With Woods out, Rose and Congressional shine

By John FeinsteinJune 30, 2014, 12:05 am

BETHESDA, Md. – It was a long, strange week at Congressional Country Club.

A week before the first Quicken Loans National began – Quicken Loans having taken over for AT&T as title sponsor – the tournament’s outlook was, to put it politely, bleak.

Ticket sales were down, sponsorships were down, the field appeared to lack star power and the pro-am wasn’t even close to being a sellout. The only good news was a promising weather report.

Then, on the Friday afternoon before tournament week, it all changed. At 3 o’clock – two hours before the deadline – Tiger Woods committed to play. In addition to being a 14-time major champion and the world’s most famous golfer, Woods is the tournament host, since the charity that benefits from the event is his foundation.

If President Obama had announced the end of all wars that afternoon in Washington, it would not have been quite as big a story as Woods saying he was coming to play at Congressional.

And so, on Tuesday, Woods arrived.

He spent 35 minutes talking to the media – about double the time he normally spends in a pre-tournament news conference – and said that, yes, he was playing because this was his event and, even though it might have been safer to rest his surgically repaired back for another week or two, he wanted to give it a try.

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Woods’ every step, every swing was analyzed, from his session on the range Tuesday to his performance in the pro-am Wednesday to his rounds of 74 and 75 Thursday and Friday that left him four shots above the cut line.

Through it all he was decidedly un-snappish about his poor play and even said he felt very good about what had happened because “there were no setbacks.”

That was the most important Woods news of the week, even if he did sound like almost every golfer who has ever put a tee in the ground when he insisted Friday that he was “just a foot off here and there.”

On his way out the door, Woods stopped for a solid six or seven minutes – close to a personal best – to sign autographs. But then he was gone, deciding not to return to present the trophy on Sunday. Tournament director Mike Antolini told The Washington Post that the tournament staff had told Woods not to come back because he needed to rest.

And it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.

With Woods – and Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Jason Day – gone for the weekend, the leaderboard was filled with solid names but only one true star: Justin Rose.

A win by Patrick Reed, after all the grief he took for declaring himself one of the top five players in the world following his win at Doral, would have been a nice story. If Shawn Stefani had become the 10th first-time winner on Tour this season by making his 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, his victory would have been a neat story about a 32-year-old grinder who had never finished higher than fifth in a PGA Tour event.

In the end though, the stars of the week were Rose and the golf course.

Ever since 2011, when Rory McIlroy blitzed a course softened by a rainy spring and won the U.S. Open by shooting 268, the lowest score in Open history, Congressional’s membership has been upset about the beating McIlroy gave their storied layout.

The members left Sunday feeling a lot more sanguine about things when the players faced a dry, fast, firm golf course for the last 36 holes. Four players held the lead on Friday at 6 under par. Saturday, Reed was the only player still at 6 under. By Sunday Rose and Stefani were playing off at 4 under.

“If Patrick Reed shoots even par today no one’s going to come close to catching him,” predicted Steve Hulka, caddie for Brian Davis, just before the leaders teed off. “That is a brutal golf course out there now, and it’s only going to get tougher.”

If Reed had shot 71 he would have won easily. But he found water at 10 and at the diabolical 11th and double-bogeyed both holes. By the time he limped home with a back-nine 41 and a 77 for the day, he had dropped to a tie for 11th place.

Even though there was little humidity on Saturday and Sunday, players came off the 18th green looking exhausted. It was the U.S. Open two weeks after the U.S. Open.

Which is why it wasn’t that surprising to see Rose steadily moving up the leaderboard. He has typically played his best on the sternest tests, dating to 1998 when he burst on the scene at the British Open as a 17-year-old amateur and tied for fourth place.

Rose shot 2 over par for the week, two shots behind playoff winner Mark O’Meara and runner-up Brian Watts. A year ago, when Rose won the U.S. Open at Merion, his winning score was 1 over.

That’s why he didn’t panic when he was 4 over par after his first nine holes on Thursday. He managed to stay in the ballgame by shooting 74 and then came in with a 65 on Friday, which turned out to be the low round of the week.

“The golf course got very bouncy and firm and fiery on Saturday,” Rose said. “It was set up hard and I liked that. Sometimes when a course plays tough on Saturday, the Tour officials back it off on Sunday. They didn’t, which I liked. It felt like a championship golf course.”

Rose probably won the tournament on Sunday in the stretch around the turn. On Saturday he played Nos. 9, 10 and 11 in 6-3-6. Sunday, it was 4-3-3 – including a birdie at the almost impossible 11th hole.

“That’s a shot and a half on the field,” he said. “Especially after Saturday, that really got my heart pumping.”

Even though Rose spent the last few holes fighting a miss-left off the tee, he made several tough up-and-downs – including one for par on 17 and one for bogey on 18 after finding the water – he managed to piece together a gutsy 1-under 70. That got him into the playoff with Stefani, who ended most of the suspense when his second shot found a similar spot in the water that Rose had found in regulation.

In the weeks leading up to the tournament, the drive leading up to Congressional’s clubhouse was lined with flags showing players who were in the tournament. The very first flag on the morning before Woods committed was of Rose. By the next morning, he had been moved back several rows, replaced at the front by Woods.

“It’s his tournament, that’s fine with me,” Rose said earlier in the week when he heard about his demotion. Then he smiled. “Maybe by Sunday, I’ll make them move me back up front.”

As it turned out, he called his shot.

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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.