Miles to Go

By John HawkinsJanuary 31, 2011, 9:19 pm
My local gym features two things in abundance: middle-aged white guys and high-definition TVs. Four widescreens hang from the ceiling in the cardiovascular area, as if a multi-visual diversion might shorten the distance between where my waistline is now and where I want it to be. Sometimes, two inches equals 300 miles.

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson reacts to his second career PGA Tour win. (Getty Images)
At 3:30 Sunday afternoon, the final round of the PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines is not one of my four options. I’ve got a Winter X Games replay, some “Meet the Press” knockoff on one of the 24-hour news networks, VH-1 and the NBA. When Kevin Durant buries a jumper from the top of the key to push Oklahoma City ahead of Miami with 35 seconds remaining, several in the room take notice and halt their workouts to watch the final two possessions.

The Heat wins, and the real world is coming to pieces in Egypt. I suppose I could have asked the slackjaw behind the counter to switch one of the TVs to CBS, knowing it was judgment day at one of the best tournaments of the early season – a leaderboard featuring Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods at least participating, all of which plays nicely to the sweaty-aging-male demographic. Then again, who am I to stump for Treadmill Row?

As tiny reminders go, this episode packed a punch. Pro golf can be a tough sell beyond its core constituency – even with mainstreamers who look, talk and smell like serious fans. Although it’s nothing like the NBA, which some won’t watch because guys take four steps to the basket and don’t play hard until the final few minutes, our game also must deal with some misguided stereotypes. Still, there is no denying golf’s glacial pace, especially on Sundays. When you’re playing for $1.2 million, perhaps you’re entitled to look at putts from all 11 sides.

To hardcore golfheads, this represents the slow build to high drama. To others, it’s a good reason to watch Shaun White in the half-pipe. You won’t find a better example of the turn-on/turn-off factor than Sunday at Torrey Pines, which ran 20 minutes past its allotted time but concluded in thrilling fashion – a finish worth waiting for because Bubba Watson went out and won the thing instead of having somebody hand it to him.

Mickelson was there to the very end, and with Jhonattan Vegas playing the role of loveable spoiler, the product offered several intriguing storylines down the stretch. At one point late in the chase, however, the telecast came out of a commercial break to show Vegas hitting a drive and Bill Haas chunking a bunker shot. Cue the music, head to the blimp shot. Time for more ads.

The game moves slowly enough. Golf fans know more about what they're watching than do viewers of other sports, but they also represent a niche within the niche. To find them, you need an extra-strength magnifying glass and an updated sales pitch. Bubba was a great big grouch when he first reached the big leagues in 2006, blowing off a lot more people than he should have, especially as a raw commodity. In the last couple of years, however, Watson has changed his ways. He’s easier to reach and definitely capable of generating a couple of laughs – and a teardrop or three when the moment calls for it.

To those of you who don’t like crying champions, get over it. Real emotion never goes out of style, particularly in a game frequently accused of not emoting enough. Woods carried pro golf to the mainstream, and for a while, it seemed to prosper there, but now he’s not showing up on Sunday afternoons, leaving us to ponder what kind of product we have and where it’s headed.

The competitive landscape is changing, with potential stars emerging and the top tier diverging, but more often than in other sports, golf’s fresh young faces wind up in the most obscure places. Like a middle-aged man looking to lose a few pounds, you have to keep going if you want people to notice the results.
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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 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.