Lessons From Down Under

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 7, 2001, 5:00 pm
Once again the game has risen above its critics. The much-maligned WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship this past weekend in Melbourne, Australia, proved to be entertaining, competitive and even informative - despite the absence of many of the world's top-ranked players.
 
So, what did we learn this week?
 
Well, first of all we learned that there are many talented players outside of the United States and Europe. For years we've known of the Ozaki brothers - Jumbo, Jet and Joe. A couple of years ago we were introduced to their Japanese compatriot, the affable Shigeki Maruyama. Late 2000 we discovered Hidemichi Tanaka, who challenged for the season-ending WGC-American Express Championship before tying for 11th. Now we've been made aware of yet another gifted Japanese golfer - Toru Taniguchi.
 
Taniguchi not only outshined his more famous countryman, Maruyama, defeating him in the quarterfinals, he also bettered third-seeded Vijay Singh along the way. For the week, Taniguchi earned a career-best $400,000, or roughly 47 million yen.
 
We also know there's more to the Australian golf scene than just Norman, Parry, Appleby and Allenby. There's also Nick O'Hern, a 29-year-old lefty, whose mechanical swing and meticulous manner carried him past an ailing Hal Sutton and into the quarterfinals.
 
Speaking of Sutton, we also learned this week that the burly Louisianan's every bit as tough as his reputation would have you believe. Despite injuring his back prior to arriving in Australia, Sutton honored his commitment and fought through the apparent pain to challenge a game O'Hern, before falling in 21 holes.
 
In terms of reputation, Ernie Els has always been known for his laid-back manner. The Big Easy, nicknamed for his attributes as well as his attitude, proved in his third-round match against Jean Van de Velde that he isn't without emotion.
 
In an exhaustive and tightly contest match, Els rolled in a match-saving birdie putt at the 18th hole, complete with fist pump and a meaningful glare directed toward his opponent. One hole later he emphatically finished the Frenchman. Of course, as is his nature, Els downplayed the incident post-match.
 
We've also learned that the beauty that is the Metropolitan Golf Club is quite deceptive. Sans water, only wind and sand protect the luscious layout, requiring a player to display patience and precision. Should he fail to master either of the two, bogeys abound. Though not as treacherous to the sense as are the pot bunkers encompassing St. Andrews, the traps at Metropolitan proved to be equally as perilous.
 
This week taught us how minute the line is between good and great professionals. How equally talented players are throughout the world.
 
Sixty-four matches were contested this week, including the consolation match. Of those 64, the lower-seeded player won 33. In addition, 10 matches went into extra holes; that's three more than the previous two years combined.
 
We know Pierre Fulke is one of the hottest golfers on the planet the last six months. After missing the first five months of the 2000 season due to a disc problem in his back, Fulke captured the Scottish PGA in August and the Volvo Masters in November. He now adds a half-million dollars to his bank account, which not only increases his position in the tax bracket, but also guarantees him a spot on the 2001 European Ryder Cup team.
 
We learned that life offers opportunities, and it's up for us to take advantage of them. Steve Stricker did that this past week. Ranked 90th in the world, Stricker made the daylong trip to Australia only after 26 higher-ranked players withdrew.
 
Stricker arrived in Melbourne just trying to 'win a couple of matches' and take it from there. But one win turned to two, and then three and four. By Sunday afternoon, Stricker had six victories under his belt, a million dollars in his pocket and enough confidence to carry him through the upcoming season.
 
After winning the Kemper and Western Opens in 1996, the 33-year-old Stricker fell on difficult times, slipping to 130th on the money list the following year, narrowly missing out on a major championship in '98; and in his words: 'Fall(ing) off the golf map,' the past two years.
 
What Stricker lacked in confidence he more than made up for in self-doubt. A devoted father and husband, he questioned the Tour life. He questioned his place in the game.
 
More than anything, this week has taught us that perseverance pays, and in this case it pays greatly. And every now and again, even nice guys finish first.
 
What do you think of Stricker's win at the Match Play?
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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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.