage. I just think it shows how good the guys are now. But it's the finest of margins – that's what it takes to win out here.”

His friend and fellow competitor mirrors that assessment.

“I definitely think it is good for the game right now with the amount of guys that are bouncing back and forth and the amount of guys that are winning,” Fowler added. “I don't think there's one person in particular that's dominating. Obviously between Luke [Donald] and Rory, they've been playing very well over the last year.

“You're seeing a lot of guys winning, and the kind of fluctuation in rankings. But I definitely think it is beneficial for the game, for guys like Tiger, Phil, Rory, Luke to be playing at their best; and whether that creates a three-, four- or five-person rivalry at the top, or if it comes back to one person dominating, I'm not opposed to either situation.”

With a half-dozen professional victories and a dominant triumph at last year’s U.S. Open, McIlroy still maintains a large advantage over Fowler – or any other would-be rival from the young 20-something set.

That doesn’t mean we can’t root for those rivalries to develop, to be forged on the grandest stages this season and next season and for years to come.

If you don’t want to see it happen, well, there’s at least one main character in this ongoing tale who disagrees with that notion.

“For me,” McIlroy said, “if I was a golf fan, I'd like to see a rivalry.”

He’s not alone. Now we just have to hope it happens.

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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.