Tiger Still Searching

By John HawkinsApril 10, 2011, 4:48 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Only two major championships in the modern era have ended on a Saturday: the 1997 Masters and 2000 U.S. Open, both won by Tiger Woods long before anybody had completed 72 holes. This is mentioned because a lot of people, many of them educated golf fans, figured this year’s Masters was over after Woods shot a 66 Friday. If hindsight is 20/20, most folks need a very strong pair of eyeglasses to clearly see the future.

Twenty-four hours after his stellar second round, Woods’ latest attempt to reclaim the form that made him the most dominant golfer ever had again drifted awry. Tiger will enter Sunday seven strokes behind Rory McIlroy, a margin that appears even larger once it passes through the reality check. The young Irishman rarely misses a shot. Woods, meanwhile, sits in a pack of players tied for ninth. He has eight guys to pass in addition to the four others at 5 under.

By the way, congratulations if you had Bo Van Pelt as low American after 54 holes. I’m not sure even Mrs. Van Pelt saw that coming.

No sooner had Tiger holed an 8-foot birdie putt Friday evening than my Blackberry began dinging – most of the text messages were written shouts declaring that Woods was “back,” as if he’d won the last five gatherings at Augusta National before triple-bogeying the fire hydrant. “What do you think now, big boy?” one friend chirped at 7:41 p.m., a fastball-to-the-chin rebuttal to doubts I’d expressed about Tiger’s Masters chances on the “Grey Goose 19th Hole.”

My reply was fairly measured: “I think I need to see him play well two days in a row.” That obviously didn’t happen, nor has it happened even once since Woods returned to competitive golf a year ago this week. This isn’t a case of me patting myself on the back, it’s just a small dose of common sense, and the possibility certainly exists that Tiger could shoot a 64 tomorrow, then watch everybody behind him trip coming in, thereby handing him a fifth Masters title.

The Woods I saw Friday drove the ball into some undesirable spots but made up for it with some spectacular iron play. His short game was tidy and he made some key putts – something we haven’t seen at the majors very often in recent years. He bolted up that second-round leaderboard without his best stuff, but then, he never seems to have every part of his game working smoothly since the collapse of his personal life. Maybe others saw it differently, but Friday was just another good score that got him into the early-weekend mix. Nothing more, nothing less.

The analysts were quick to point out an ultra-optimistic Tiger trend: Woods had posted excellent Friday scores in each of his four previous Masters victories. A newsworthy stat, but these are different times, and the simple fact of the matter is that Eldrick NotRighty hasn’t shown us 36 holes of quality golf in forever. As composed as he appeared Friday, he looked frustrated and emotionally wrought by a couple of bad breaks Saturday. He missed a two-footer for par on the 11th green and seems to have forgotten the technique that made him one of the best bunker players alive.

So with all due respect to those who had Tiger slipping on an emerald blazer Sunday evening, I find myself waiting while Woods keeps searching. You can’t win a Masters from off the fairway anymore, which is why he hasn’t won one since 2005 and won’t win one in 2011. I’m guessing my Blackberry won’t be dinging a whole lot from here on out.

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.

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.