Johnson, Holmes hope aces lead to WGC win

By Jason SobelMarch 8, 2015, 1:00 am

DORAL, Fla. – According to the official PGA Tour record book, the first player to make a hole-in-one and win in the same week was Young Tom Morris, who accomplished the feat 147 years ago, way back at the 1868 Open Championship.

That may not be completely accurate, but hey, who’s gonna prove ‘em wrong?

The official list could be considered slightly less than official, since the next player to win a title while carding an ace didn’t happen for another 60 years. It took 14 years for the next one, then there was a gap of 32 years before the next after that.

If we are to believe this history, the veritable floodgates soon opened. In 1974, Johnny Miller made an ace en route to the Sea Pines Heritage title, then repeated the feat later that year at the Kaiser International Open. Gene Littler followed him the next year; Butch Baird the year after that; and Tom Watson the year after that.

Whether players started becoming more aggressive in the past four decades or there were more of these happy coincidences or – and this is the most logical scenario – the statistical accounting simply received an upgrade, the win-ace weekly double certainly became more prevalent. In all, there have been two dozen such occurrences on the PGA Tour, but 21 of them have taken place since Miller’s first one.

The last of those came four years ago, when Steve Stricker’s second-round hole-in-one preceded a Memorial Tournament triumph; one year earlier, Jonathan Byrd needed a memorable playoff ace to prevail in Las Vegas.

All of which brings us to this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship and the magical mysteriousness of what took place on the fourth hole Saturday afternoon.

After failing to yield a single ace in the quarter-century period from 1990-2014, the 227-yard par-3 at Trump National Doral – playing a mere 207 yards in the third round – finally gave up a hole-in-one to Dustin Johnson … and then, two groups later, J.B. Holmes matched that feat.

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Twenty-five years of futility – and neither guy could even win the skin.

Of course, it was hardly any sort of record.

During the second round of the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill, Doug Weaver aced the sixth hole at precisely 8:15 a.m., followed by Mark Wiebe at 9:25 a.m., Jerry Pate at 9:50 a.m. and Nick Price at 10:05 a.m. Each used a 7-iron from 159 yards that day – and golf purists will consider it a certain sign of the apocalypse that Johnson and Holmes used the same club from 48 yards further away this time around. 

Of more importance is the fact that each of Saturday’s ace-men will be in Sunday’s final pairing, trying to become the 25th player in the “official” record books to win in the same week, as Holmes will take a five-stroke lead into the last 18 holes.

Not that they’re buying into the sentimentality of the situation.

“No,” Holmes bluntly answered when asked if a victory would mean more when it included a hole-in-one. “I mean, a win's a win, so if that happens [Sunday], then that would be great. That's what you play out here for. That's what I work really hard to do. But I'm just going to go out tomorrow and control what I control and do my routines and have fun and whatever happens, happens.”

His third-round scorecard featured the rare six-card straight, with scores of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The final tally was a 70 that gave him the lead for a third straight night, but one of those 70 strokes will be remembered more fondly than all of the others.

“I was actually aiming right at it,” he said of the fourth-hole tee shot. “I usually hit a little bit of a cut, and if I hit it perfect, it would stay straight - and it did. So one of the rare times you get a hole‑in‑one where you actually hit it just like you want to.”

For his part, Johnson wasn’t so accurate.

“Actually, I pushed it just a hair but I wasn't aiming right at the flag,” he admitted. “I was aiming just a fraction left of it and it rolled right in.”

The pair of aces has the pair of players atop the leaderboard here at Doral, where one can only imagine what resort owner Donald Trump will suggest to counteract such feats of excellence on his brutal Blue Monster. A dog-leg par-3? Stretched out to 400 yards? With fire-breathing dragons positioned in the nearby water and his ubiquitous helicopter spinning its propellers on the green?

Let’s not give him any ideas.

After all, Young Tom Morris never had to deal with such hazards 147 years ago, when he became the first player ever to win a tournament with a hole-in-one. Or so the record books would have us believe.

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.

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.