Mickelson in position for fourth Masters victory

By Jay CoffinApril 8, 2012, 12:12 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson was unrecognizable for half of Masters Saturday, an oddity at Augusta National.

For a long stretch, he was boring. Painstakingly boring.

Lefty butchered both par 5s on the National’s front nine – the second from the left junk off the tee and the eighth from a mud-ball that ended up in the ninth fairway. He played away from hole locations and landed most approaches into the most conservative portions of the greens, making birdies scarce. He parred nine consecutive holes.

Then Mickelson realized where he was and knew he needed to make some noise. Pronto.

Hanson the surprise 54-hole leader at Augusta

Photos: Masters Saturday

Mickelson, 41, found himself on the back nine and responded with a 6-under-par 30 that included an eagle and four birdies to shoot 66. He made birdie on the 18th hole for the third consecutive day and stands in second place at 8 under, one behind leader Peter Hanson.

“I just want to be in position,” Mickelson said. “There's nothing more exciting than being in the final group on Sunday at the Masters because you have a chance, and that's what we all want is that opportunity.”

These hallowed grounds have turned into Mickelson’s personal playground over the past eight years, even more so than his longtime nemesis Tiger Woods.

Now, Mickelson is 18 solid holes away from having as many green jackets as Woods.

Think about that for a moment. When we arrived at Augusta National in 2004, the Masters’ tally was Woods 3, Mickelson 0. Lefty got off the major schneid later that week, then followed it with victories in 2006 and 2010. Woods won his last Masters in 2005.

Mickelson was asked earlier in the week what it’d mean to win four green jackets and tie Woods and Arnold Palmer.

“A lot,” he said. After being asked to elaborate he followed, as only Mickelson can, by speaking slowly, saying, “It would mean an awful lot.”

It’s no secret that there are Mickelson lovers and there are Mickelson detractors; it’s black and white when it comes to Lefty. Rarely is there a gray area.

Those who love him think he’s genuine, love that he smiles, makes eye contact and signs autographs until his hand is numb. Others believe the act is more of a shtick, that he’s a different man behind closed doors.

Doesn’t matter. Everyone loves Mickelson at the Masters. There are no haters. There is nothing to dislike.

“I don't know if there's a player on Tour who loves Augusta more than Phil,” said Hunter Mahan, who is tied for sixth place. “He loves everything about it. You can tell: he puts his coat on when he gets here. He gets off the plane and the coat is on and he comes through the gates here.”

The back-nine run was vintage Phil and resembled Saturday in 2010. He made birdie on Nos. 10 and 12, which gave him momentum heading into the closing stretch. An eagle putt of 25 feet on the par-5 13th caused Mickelson to double fist-pump and sent the proper Augusta patrons into a minor frenzy.

Another impressive display came on the par-5 15th when Mickelson hit a lob shot from behind the green to 5 feet and converted the birdie. He finished with birdie on No. 18 to close out the round and set up a head-to-head Sunday showdown with Hanson.

“It was awesome,” Mickelson said of the back-nine 30.

“I’m not surprised by his ability to pull off shots with great creativity,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, Mickelson’s longtime caddie. “He’s inspired by this place. He has great mojo here.”

It’s a side note, but knowing Mickelson’s competitive side you can bet he gained motivation from playing alongside Vijay Singh, whom he got into a dustup with in 2005 when Singh confronted him in the locker room and told Masters rules officials that metal cleats in Lefty’s shoes were too long. Singh shot 76 Saturday and struggled with his putter all day.

And then there’s Woods who has played poorly for three consecutive days at the Masters and is at 3 over par. Mickelson loved beating Woods head-to-head Sunday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February (Mickelson shot 64, Woods 75) and beating the man once thought invincible by 11 shots at Augusta National is an added bonus.

But that’s putting the cart before the horse. If Mickelson doesn’t win Sunday, nothing else will matter. It won’t matter how well he played Saturday, it won’t matter that the Augusta faithful love him so much and it won’t matter that he finished ahead of Singh and Woods. He must deliver the goods.

“I love it here and I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at the Masters,” Mickelson said. “It's the greatest thing in professional golf.”

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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.

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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 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.