Bunker Shots Cajun Style

By Randall MellApril 20, 2010, 8:27 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from Cajun country to a giant slayer’s Jeju Island home.

PGA TOUR

Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Just three of the top 30 players in the world will tee it up when play begins Thursday at the TPC at Louisiana, but there is plenty of story power, if not star power.

No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 6 Ian Poulter are the highest ranked players in the field, but there are compelling stories to be told if Sergio Garcia, David Duval and John Daly can get themselves in contention. Should any of them win, it promises to make fascinating reading.

Bunker Shot: Love him or loathe him, Garcia is among the most charismatic players in the game. The sport’s better when he’s on leaderboards. That’s the problem. He isn’t finding his way onto them this year. In 2008, when Tiger Woods failed to record enough starts to qualify for the Vardon Trophy, Garcia claimed the award with the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour. Through his first six stroke-play starts this season, he’s 158th in scoring (71.43), 136th in greens in regulation and 129th in putting average. He’s looking for his first top-10 finish in stroke play since the Dubai World Championship last November.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Charles Howell III. Darkhorse – Bubba Watson.

  • Course: TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, par 72, 7,341 yards (Pete Dye design, player consultants Jerry Kelly and Steve Elkington).
  • Purse: $6.4 million (winner’s share, $1,152,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. and CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Jerry Kelly (14-under 274) finished a shot better than Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi.
    EUROPEAN TOUR

Ballantine’s Classic

Y.E. Yang is the story on the European Tour this week.

Fresh off his victory last week at the Volvo China Open, Yang heads home to play at Jeju Island, his South Korean home, where he’ll always be remembered as the guy who beat Tiger Woods in a major. The momentum and home cooking make Yang the man to beat, but there are strong challengers with Ernie Els, Anthony Kim and Henrik Stenson in the field. Kim is also a European Tour member who ranks 10th in Race to Dubai points.   

Bunker Shot: Ernie Els, for so long the world traveler, makes his first appearance of the year outside the United States this week. After winning back-to-back events in Florida, Els seemed to have found the joy in his game again. That’s what made his struggles at the Masters so disturbing. It wasn’t so much the way the course beat him up, but the way he beat himself up afterward. He was dejected over how Augusta National had broken his heart yet again. Will the depression linger over his game? This week will be telling as to what kind of summer may await Els.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Anthony Kim. Contender – Y.E. Yang. Darkhorse – Peter Hedblom.

  • Course: Pinx Golf Club in Jeju Island. Par 72, 7,345 yards (Designed by Ted Robinson)
  • Purse: 2,205,000 euros, about $2.9 million (winner’s share, 366,660 euros, about $494,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET
  • Last year: Thongchai Jaidee (4-under 284) defeated Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and Sung-hoo Kang in a playoff.
    CHAMPIONS TOUR

Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf

The Fred Couples show rolls into Savannah, Ga., this week.

Couples makes his first appearance as a “legend” and will team with Jay Haas in the 54-hole best-ball team event. Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton also are making their debuts. Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman are back as defending champs.

Bunker shot: Ken Green makes his return to competition after that devastating crash in his RV took so much away from him last summer. He lost his lower right leg in the accident and will play with a prosthetic leg with Mike Reid as his partner. Whether the duo gets in contention or not, it promises to be heart-tugging action. Green lost his girlfriend, his brother and his dog in the crash. Green’s also motivated by the fact that the Champions Tour turned down his request for a medical extension. He’s dependent on sponsor invites to play this Tour.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples/Jay Haas. Contender: Bernhard Langer/Tom Lehman. Darkhorse – Denis Watson/Eduardo Romero.

  • Course: The Club at Westin Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga. Par 72, 7,087 yards (Designed by Robert Cupp and Sam Snead).
  • Purse: $2.7 million (winner’s share, TBD).
  • TV times: Friday, Golf Channel, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET; CBS, Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.
  • Last year: Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman won in a playoff, defeating Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler when Langer holed a 45-foot birdie at the first playoff hole.
    NATIONWIDE TOUR

South Georgia Classic

This week’s event marks the quarter mark of the season, the seventh of 28 events.

Bobby Gates is the Nationwide Tour’s leading money winner with $161,960. At 7,781 yards, Kinderlou Forest is the longest layout on the Tour, about 300 yards longer than any other course.

Bunker shot: Who leads the money list is a big deal on this tour but so is the guy who holds down the 25th spot with the top 25 earning PGA Tour cards at season’s end. Brian Vranesh holds that final spot this week, but there’s plenty of movement in and out of the top 25 every week. David Hearn leaped from 54th on the money list last week to 10th this week with his runner-up finish to Kevin Chappell at the Fresh Express Classic. For every player who moves into the top 25, somebody’s feeling the pressure of moving out.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Chris Kirk. Darkhorse – Marco Dawson.

  • Course: Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Ga. Par 72, 7,781 yards (Designed by Davis Love III).
  • Purse: $625,000 (winner’s share, $112,500).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET; Saturday, Golf Channel, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, Golf Channel 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Garth Mulroy won at 13-under 275, finishing a shot ahead of Chris Tidland.

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.