Five players look down at the rest of the Masters field

By Jason SobelApril 8, 2012, 1:30 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – With one player each at 9-under, 8-under, 7-under, 6-under and 5-under, the Masters leaderboard entering the final round more closely resembles starting positions for a NASCAR race.

Of course, that means we could be headed for a major pileup at the turn.

Each contender has certain keys to winning the green jacket on Sunday; conversely, they all have things that need to be avoided here, as well.

What are they? Let’s break 'em down:

Peter Hanson: 9-under 207

Needs to … keep hitting fairways. Through three rounds, Hanson ranks T-7 in driving accuracy, finding at least 11 of 14 fairways every day. A guy who hits the ball dead straight off the tee, you’ll know early if nerves are affecting him because his sightlines are set by now. Avoiding mistakes will be a major key to holding onto his lead – and that starts, of course, with keeping it in the short stuff.

Needs to avoid … getting caught up in the moment. At first glance, it may seem unfortunate that he’ll be paired with fan favorite Phil Mickelson in the final twosome, but that should remove the spotlight from the 54-hole leader – which just may be what he needs. His playing partner is known to make birdies in bunches – especially on this course – but Hanson will benefit from his own brand of steady play rather than trying to match Mickelson shot for shot. Having been paired with him in the first two rounds should help for familiarity’s sake.

Phil Mickelson: 8-under 208

Needs to … put together one of his celebrated Augusta rallies. We’ve seen it so often from Phil in the past: He plods along for a while, only to get white hot in a hurry and flip on the electricity amongst his adoring galleries. It happened again on Saturday. Nine pars to open on the front side, then he played the back in 6-under 30 to make a huge jump on the leaderboard. One more streak like that and he could have a fourth green jacket.

Needs to avoid … the letdown after such a rally. The birdies are going to happen. You know it, I know it and – most importantly – Phil knows it. What takes place after the rally, though, is up for debate. In the third round, there was no letdown. But in the past, he’s often parlayed rampant success into over-aggressiveness, notably in 2009, when he posted an opening-nine 30, only to hit his tee shot on 12 into the creek. Knowing when to step on the gas pedal is only important if he also knows when to slow down.

Louis Oosthuizen: 7-under 209

Needs to … play the par-5 holes better. Usually, the four par-5s are where players can pick up their birdies – if not eagles – but

Oosthuizen has played them 12 times and remains at even-par so far. That’s not good enough. With a few big hitters also in contention, he’ll need to take better advantage of these holes if he is to keep pace with others on the leaderboard.

Needs to avoid … Bubba-mania. Paired in the penultimate tee time with Bubba Watson, Oosthuizen may be outdriven by 50 yards on some holes. Don’t expect it to affect him much – this is a major champion, after all – but watching a guy swing that hard at the ball can hurt your rhythm. Throw in the fact that Bubba gets a bit fidgety out there and he may be best served not paying any attention to his playing partner at all.

Bubba Watson: 6-under 210

Needs to … continue attacking the golf course. Watson only knows one way to play and that’s with long-bombing drives and the biggest draws and fades in the game. He does that in practice rounds, he does that in regular season PGA Tour events -- and now he needs to stick with what got him here. Some players may have a tendency to play a bit tight when such a lofty title is on the line. Bubba’s game is always loose. He needs to play like it’s a fun round on a Tuesday morning instead of Sunday afternoon at Augusta National.

Needs to avoid … nerves. By his own admission, Bubba has self-diagnosed ADD and tends to lack focus at times on the course. One instance of that on Sunday could spell doom on a course that could very well toughen up during the afternoon.

Matt Kuchar: 5-under 211

Needs to … keep hitting fairways and greens. For the week, Kuchar ranks fourth in driving accuracy and second in GIR. That’s not unusual for one of the game’s steadier players, but if Sunday’s festivities turn into that aforementioned pileup, then continuing to keep things simple will be of the utmost priority.

Needs to avoid … another “good” round. Kuchar has reached fifth place on the leaderboard thanks to consistent scores of 71-70-70. With four very solid, experienced players ahead of him, he’ll need something that’s more great than good in order to make a serious run at the green jacket. That could include a target score of something in the 66-67 range, while hoping the guys above him struggle.

The rest of the field: 4-under 212 or below

Need to … post a number, get in the clubhouse and hope Mother Nature starts blowing some wind at the leaders down the stretch. With a group that includes Hunter Mahan, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood at 4-under, there’s definitely some talent that’s worthy of claiming the victory. Other players have come back from bigger Sunday morning deficits already this year, which should buoy their hopes.

Need to avoid … firing at every flagstick, hitting aggressive putts at every hole. It may be tempting considering there’s ground to make up, but these players still need to use a little patience and caution, too.

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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

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.