Phil's win at Pebble means greener pastures ahead

By John HawkinsFebruary 13, 2012, 3:50 pm

It would appear the Big Lefthander still has plenty of golf left in him, quelling any whispers that he was done at age 41. No one travels from the valley of tribulation to the trophy ceremony faster than Phil Mickelson. His 40th PGA Tour victory was by no means the biggest of his career, but few have been more timely. Throw in the Pebble Beach factor, the six-shot deficit he wiped out before the Sunday telecast even made the network – and the 14-time major champion he trailed by two at the start of the day but beat by nine ...

No green jacket for this one, of course, but much greener pastures. As was the case in 2011, when Mickelson awoke from a somewhat dormant start to win in Houston, he's now back on the map and leaping onto everyone's short list of Masters contenders. A lot can happen between now and the second week of April, but once again, Philly Mick has shown he can turn it up when he really needs to.

At Torrey Pines 2 1/2 weeks ago, Mickelson looked unprepared to compete, firing a 78 on a course where he used to shoot par with his eyes closed. The performance left me seriously wondering whether Lefty could remain one of the game's top players – whether he could still make enough putts to relieve the stress caused by his errant drives. My reasoning was pretty simple: if the guy couldn't hole 10-footers in his own backyard, perhaps the problem had become chronic.

In going bogey-free over his final 34 holes at Pebble, however, Mickelson played his tidiest golf since winning the 2007 Players Championship. At a place where 6 feet for par can leave you feeling 6 feet under, where the Poa annua greens have a somewhat perverse sense of humor, Mickelson was airtight. His 30-foot save at the par-3 12th may not seem like a big deal in retrospect, but it came after Tiger Woods holed out for birdie from a greenside bunker, leaving Woods three back instead of two.

From there, the Dude in the Red Shirt turned into the Guy with the White Flag. As deft as Woods has gotten at rationalizing his inability to win an official golf tournament, the challenge among the rest of us becomes an issue of balanced perspective. Once you've spent a dozen years piling up victories at an unprecedented pace, is there such a thing as a positive loss?

It's one thing not to contend at all – there are plenty of wealthy men on the PGA Tour who rarely, if ever, find themselves in the picture at important tournaments on Sunday afternoon. I honestly don't know what is more shocking: that three consecutive PGA Tour winners have rallied from third-round deficits of five shots or more, or that Woods has teed off in one of the final two groups of the final round in consecutive starts and failed to get it done.

The blown-lead thing is fairly easy to explain. At Torrey, Kyle Stanley got a bit unlucky, then wasn't able to gather himself after fate dealt him a wicked hand. In Phoenix, Spencer Levin was in over his head. He'd come close to winning just once before, having lost in a playoff to Johnson Wagner at the opposite-field event in Mexico last February. Seven strokes is a real nice lead, but pro golf becomes a different game on Sunday, one best played with a pocketful of pressure-tested experience.

As for Charlie Wi, he led Ken Duke by three after 54 holes, but with Mickelson and Woods in the group just ahead – and Mickelson lighting it up from the start – it's easy to see how anyone still winless after 162 starts would feel like he showed up at the wrong party. For all the pregame buzz generated by the penultimate pairing, however, there was no showdown. Woods came out flat, Mickelson went 5 under through the first six holes and remained uncharacteristically accurate off the tee, missing just one fairway all afternoon.

Very few of Lefty's victories over the years have occurred without at least a little slipping and sliding. There is always adventure, much of it adversarial. His ability on and around the greens is the reason he has won 40 times, if not the 40th time, a triumph notable in that it reminds us how quickly things can change. Mickelson is now the Roadrunner, with Woods playing the role of Wile E. Coyote. Doesn't matter what color your shirt is – those anvils are bound to leave a mark.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.