Players singing the praises of Simpson

By Jason SobelJune 19, 2012, 8:06 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Headlines proclaimed it a “shocker.” Casual fans considered it a “surprise.” Anyone who hasn’t paid close attention recently called it “unexpected.”

These are the types of reactions that occur when a player earns his first career major championship title – and they’ve been occurring a lot lately, with each of the last nine having been captured by a first-time winner.

And yet, they don’t really fit the profile for Webb Simpson.

In fact, we probably should have seen this coming.

Those alleging Simpson’s triumph at the U.S. Open was anything more than mildly unforeseen have clearly missed the emergence of one of the game’s brightest young players.

After a successful PGA Tour rookie campaign in which he kept his card in 2010, Simpson leapt into the upper echelon of elite players last year when he won twice and finished in the top-10 in more than half of his starts.

At age 26, he was enjoying another consistent if not spectacular season entering last week’s festivities at The Olympic Club. Sure, he may not have been the pre-tournament favorite, but anytime the world’s 14th-ranked player wins an event, it should hardly be called a shocker or surprise.

At least his fellow players understand that notion. One by one, they have praised Simpson in the days since his victory without falling victim to any hyperbole about its unexpectedness.

“He’s just good. He’s been hot for a long time,” said 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. “That guy’s been on a tear for two-and-a-half years. He played good Saturday, got a lot of confidence for Sunday. He played well, so kudos to him for sticking it out.”

“He is really good,” Matt Kuchar echoed. “It’s been fun to see. I remember three years ago when he came out on Tour, he was top-fiving every week, had a little slow down, then he got back into the swing of things. The battle he and Luke Donald had last year for the money title was just awesome.”

“I don’t know if it was an overly big shock,” Zach Johnson said. “Webb’s a great player. He has a great short game and obviously that’s what’s carried him. Maybe for it to happen this fast, that could be somewhat of a surprise. But when it comes down to it, it’s one week; it’s putting the pieces together for one week and getting a little bit of luck, too, along the way. You need a little bit of that. But I’m a firm believer that the more work you put in, you get more luck. That’s just the way it works out.”

This week Simpson will follow his performance in San Francisco by competing in the Travelers Championship, where he will tee it up alongside fellow reigning major champions Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley.

If the Wake Forest grad – now ranked fifth in the world – contends or even wins once again, many will label it a surprise that he was able to bounce back from that long week with some gas still left in the tank.

It would be yet another mistake to doubt his abilities.

That’s because Simpson is the rare player who doesn’t rely on any singular aspect of his game in order to succeed. He doesn’t bomb it off the tee, doesn’t find the most fairways, isn’t the sweetest ball-striker and isn’t the best putter – though the last one is close. Instead, he succeeds thanks to an all-around conglomeration of talents.

“Webb just seems to have the whole package – a good head on his shoulders, drives it well, wedges it well and one of the better putters on Tour,” Kuchar said. “That’s a pretty good combination right there.”

“He does everything well,” added Glover. “I wouldn’t say he does one thing great, but he does everything really well. When you play good golf for two years, that’s the way it is. I think his putting is a strength and he knows that and he’s confident with it. Everything else is really, really solid.”

As proof, Simpson ranked first in the PGA Tour’s all-around ranking last year, a combination of eight major statistical categories. This year, his ranking is down to 22nd, but expect him to continue climbing.

Of course, those numbers only measure tangible totals, not intestinal fortitude or mental acumen. Not that either of those can be questioned, though. After all, any player who wins a major – especially the U.S. Open – must know a thing or two about having the right mind for success.

“You can tell he has a desire,” Kuchar explained. “You can tell when he’s not playing well, it burns him to get better. When he plays well, he seems to keep it going. When he’s hot, he really gets it going.”

Right now, Webb Simpson is hot. Don’t be shocked or surprised to see him keep it going.

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.