Texan Tackles Hawaiian Winds
Leonard, who won the 2000 Westin Texas Open to qualify for this week's event, fired a 6-under-par 67 on the par-73 Plantation Course in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii to take a one-shot lead over last year's runner-up Ernie Els. Defending champion Woods is three off the pace after opening in 3-under-par 70.
Five players are tied for third place. Billy Andrade, Rory Sabbatini, Michael Clark II, Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk each carded rounds of 4-under-par 69 on Thursday.
If Tiger should fall to Leonard this week, he can put some of the blame on his teacher, Butch Harmon. Leonard sought out the famed instructor's help at the end of last year, and it seems to have worked early in 2001.
Never one of the longer hitters on Tour, Leonard has shifted the ball further up in his stance to rectify some timing issues.
Leonard is one of 18 contestants in the 33-man field who played in last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play in Melbourne, Australia. The 28-year-old Texan won a pair of matches before falling to eventual champion Steve Stricker in the third round.
Thursday, Leonard posted eight birdies to just two bogeys in above average windy conditions. Along the way, the '97 British Open champion hit all 15 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
'The holes that I'm supposed to score low on, I feel like I did, with little wedges and things like that,' Leonard said. 'I played pretty well through the elements.'
Stagnate throughout most of the round, Els made his climb up the leaderboard by playing the final four holes in three-under-par. After birdying the par-5 15th, the South African eagled the 663-yard par-5 finishing hole.
Els, who eagled the 18th in the final round a year ago to force a playoff with Woods, drove his ball a massive 417 yards on the downhill, downwind hole. Left with 246 yards to the hole, Els smoothed a five-iron to within eight feet of the cup, which he then converted for an eagle-three, and a 5-under-par total.
'The scoring holes on the front nine, I didn't play very well,' said Els. 'But I played a good back nine. Sixty-eight, gotta take it. It's a good start.'
It took Tiger five holes to record his first birdie of the 2001 season; he did so by two-putting the par-5 5th. Woods then drove the 398-yard par-4 6th, which led to another two-putt birdie.
In position off the tee to birdie the par-5 9th, Woods played a driver off the deck for his second shot and found nothing but roughage. Tiger played a provisional to the front of the green, yet the shot proved to be superfluous, as Tiger's playing companion, Paul Azinger, found Woods' original ball in the waist-high weeds.
Forced to hack out his third shot, Tiger could do no better than chop a wedge into a fairway bunker. He eventually bogeyed the hole, which proved to be the lone blemish on his card.
'I probably shot the worst score I could have shot today,' said Woods, who played the back nine in 2-under-par 35. 'But nonetheless, I'm in the tournament.
'I'm in good shape right now. I hope I can get it going tomorrow.'
MORE on The Mercedes Championships:
Justin Leonard First Round Interview Transcript
Ernie Els First Round Interview Transcript
Tiger Woods Pre-Tournament Interview Transcript
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
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
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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.