Thanks for the Memories

By John FeinsteinJanuary 19, 2011, 1:12 am

There is great risk involved in starting a sentence with, “I remember when…” Anytime I do it in a golf locker room someone – usually Paul Goydos – will ask me what I remember about covering Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris.

That said, I DO remember when this was one of the special weeks on the PGA Tour. The Bob Hope Desert Classic was one of the most important, prestigious and fun events on the calendar for players and for fans. It was a week when a lot of people digging out from underneath the snow in the east or the Midwest could sit in front of their televisions, stare longingly at the sparkling fairways of the four golf courses in the Coachella Valley and dream of warmer days ahead.

It was also one of the must-play events for most players. If you only played twice on the West Coast you played the Hope and you played the Crosby. That was the list. Everything else was Glen Campbell by comparison. If you doubt that just check the list of winners: Arnold Palmer (five times); Jack Nicklaus; Billy Casper; Doug Sanders; Johnny Miller (back-to-back); Lanny Wadkins; Corey Pavin; Tom Kite; Fred Couples; David Duval and Phil Mickelson. Those are just the guys who won. Plenty of others played.

In the days when the Hope was in its glory, golf was only on TV on the weekends. Saturday at the Hope was celebrity day – Hope clowning with all of his Hollywood pals and a handful of politicians – led from the mid 70s on by former President Gerald Ford who could always be counted on to spray a few shots into the gallery – and making everyone involved feel as if they were part of something that was important. Then on Sundays, the amateurs and celebrities moved outside the ropes and the pros played their fifth round – the Hope is still the only 90-hole tournament on Tour – for the money and the trophy.

Frequently, if he wasn’t in contention, Palmer would join Hope in the NBC booth and they would talk golf and crack jokes while the tournament was being decided. Then Palmer would often help Hope do the post-round interview with the champion. In 1970 when Bruce Devlin won with a then jaw-dropping score of 339 (21 under par) Hope asked Palmer if he had any questions.

“I sure do,” Arnie said. “Just how the hell did you shoot 339?”

If only today’s post-round interviews would be so direct.

Yes, those were the good old days.

These days the Hope is treated by the Tour as an afterthought. While Tim Finchem and company have worked diligently to find new title sponsors for Phoenix, San Diego, Memphis and Doral – among others – they have not been able to find one for the Hope since Chrysler pulled out two years ago. For the past several years the Hope has come right after the Tour is in Hawaii which means a lot of players skip it because they aren’t eager to fly from Oahu on Sunday and tee it up for real on Wednesday. As if that isn’t bad enough, the Tour granted nine competing event exemptions this week to players – one of them being Mickelson – who wanted to go play for an appearance fee in Abu Dhabi rather than play the Hope.

In fact, the event in Abu Dhabi has all four major champions from 2010, and six of the world’s top 10 and 11 of the top 20. The Hope? None of the top 10 and two of the top 20.

No wonder neither NBC – Hope’s home network for most of his life – nor any other broadcast network televises the tournament anymore.

Tiger Woods has never played the Hope. That’s sad. For all of Woods’ talk about his appreciation for golf history he has no understanding apparently what Hope did for the game. He did play at Pebble Beach early in his career but that had nothing to do with Bing Crosby, it had to do with liking the golf course. Now, even that’s not enough.

There’s also the celebrity list: Once, in addition to Hope and President Ford, you could find Crosby, Phil Harris and Phil Silvers, among others. Now? Other than Kurt Russell, the list reads like a group hoping to get on “Dancing with the Stars,” someday. In fact, one of the bigger names on the list is John O’Hurley who was on “Dancing with the Stars.” Can Bristol Palin be far behind? The closest thing to a truly big name is comedian Tom Dressen, who was once close to Frank Sinatra when he warmed up for him in Vegas.

Once upon a time, players looked forward to the Hope. They loved the warmth of the desert, the feel of the week and didn’t mind playing four rounds with amateurs. Now most of them roll their eyes and complain about the torture of 72 holes with amateur partners – celebrity or non-celebrity. It’s not surprising that those who play well in the tournament are those who like playing with amateurs.

“I’ve always enjoyed it,” Bill Haas, the 2010 champion said. “I feel like when you’re playing well, they becomes your cheerleaders. That’s kind of fun.”

That’s what the Hope used to be: a lot of fun mixed in with some outstanding golf. The quality of the golf is still there – remember these guys are good – but it doesn’t seem likely that TV viewers are going to get terribly fired up about watching Scott Hamilton yuck it up with Alice Cooper or Eric Dickerson lining up a putt for par net birdie.

The Hope deserves a lot better than it’s getting. Thanks for the memories indeed.

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 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.