Prognosticating The Players

By Jason SobelMay 11, 2011, 3:09 pm

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Despite the absence of a few heavy hitters in Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, this week’s Players Championship still lives up to its annual billing as the best field in tournament golf.

And because of that, it’s also the most difficult to predict.

In recent years, this tournament has been won by big hitters (Henrik Stenson), short-knockers (Tim Clark), old guys (Fred Funk), young guys (Adam Scott), superstars (Tiger Woods) and one-hit wonders (Craig Perks).

And yet, let’s try to prognosticate this thing anyway. Just remember: Expect the unexpected.

The Players Championship

1. Jason Dufner: Pick a name, any name. The Year of the Unpredictable Champion continues this week with an underrated ball-striker (pictured above) who’s overdue for a win.
2. Matt Kuchar: Count ‘em up. It’s been exactly 53 weeks since Kooch missed a cut – and that may actually be less surprising than the fact that he “only” has one win.
3. Ben Crane: Three years ago, he was T-6 at this tourney. Two years ago, he was T-5. Last year, T-4. Hmm, anyone else smell a pattern?
4. Matteo Manassero: The uber-talented teen doesn’t hit the ball a long way, but he doesn’t need to on this course, where his exquisite short game will serve him well.
5. Luke Donald: It would be pure folly to leave the world’s greatest short game artist (sorry, Phil) off the list of contenders at any event, but especially this one.
6. Jim Furyk: After a lackluster start, Mr. Consistency has peeled off five straight top-25 finishes and will be playing in his adopted hometown again this week.
7. Francesco Molinari: Yet another ball-striker supreme on the list, this half of the Molinari Bros. finished ninth in his Players debut last year.
8. Adam Scott: Once upon a time, Scott won this event and was thought to be a major champion in the making. Following a runner-up at the Masters, maybe that’s still true.
9. Zach Johnson: So … the course is fast and firm this week? Sounds like perfect Zach-like conditions. Coming off a T-6 at Quail Hollow, his game is in the right shape, too.
10. Phil Mickelson: What will Phil do next? At this event, it’s anyone’s guess. Since winning here four years ago, he hasn’t finished better than 17th in three starts.
11. Bill Haas: A list of the five most underrated players on the PGA Tour wouldn’t be complete without this multiple winner from last season.
12. Rory Sabbatini: With a rumored suspension impending, can you imagine the look of dismay on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s face if he had to hand over the trophy to Sabo?
13. Sergio Garcia: It would be the story of the year – no, the story of any year – if the 2008 champion could win here again following the passing of countryman Seve Ballesteros.
14. Steve Marino: Like last year’s champion Tim Clark, he is currently on the short list of best current players without a PGA Tour victory. Don’t expect him to be there much longer.
15. Rickie Fowler: The new crown prince of the PGA Tour is still searching for his first career win, but would have Ponte Vedra Beach execs swooning if he could pull it off this week.
16. Jonathan Byrd: There won’t be many putts to force a playoff any better than the one stroked by Byrd on the final hole at Quail Hollow last week.
17. Gary Woodland: Four finishes of sixth or better – two of which occurred in the Sunshine State – including a victory at the Transitions Championship prove he’s more than just a big banger.
18. Stewart Cink: He maintains that his new and improved swing still isn’t there, but he’s playing well anyway. When it does click, watch out for big things.
19. Ricky Barnes: This week is a big event, right? Then consider Barnes, who always plays his best golf when the stakes are highest.
20. Camilo Villegas: Call this one a complete hunch. In a dozen starts so far this season, Villegas has made the cut just seven times and has zero top-25 finishes.

Follow Jason Sobel on Twitter @JasonSobelGC

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 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.

Getty Images

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.