Daly bashes ball, keeps it straight and enjoys debut

By Mercer BaggsMay 7, 2016, 12:07 am

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Uh, oh. Here we go.

As soon as John Daly hit his approach shot into the water on the par-4 seventh hole Friday at the Insperity Invitational, that was the first thought.

Daly, making his much anticipated debut on the PGA Tour Champions, had been piddling along for his first six holes. He was hitting fairways, finding greens, but nothing was dropping. Until his second at No. 7 dropped into the drink.

The ball cleared land so Daly was able to get a drop behind the green. He chipped up to 3 feet and made the bogey putt. That’s when Daly’s round really began.

The day officially started at 11:25 a.m., local time. Daly arrived on site one hour and five minutes before his tee time. He finally made it to the range at 11:55, signing hats and flags and bobblehead dolls (of his likeness – a giveaway on Day 1 of the event) en route. Four minutes later – and 31 minutes until show time – he finally hit his first practice ball.

Daly took six one-handed swings with his wedge to start, only five with his driver near the close, and 38 total. After 36 putts on the practice green, it was finally go time. Almost.

Daly posed for photos with the Insperity staff – all clad in Loudmouth pants and shorts – and with the members of his threesome, Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen.

Zoeller showed up in green pants, large Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka logos adorning both thighs. He then presented Daly with a bottle as a form of payment for a bet he made years ago with Daly that he would never reach 50 years of age.

Daly, for the record, had on a light blue shirt and red pants that looked like they were covered in amoebas. He was pretty tame compared to others in the gallery, many of which were wearing their loudest Loudmouth apparel.

After the festivities settled, Daly hit his first official shot as a senior at 12:35 p.m. – five minutes after the scheduled start, but, as they would soon find out, there was no rush. The crowd was seven deep and few remained for the following group.

Daly used driver on the par-5 first, something he would do only five times on Friday. Daly had previously stated that his game plan was to primarily use 1-iron off the tee, and he abided.

Speaking of abiding, The Dude was in attendance. Or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of “The Big Lebowski” protagonist. A guy walking around in a purple robe, cargo shorts, sandals, long hair and a goatee asked Daly for a pack of cigarettes at the practice green. Daly didn’t abide this time, but he joked with the guy.

The crowd, on the whole, was fairly tame, never raucous. Even with a couple of hundred fans in tow, there weren’t any disruptions or over-the-top outbursts. A guy offered an attractive woman $100 if she’d yell, “Take your shirt off!” after Daly teed off on the 11th hole. She gave it some thought, but kept silent.

The crowd, you could tell, was waiting for something to happen, a reason to get a little nuts. But there wasn’t much going on early. Daly made par after par, displaying steady play for someone with only four competitive rounds under his belt this year.

And then came the seventh.

“It was a 178-yard 8-iron, and I had the 7 (iron) out and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just hit the 8, see if I can get it right up there in the chute,’ and I just flushed it right over the flag and it ended up going about 191 (yards) into the water. But I think that’s just from being pumped up,” Daly said.

Maybe it was because he was playing with Fuzzy and Jake. Maybe it was because he got up and down for bogey. Maybe he knew the water ball was a bad break, not poor play.

Whatever the reason, Daly remained calm, joking with his guys on the next tee box. There was a lot of that, because there was a lot of downtime. The group routinely had 10-minute spans between holing out on the green and hitting tee shots on the next hole.

As Jacobsen said during the round, “I’m playing with two of the fastest players out here.”

He’s no slouch, himself. On the par-4 17th, for example, the green cleared and Daly hit first. Eight seconds later, Zoeller hit. Ten seconds later, Jacobsen hit. It was like that all day. The round took four hours and 23 minutes, but would have been cut in half had it just been the three of them out there.

There was a very casual feel to the round. There was the camaraderie; lots of fan interaction, particularly during the walks to the tee boxes and the subsequent waits; Daly was drinking Diet Coke from his Dallas Cowboys tumbler and placing it a foot from his ball when he’d hit; Fuzzy was riding around in a cart.

While Zoeller rode, Jacobsen walked with Daly. “God bless Jake for walking,” Daly said. “He’s got that bad hip. But he said, ‘I just wanted to walk with you today.’”

Jacobsen could have used a ride from Zoeller to get from his ball to Daly’s, when the driver came out. Daly destroyed a drive on the par-5 13th and had to be 90 yards in front of the others. He pounded another one on the par-5 15th and was at least 50 yards clear.

Daly averaged 317.5 yards off the tee, which led the field on Day 1. Jacobsen averaged 246.5 yards, Zoeller 242.5 yards. Surprisingly, Daly only made only one birdie on the four par 5s.

The nerves were present for Daly, and he said he never managed to fully shake them. But he outwardly appeared comfortable and, when that first birdie putt fell on the par-3 eighth, confidence came with it.

He lashed a beautiful 1-iron off the ninth tee and made his second consecutive birdie. He continued to hit fairways and greens, 13 of the former and 16 of the latter, but couldn’t covert several birdie opportunities inside of 15 feet. He managed to make a couple, as well as a bogey at the par-3 14th, and finished with a 2-under 70.

“Hopefully, I just feed off some of the good things I was doing and, you know, just thinking about some of the things that weren’t so good,” Daly said. “My three-quarter shot wasn’t very sharp today, but other than that, it was really solid.

“I mean, it’s something I really didn’t expect.”

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.