Bunker Shots Mojo and Magic

By Randall MellNovember 10, 2009, 11:01 pm
Blasting into the week ahead, from Australia to Mexico and beyond ...

Woods looks for his mojo Down Under

Here we go again.

Tiger Woods has gone two stroke-play events without winning, and you know what that means. It’s time again to wonder what’s wrong with him.

Whatever it is – he’s human, perhaps – it’s nothing his first trip to Australia since 1998 shouldn’t cure.

Woods arrived in Melbourne Monday morning with security preparations equivalent to a head of state, just as he did in China last week for the WGC-HSBC Champions. Woods was photographed by Australian AP getting off his private jet. Three media helicopters were reported to have followed his transport into the city.

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Woods leads the field at the JBWere Masters at Kingston Heath, where he’s the only player among the top 10 in the world rankings. He and No. 12 Geoff Ogilvy are the only players among the top 50 in the world in the 144-player field. If he doesn’t beat that field, speculation he’s lost his mojo will ratchet up.

Woods, according to news reports, is receiving a $3 million appearance fee this week. Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Michael Campbell, Craig Parry, Rod Pampling, Adam Scott and Michael Sim are among the biggest names there.

Stance: In the last three months, Woods has blown his first final-round lead in a major, finished second to Phil Mickelson at the Tour Championship and watched Mickelson beat him in the final round of the HSBC Champions. The fact that this has come in a year in which Woods failed to win a major is, of course, fuel for folks who see his powers shrinking.

Takeaway: Lest we forget, Woods went more than eight months without playing a tournament after reconstructive knee surgery when he started this season at the end of February at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He’s managed to win six of his 18 starts this season with 15 top-10 finishes.

Bunker shot: Woods isn’t slumping, but Mickelson is suddenly soaring and that’s what all the fuss over the state of Woods’ game should really be about this fall. Mickelson’s work with Butch Harmon is making a difference in his full swing. His recent work with Dave Stockton is making a difference with his putter. It’s a formidable combination that makes Mickelson as dangerous as he’s ever been. Mickelson has never looked more prepared to challenge Woods, who’s had a response every time he’s been challenged in his career. If Mickelson can keep this up, he might be favored over Woods going into the Masters next spring. Mickelson, who turns 40 next June, has the ability to make it a lot tougher for Woods in Woods’ push to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional major championship titles.

Look who’s on the bubble at Disney

It’s all about the top 125 this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.

What really catches your attention is how many PGA Tour winners are on and around the bubble at Disney World.

David Duval’s spot on the bubble at No. 125 adds to the intrigue. Duval, a 13-time PGA Tour winner who turned 38 on Monday, has used up his top-25 and top-50 career money exemptions. He’s signed up for the final stage of Q-School should he fall out of the top 125 this week. Rich Beem is 124th, Chris Riley 126th, Jeff Maggert 127th and Tim Herron 128th. The players ranked Nos. 124-128 have combined to win 24 PGA Tour events and two majors.

Duval won at Disney in ’97, when he was just coming into his prime. It was his second PGA Tour victory.

Stance: The focus may be on the money list, but the Disney event has a history of rewarding world-class ball strikers as its winners. Davis Love III is the defending champion. He arrives having posted 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s in the event, more than any other player, including Woods, who won this event twice. Lucas Glover, Joe Durant, Stephen Ames and Love won the last four events here. They’re all marvelous ball strikers.

Takeaway: Erik Compton, pursuing a PGA Tour card after two heart transplants, got the final sponsor’s exemption to the final PGA Tour event of the year. He turns 30 the day before the tournament begins. He easily made it through the first stage of Q-School last month and is the most inspiring story in golf.

Bunker shot: After his near victory at the U.S. Open this summer, Duval’s story is more compelling than ever. Though he is no longer the best player in the world, he remains one of the most fascinating characters in the game. With his marriage, his devotion to a growing family, Duval is a different man who wishes he weren’t such a different player from his days as the world’s No. 1. That’s what makes his story so compelling. He has spoken more than once about wanting to win for his wife and family. Seeing his children race onto a green to hug him in a trophy presentation would rank among golf’s great images.

Ochoa vs. Shin in Ochoa’s backyard

You would think you would have an advantage playing on your home course in an event with your name on it, but golf is different.

The LPGA’s top player has had some difficulty balancing the demands in her homeland against her need to focus on her game.

That helps make the Lorena Ochoa Invitational worth watching with Thursday’s start at Guadalajara Country Club.

In the inaugural event a year ago, Ochoa tied for 14th, nine shots behind the winner, Angela Stanford. It equaled the second worst finish for Ochoa in a non-major last year. Ochoa figures to have a lot on her mind again. Her wedding to AeroMexico CEO Andres Conesa is planned for next month.

There’s a $1.1 million purse up for grabs for the smallish 36-player field. The top 16 players in the world rankings will be there, including Jiyai Shin, Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, defending champ Stanford, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Michelle Wie. Count Se Ri Pak, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis in the mix, too.

Stance: It’s a big week in the competition for Rolex Player of the Year with Shin holding a small four-point lead on Ochoa. Shin’s bidding to become the first South Korean to win the award. Ochoa’s bidding to win the award for a fourth consecutive year. Thirty points go to this week’s winner with next week’s LPGA Tour Championship the season’s final event.

Takeway: No American has won the Player of the Year award since Beth Daniel in 1994, but Kerr can move alone atop the points list with a victory this week should Shin not finish among the top 10 and Ochoa not finish among the top six.

Bunker shot: With South Korea’s rise to dominance on tour, it’s just a matter of time before a player from that nation wins the LPGA Player of the Year award.  When it happens, it will serve as an exclamation point on the nation’s rise to dominance in women’s golf. Shin’s the best South Korean who seems destined to be the world’s best player.

Race to Dubai nears finish line

European Tour members get one last chance to jockey for position in the Race to Dubai.

Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy lead the field at the UBS Hong Kong Open this week. Westwood’s No. 1 and McIlroy No. 2 in the Race to Dubai standings. The top 60 in the standings earn spots at the Dubai World Championship next week, where a total purse of $15 million will be at stake, with $1.25 million going to the tournament winner and $1.5 million to the Race to Dubai overall winner.

Stance:
Despite all the early season speculation about what Americans might choose to participate in the Race to Dubai, Anthony Kim is the only American among the top 60 in points (35th) and he said last week he won’t be playing next week. Ben Curtis is 75th and with a good week in Hong Kong could play himself into Dubai.

Takeaway: The fall has been filled with good golf and that should continue next week at Dubai. McIlroy, Westwood, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Ian Poulter, Camilo Villegas, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Adam Scott have all secured spots at the Dubai World Championship.

Bunker shot: Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark have been the best storylines in American golf this fall. Golf can use a jolt of fresh, young faces in its winner’s circles and McIlroy, 20, is poised to further separate himself in that regard on the European Tour’s side. If he manages to wrestle the top spot from Lee Westwood in the Race to Dubai standings this week, he’ll be the big story going to Dubai next week. If he wins the big prize at Dubai, he’ll create significant momentum as the game’s most promising young star going into next season, whether he ends up playing the PGA Tour full time or not. He’s bidding to become the youngest winner of the European Tour’s Order of Merit since Seve Ballesteros won it at 19 in 1976.

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.