Bunker Shots Chess Match

By Randall MellNovember 3, 2009, 10:53 pm

From China to Japan, we blast into the week ahead ...

Woods, Mickelson headline WGC-HSBC Champions

The silly season will have to wait.

November opens with a serious bang as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson lead a muscle-bound field at the HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

With the event gaining a World Golf Championship designation for the first time, Woods immediately vaults to the ultra favorite’s position, not that he wouldn’t be favored anyway. It’s just that Woods plays WGC events better than he plays majors. Since the World Golf Championships started in 1999, Woods has won 17 of the 32 events he has played and has tied for fifth or better in 25 of them.

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The field in the $7 million event is all-star caliber with seven of the top 10 players on the Official World Ranking entered. It’s shaping up as the second strongest field outside the United States this year, trailing only the British Open in world ranking points offered. It’s another big boost for Asian golf, which saw Han Chang-won earn a spot in the Masters winning the inaugural Asian Amateur last week.

Stance: Sergio Garcia is the defending champion this week, but the stars may be aligning for a Woods vs. Mickelson duel. Mickelson won this event two seasons ago. Woods has finished runner-up both times he played it, finishing behind Y.E. Yang in ’06 and David Howell in ’05. The last time Woods and Mickelson played a stroke-play event together was at the Tour Championship, where Mickelson won the tournament and Woods the FedEx Cup.

Takeaway: Of the 39 WGC events previously staged, 27 of them have been played in the United States. That annoys certain international players, who also don’t like the fact that when WGC events are played overseas, so many Americans stay away. That’s the case again this week. The only players missing from the top 10 in the world rankings are all Americans (No. 3 Steve Stricker, No. 8 Kenny Perry and No. 10 Jim Furyk).

Bunker shot:
Mickelson didn’t overwhelm at the Barclay’s Singapore Open last week, but he didn’t exactly stink it up tying for 14th. Mickelson’s driving is better under Butch Harmon’s eye, and his putting is showing great promise under new coach Dave Stockton’s eye. A Mickelson victory this week would add intrigue over the rest of the “offseason” and heighten anticipation that he’s ready to challenge Woods in the new year.



Shin in driver’s seat for POY run

History is there for the taking for Jiyai Shin.

She locked up LPGA Rolex Rookie of the Year honors last weekend with her sixth-place finish at the Hana Bank-Kolon Championship in her native South Korea. As defending champion at the Mizuno Classic in Japan this week, Shin is favored to win her fourth LPGA event of the season. Play begins Friday at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. Shin's bid to join Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only players to win LPGA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the same season moves closer to reality with a successful defense. She would be the first South Korean to win the Player of the Year honor.

Shin already leads the LPGA in POY points (141) and official money ($1,664,395).

Stance: Lorena Ochoa is just 10 points shy of Shin in the POY race with 30 points available to this week’s winner. If Ochoa can cut into Shin’s lead, momentum shifts back Ochoa’s way in her effort to win a fourth consecutive POY title. The tour moves to Mexico next week and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The season ends the following week at the LPGA Tour Championship in Houston.

Takeaway: Ai Miyazato will have a lot of support in her native Japan this week but there’s pressure that comes with it. Miyazato is fourth in POY points behind Shin, Ochoa and Cristie Kerr. She is trying to become the second Japanese player to win the award. Ayako Okamoto won it in 1987.

Bunker shot: If the Americans end their 0-for-16 streak in tour events this weekend, it will feel like an upset. It will take a strong road effort from a small American contingent in Japan. Just nine Americans are entered in the 78-player field. There isn’t an American in the top 30 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings playing the event. Brittany Lang is the highest ranked American there at No. 33.

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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.