Separated no longer

By Jason SobelJuly 11, 2011, 5:11 pm

SANDWICH, England – They are two men separated by a moment.

Thomas Bjorn was the wily veteran. For years, a highly ranked European Tour pro, the Dane was amongst the best players without a major victory. Until now. This was his time. His opportunity to join the exclusive club of champions and have his name engraved on the claret jug.

Ben Curtis was the rookie. The 396th-ranked player in the world, he had never even recorded a top-10 on the PGA Tour. When he was paired up with local caddie Andy Sutton at the beginning of the week, the looper’s first reaction was, “Ben who?” He would assuredly melt under the pressure of it all.

The year was 2003 and – until this week – it was the last time Royal St. George’s hosted the Open Championship. Take a walk on these storied links and the memories of that Sunday afternoon come flooding back.

Bjorn with a one-stroke lead on the 16th hole. Curtis raking in an eight-foot birdie putt on 18. Bjorn needing three swipes to emerge from a greenside bunker. Curtis being told by Sutton on the practice range that he was the newest Open champion.

“He yelled it out from about 50 yards away,” Curtis recalled in a Monday press conference. “He was standing on a trailer watching it. I was just down there staying loose because really, to be honest, I thought I was going to be in a playoff.”

They are two men separated by an aftermath.

Curtis returned to his native Ohio as a conquering hero, met at the airport by thousands of new yet adoring fans. It was golf’s ultimate Cinderella story relived, as he became the first man since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to triumph in his first major championship start.

He may have never been confused for the game’s most talented players, but he didn’t fade from the limelight forever, either. Curtis carved a consistent, workmanlike career in subsequent years, backing up that historic win with two more PGA Tour victories.

Bjorn, meanwhile, struggled to regain the edge that had once made him one of the world’s best. Less than a year after seeing his Open hopes thwarted, he was 4-over-par through six holes in the opening round of the Smurfit European Open when he walked off the course.

'I just can't face the tournament situation. I'm fighting demons at the moment,' Bjorn said at the time. 'I still have as much love for this game as I've ever had, but I want to get away, sit down and think about what I need to do. I work hard on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and then on Thursdays it just all seems to collapse. It's the worst stretch I've ever had in my life.”

They are two men separated by recent results.

The story of Curtis and Bjorn does not end with wins for the former and demons for the latter.

In fact, the 2003 champion hasn’t seen the winner’s circle in nearly five full years, each of those two titles coming at tournaments which became defunct shortly thereafter. He is now struggling with his game, making the cut in just seven of 15 starts so far this season, with a top finish of 12th place.

Bjorn’s demons, on the other hand, are a thing of the past. He has recovered to not only find his game, but find success once again, culminating in a victory at the Qatar Masters earlier this year – his fourth win since being plagued by such lapses so many years ago.

“This is a massive step in the right direction, but I'm by no means there yet,” Bjorn said after winning by four shots. “But I've got to take all of the positives out of this and be happy with what I've done this week, and taking a big leap in the right direction. But got to keep on from here. There's a long way to go.”

They are two men separated by a barrier.

As a former Open champion, Curtis’ place in the field is guaranteed through his 60th birthday. Year after year, he can book his flight and accommodations months in advance, knowing that no matter how well or poorly he’s playing, the invitation always stands.

Runner-up finishers are not afforded such luxuries. And so it was that after many alternates had reached this week’s field following withdrawals from qualified players, entering Monday the last player on the outside looking in was none other than Bjorn – the ironically placed 157th player in a 156-man field.

“Thomas is a good guy and a good player,” Curtis said of his one-time foe. “It would be a shame if he’s not playing here this week.”

A shame, yes, but poetic, considering the perpendicular timeline of achievements and travails between the two men.

They remained separated until late Monday afternoon, when it was announced that Vijay Singh – the other runner-up to Curtis the last time this event was held here –withdrew with a back injury, opening up a final spot in the field for Bjorn.

And so eight years after their stories became intertwined, Ben Curtis and Thomas Bjorn will once again compete at Royal St. George’s in the Open Championship, reliving so many memories along the way.

They are two men separated no longer.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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.