Golf back to business as usual Thursday at Sawgrass

By Jason SobelMay 10, 2013, 12:16 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It was just after 11 a.m. on another sun-splashed Florida morning when an older gentleman strode outside the ropes to the left of TPC Sawgrass’ second fairway, turned to his female companion and inquired, “What time does the cheater tee off?”

It would have qualified as the most damning question surrounding the current state of the game if not for the one she offered in response.

“Which one?”

Their accusations aside, nobody around here is accusing anyone of failing to play by the rules – either inside or outside the ropes – but these have been a wild last few months when it comes to hot-button issues around the game.

From the legitimacy and legality of deer antler spray to an exoneration based on a technicality to a quixotic lawsuit filed in a fuss, from a major rules decision to a convening committee to a full-blown controversy, golf has seemingly become about everything other than birdies and bogeys.

Or at least it had – until Thursday happened and everything old was new once again.

During the opening round of The Players Championship, there was no talk of spray from any animal, no lawsuits filed, no major rules decisions and – surprise, surprise – no full-blown controversies. Instead, there were legions of birdies and not quite as many bogeys, the result of a day that looked refreshingly like business as usual.

OK, so maybe “business as usual” doesn’t necessarily describe a little-known 27-year-old Georgia Tech graduate named Roberto Castro firing the third-ever 9-under 63 in tournament history, tying Hall of Fame members Greg Norman and Fred Couples in an unexpected yet brilliant display of golf.

Not that he has this course figured out after one spin around the track.

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“I don't think anyone's figured out what the secret is to this place,” he said after a round that included an eagle and seven birdies. “Davis [Love III] won 21 years after winning the first time, so I'm sure there were plenty of water balls in between those two wins.”

Other than Castro’s surprise visit to the top of the leaderboard, though, this was a day that appeared “as scripted” as they say in the television biz.

Not far behind the leader were Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world’s top two players, finally giving performances on this course worthy of their lofty status. McIlroy posted a bogey-free 6-under 66, leaving little doubt as to whether he will end his missed cut streak here at three. Meanwhile, Woods was one stroke further back, posting birdie on each of the four par-5 holes, an often overlooked secret ingredient to his success.

It’s still early, sure, but the start at least put Woods in contention to be in contention, so to speak, searching for his first serious title run since winning this event a dozen years ago.

“This is a tricky golf course,” Woods explained. “It doesn't take much to make a bogey around here. I think that's kind of what [course designer] Pete [Dye] had intended, and I'm sure that most of the guys throughout their careers really haven't had too many other days that are spotless on their cards.”

Others signs of regularity reigned, too. It was a leaderboard that boasted Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson – four of the world’s top 30 players and four solid ball-strikers whose scores are hardly a shock.

But it didn’t stop there.

Phil Mickelson posted a birdie on the 13th hole … then followed by fading his tee shot on 14 into an awaiting pond en route to a double-bogey. Same old story.

Padraig Harrington opened par-eagle-double-birdie-bogey on his way to a 68 … as the noted tinkerer went with a belly putter and no glasses this time. Sounds about right.

Jason Dufner smacked a 9-iron into the devilish par-4 closing hole and found the bottom of the cup for eagle … and almost, sort of, kind of cracked a smile. Nothing new there.

Even Vijay Singh – he of the deer antler spray admission and ensuing exoneration and inexplicable lawsuit – got through the day in relative peace, save for a few fans who made their stances known about his tribulations from outside the ropes.

It was even peaceful for him after the round, when just as following every other round he’s played this year, he declined to speak with any media after a 2-over 74.

If that’s not business as usual, nothing is.

All of which should be considered comforting news amidst the recent tumultuous nature of the game. For one day, at least, golf was about birdies and bogeys again. 

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.

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.