Anticipation builds as Daly's Champions debut nears

By Mercer BaggsMay 4, 2016, 9:30 pm

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – This was already going to be a good week. Weather forecasts for the Insperity Invitational have temperatures in the mid-80s with no chance of rain.

No. Chance. It sounds really good, but people in this part of east Texas need to see it – or not see it – to believe it.

They’ve received nearly 12 inches of rainfall since April 17, more than three times the normal amount this time of year, because of deadly flooding in the Houston area.

Now there is sun. And optimisim. And John Daly.

Daly is making his PGA Tour Champions debut at The Woodlands Country Club, as you may have heard. And his arrival has brought with it great anticipation.

“I don’t think we’ve ever promoted a guy’s debut on our tour as much as we’ve promoted him,” Bryan Naugle, executive director of the Insperity Invitational, said Wednesday. “We have billboards, banners, signage all over town, television commercials that we run constantly and radio spots.”

As PGA Tour Champions president Greg McLaughlin indicated recently, promoting Daly promotes the tour and, “what’s good for the tour is good for the players.”

Daly’s arrival is a boon for the senior circuit, and for his professional career. He’s played only two tournaments this year, missing the cut at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open in March and missing the cut at the European Tour’s Qatar Masters in January. That’s four official rounds in four months.

Because of that, Daly is admittedly nervous. He knows there are a lot of expectations on him. He can handle the meet-and-greets, cocktail parties, autograph sessions and media obligations. “He’s very, very sponsor-centric,” McLaughlin said. “He gets it.”

Being a personality isn’t a problem for Daly. Being competitive, however, is.

“My game is really awful right now,” he said. “My game is nowhere where I want it to be, because I haven’t played a lot.

“I’m trying to be as prepared as I can.”

That preparation began on Sunday, when he played the Tournament Course by himself, using three balls on each hole. He then asked in for a spot in pro-ams on both Monday and Tuesday, in addition to the ones he was already slated for on Wednesday and Thursday.

Daly has an affinity for this area. He had three top-10s at this venue when it hosted the Shell Houston Open and two more when it moved to Redstone Country Club. He had only 35 top-10s in his PGA Tour career, so that’s a pretty good percentage.

Daly expects the confidence to come around at some point. He said he needs three or four starts under his belt to shake off the rust and settle in. He’s scheduled for 10 of the next 11 Champions events, as well as the Open Championship and PGA Championship on the regular circuit. He's been craving a steady schedule for years – without a full-time PGA Tour card since 2007 – and he now has it.

But until he finds his comfort zone, you might see a milder Wild Thing. He’s carrying a 1-iron in his bag this week and expects to use it off the tee more than his driver. “I feel like I’m hitting that really, really well,” he said. “It’s the best part of my game right now.”

Of course, fans could alter his game plan. And there’s going to be a lot of them out there this week.

Naugle said the tournament doesn’t sell tickets, rather they have corporate sponsors (Insperity, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Woodforest National Bank and MD Anderson Cancer Center) pay the daily gate fees. They are also giving fans Daly bobbleheads during Round 1, in addition to hosting Loudmouth Friday, where people can wear their garish apparel for a chance to meet Daly and get his autograph.

Not that getting Daly’s signature should be too difficult. As McLaughlin, who was president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years before his current position, noted, this isn’t the PGA Tour.

“You have a realistic chance to get an autograph here,” he said. “Fans are different here, they are more respectful. And the players are more accommodating. It's a more mellow atmosphere. ... These aren’t the huge crowds of Greg Norman in the ‘90s or Tiger Woods in the 2000s."

Friday, however, could be different as Daly plays alongside good friends Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen, teeing off at 1:30 p.m. ET.

“This is a big deal. John Daly is a star," Naugle said. "If we have weather like we’ve had today, Friday is going to be crazy.”

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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.