Confident Shark Ready to Attack

By Mercer BaggsAugust 23, 2001, 4:00 pm
There was a time when Greg Norman would headline any tournament he entered. Such is not the case anymore.
 
But every now and again, Norman regains his confidence, and with it his form and his swagger.
 
Thursday was one of those days.
 
With a leaderboard that any major championship would cherish, its Norman whose name is at the top.
 
The 46-year-old Australian shot a 5-under-par 65 to tie Jim Furyk for the lead after the first round of the $5 million WGC-NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, OH.
 
Right now its as confident as Ive felt in two or three years on the golf course, Norman said.
 
Four Ryder Cuppers are tied for third place ' three from Europe and one from the U.S. Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn and Tiger Woods all opened in 4-under 66.
 
Woods, the two-time defending champion, is still recovering from a bout of food poisoning that allowed him only three practice holes prior to teeing it up on Thursday.
 
Im feeling a little bit better, Woods said. I was kind of worried about my stamina for today, but Ive been all right today.
 
Norman was more than all right on Thursday.
 
Winless since capturing the World Series of Golf at this venue in 1997, Norman made seven birdies and two bogeys en route to his lowest round of the season on the PGA Tour.
 
Norman birdied his first two holes. Following a dropped shot at the par-4 6th, he chipped in from 24 feet for birdie at the par-3 7th.
 
He then found something in his putting stroke while walking down the 10th fairway.I was questioning myself why I wasnt releasing the putter, he said, and I started thinking about how I used to putt and I lifted my shoulders a little more. Once I got my shoulders a little more elevated, all of a sudden the putter started to release.
 
It proved quite effective. Norman rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 12, a pair of 15-footers at Nos. 14 and 16, and a 30-footer on the 17th.
 
Though, he ended his round with a two-putt bogey at the last.
 
I still believe I can (win), said Norman, who has 18-career PGA Tour victories to his credit. I still hit the ball long enough and I still have a lot of mental aptitude, and so I still want to keep on going.
 
Norman started his season with a tie for fourth at the Bay Hill Invitational, but has since failed to notch a top-20 in nine tour events.
 
He is, however, healthy after undergoing hip and shoulder surgeries the past few years.
 
I feel great, he said. As long as I still feel like I can win, Im going to stay here and still play. Now, I may never win again, but if I still do believe I can win, thats fine.

Furyk - winner of the season opening Mercedes Championships - made three birdie putts over 15 feet, chipped in from roughly 20 feet at the 16th, and concluded his day with a 25-foot birdie at the 18th.
 
Im obviously very happy, said Furyk. Sixty-five is a great score on this course, under these conditions.
 
Tigers not worried about course conditions, but rather his physical condition.
 
Some Chinese food disagreed with Tigers tummy; that, combined with the intense Atlanta heat at last weeks PGA Championship led people in the gallery to say, He looks bigger on TV.
 
Woods ' who said he has lost nine pounds in the last eight days ' started slowly on Thursday, parring his first seven holes before sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the 8th to make the turn in 1-under 34.
 
Following four more pars to start the back nine, Woods birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 16 to end the day one off the lead.
 
Im pleased with the way I hit the ball, said Woods. I come in here with a lot of confidence, just because I hit the ball really well on Sunday (at the PGA Championship). Ive been working on a few things over the summer and its starting to come together at the PGA and then it really came together on Sunday.
 
While Tiger had a breakthrough Sunday, Montgomerie had an I-want-to-break-things Sunday. Montgomerie signed an incorrect scorecard in the final round of the PGA and was disqualified.Rather than fly from Atlanta to Akron, Monty decided to take the scenic route, driving the majority along I-77.
 
I was starring at 77 for a long time, said Montgomerie earlier in the week. I hope Im not staring at that number on Thursday.
 
That was certainly not the case, as the 38-year-old Scot recorded seven birdies and three bogeys.
 
A victory this week wouldnt make up for another majorless season, but: I suppose its all thats left, isnt it, quipped Montgomerie.
 
We start the year with a number of goals, and four of which have gone by the wayside. The fifth goal, I suppose you look forward now to the Ryder Cup and look forward to the experience, and then you look at the World Golf Championship events.
 
News, Notes and Numbers
 
*Experience allows for rest at Firestone. Neither Phil Mickelson, nor David Duval played a practice round before teeing it up Thursday. Norman played but 18 holes, while Woods played only three. All are past winners at Firestone Country Club, and all were under par in the first round. Mickelson shot 3-under 67 and Duval shot 69.
 
*Clarke made the only eagle in the first round, posting a three on the par-5 2nd hole.
 
*The last time Norman held at least a share of the lead after a round at an official PGA Tour event was in 1997, when he won the NEC World Series of Golf by four strokes.
 
*Furyk and Woods were the only players to post a bogey-free round on Thursday.
 
Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational

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.

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.