A Bright New American Face

By Randall MellApril 4, 2011, 4:07 am

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Remember when women’s golf in the United States looked so bleak?

Back when the Americans were struggling to win the LPGA’s biggest events? Actually, when they were struggling to win any event?

Remember how weeks and months would go by in long American victory droughts?

Frankly, it felt like that going into this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. It felt like that going into Sunday’s final round with No. 1 Yani Tseng looking like she was going to mow down the field in a tour-de-force performance. Tseng, after all, was leading the championship in driving distance, greens in regulation and putting. She looked like an unstoppable force in her bid to win back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championships, her third major championship in the last five and her fifth worldwide title this season.

But that’s all yesterday’s news now, old news with a bright new American face moving into Sunday’s spotlight.

Stacy Lewis
Stacy Lewis averaged just 26.50 putts per round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. (Getty Images)
Stacy Lewis stepped up to defeat Tseng with her own tour-de-force performance.

The 26-year-old Texan came from two shots down in a final pairing with Tseng to win in blustery, difficult conditions on a tough golf course.

With four birdies and a bogey and no large mistakes, Lewis closed with a 3-under-par 69, equaling the day’s low round to beat Tseng (74) by three shots.

Lewis made her first LPGA title a major championship.

“To take on the No. 1 player in the world on the back nine in a major championship like that shows you what kind of grit Stacy has,” U.S. Solheim Cup captain Rosie Jones said.

Don’t look now, but Americans have won three of the last four major championships.

It took a stout heart to hold off Tseng knowing how formidably Tseng has been playing this year and for more than a year in major championships.

“I may have looked calm, but I wasn’t,” Lewis said. “I knew Yani could make birdies, and she could make a lot of them. I was never comfortable all day. I felt like I was going to throw up all day.”

Lewis played like she has an iron cast stomach. She made a clutch 18-foot putt to save par on the 17th, a big, curling right-to-left putt. When Tseng missed a 15-footer for par to follow, Lewis had a three-shot lead with one hole to play. Lewis put pressure like that on Tseng all day long.

“I could kind of tell from the third or fourth hole on that Yani just wasn’t quite herself,” Lewis said. “She was just a little off, and I knew I had to take advantage of it.”

The victory meant a lot to U.S. players who’ve endured a few years of the question: “What’s wrong with the Americans?”

This victory feels like an overnight shift in momentum because Americans have endured some serious droughts with Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, Australia’s Karrie Webb, Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa and a wave of South Koreans dominating the tour for more than a decade.

In 2009, just four Americans won LPGA events, which ranks as the fewest victories by Americans in any season since the tour was founded in 1950. Americans went 17 consecutive events without winning that year, a record American drought. Last year, Americans won just five tour events.

“I think it’s huge for us,” Lewis said. “I know when I see other Americans playing well, it makes me want to play better, too.”

Americans claimed five of the top six spots Sunday with Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford and Katie Futcher tying for third and Michelle Wie finishing sixth.

“The leaderboard was awesome if you’re a fan of American golf,” Pressel said.

Jones is more than a fan of American golf as the U.S. Solheim Cup captain. Lewis is in the American mix to make the team and meet the Europeans in Ireland in September.

“I think American golf is on an upswing,” Jones said.

It is in the majors with Cristie Kerr having won the LPGA Championship in a record 12-shot rout and Paula Creamer breaking through to win the U.S. Women’s Open last summer. If you go back to Brittany Lincicome’s victory at the ’09 Kraft, Americans have won four of the last six majors.

“I’ve always said it’s a cyclical thing,” former American Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel said.

Color it a red, white and blue cycle.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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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 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.