College roommate hopes DJ can shake 'personal issues'

By Jason SobelAugust 3, 2014, 12:44 am

Zack Byrd remembers the first time he met Dustin Johnson. It was his senior year of high school and Johnson was already a freshman on the Coastal Carolina team.

“I didn’t know anything about him,” Byrd says of seeing him play in a tournament at Country Club of South Carolina. “I watched him hit a golf ball and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’”

In between admiring his prodigious blasts off the tee, they started talking.

“He didn’t know me,” recalls Byrd. “We just struck up a conversation. I was like, he’s a nice guy. Took the time to talk to me and said he’s looking forward to playing with me.”

They spent the next three seasons as not only teammates, but roommates on the road. Over the years, they’ve grown apart. Byrd, who has Web.com status and also plays mini-tours, hasn’t seen him since they both competed in the 2011 U.S. Open.

After hearing Johnson’s latest news that he is taking an indefinite leave of absence for what his management team termed “personal struggles,” the former roommate painted a picture of a supremely talented player who showed few signs of any private transgressions back in those days.

“Everybody that knows Dustin knows he likes to have fun,” Byrd says, “but it never affected his golf. We played for pretty tough coach [Allen Terrell]. We had 6 a.m. workouts three days a week, long practices, we were out there grinding. He never showed up late, he never slept through anything. Never had any issues.

“He was just Dustin. Nothing bothered him. He never acted out, never caused any problems on the team.”

Just because they’re no longer as close as they were in college doesn’t mean that this recent news isn’t weighing heavily on Byrd’s mind.


Report: Johnson suspended six months for third failed drug test

PGA Tour: D. Johnson 'not under a suspension'


“My main concern is whatever his issue is. I know how much talent he has. I lived it for three years and got to see it. Whatever all this is, I hope that he gets it straight, because the personal issues that he’s had are keeping him from being the best player in the world.”

He’s dead serious about that last part.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if he really wants to be, he could be the No. 1 player in the world,” Byrd continues. “He’s so freakishly talented. He could be a world-beater. He can win multiple majors, a bunch, and I think everybody knows that.”

He also maintains that while others on the team had to work harder at certain things, everything came easier for Johnson.

Maybe too easy.

“If we were struggling with our game, he would always try to help us,” he remembers. “But when you’re freakishly talented, you look at golf differently. It was so simple to him. That’s the way he treated everybody on the team. If you were hitting it left, he’d say, ‘Quit hitting it left; aim right.’ Golf was so easy to him that he didn’t understand it actually is a tough game.”

That concept stretched behind golf, too.

“He could have played basketball in the NBA or wide receiver in the NFL,” contests Byrd. “His hands are the size of any wide receiver in the NFL; he can jump out of the gym. We played a lot of sports together. The kid is unbelievable at everything.”

While he admits he doesn’t keep up with too many of his old teammates, Byrd says those he’s spoken with this week have all offered a similar sentiment.

They’re worried about Johnson.

“It’s all pretty much the same. Everybody wants to know what’s going on. Everyone wants to know that everything is alright.”

For his part, Byrd has been thinking about his old roommate a lot over the past few days.

Even though they’ve grown apart, he’s still pulling for the guy who struck up an easy conversation back when he was still a high school kid, the one whom he believes has the talent to become the world’s best player.

“Whatever it is that’s going on,” he says, “when it’s over and he’s back to playing again, I just hope his full potential comes out. I hope he comes back a champion, like he said in his statement. I believe he will.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.