Bunker Shots Out of the Fog

By Randall MellJanuary 5, 2010, 11:15 pm
It won’t arrive with the electric crackle that comes with Major League Baseball’s opening day, but the start of a new PGA Tour season brings something that might be just as welcome.

It approaches with the hope of a freshening breeze.

Golf sorely needs some new storylines to help move the fog off the game.

Twenty-eight players will be aiming to deliver something hopeful when the 2010 PGA Tour season begins Thursday at the SBS Championship in Kapalua in Hawaii.

The game could use something medicinal right now, maybe history-making, like a round of 59 to match the PGA Tour record shared by Al Geiberger (1977), Chip Beck (1991) and David Duval (1999). Or a closing run of seven consecutive birdies to win on Sunday, a feat that would break Mike Souchak’s 54-year-old PGA Tour record six closing birdies to win. Or a Craig Parry-like hole out to win from long distance, some unforgettable final shot like the one the Aussie sank from 176 yards with a 6-iron to win at Doral six years ago.

Golf could use some magic this week if only to remind us that Tiger Woods didn’t take it all with him when he announced he was leaving on an indefinite break.

The PGA Tour could use a good beginning to help soothe the pain from last year’s lousy ending.

Not so long ago, PGA Tour veterans used to say the new season didn’t begin until the Florida Swing. After Woods came along, it didn’t feel like the season was fully launched until he teed it up for the first time. That didn’t happen until the Accenture Match Play Championship last year, with Woods delaying his start after rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery. He started the three previous seasons at the Buick Invitational in San Diego, winning all three times. The last time he started the season in Hawaii was 2005, when he won the Mercedes Championship.

Nobody outside the Woods’ camp – and maybe inside of it – is quite sure when Woods will return, whether it will come sooner than expected in San Diego at the end of this month, though that seems unlikely, or at the CA Championship at Doral or Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando in March. Or perhaps the Masters in April. Or if he’ll take the entire year off to rebound from his fall from grace.

Whenever he comes back, it’s certain to be an epic event, the nature of the comeback’s storyline almost overshadowing the competition itself.

In that respect, the SBS Championship and all the events that will come before Woods’ return will offer a respite.

Or so we hope.

Stance: Just two of the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field, No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 10 Kenny Perry. All four major championship winners are scheduled to compete (Masters’ winner Angel Cabrera, U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, British Open winner Stewart Cink and PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang). Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy is also back.

The only player who can come close to Woods’ star power is Phil Mickelson, but he’s skipping the season-opening event for winners yet again. Henrik Stenson, winner of last year’s Players Championship, also is skipping the opener.

Bunker shot:
Combine his significantly improved driving with his formidable wedge game and putting prowess and Stricker appears poised to be a larger factor in golf’s biggest events this year. Stricker turns 43 in February, but he’s building the kind of game late in his career that could give him a chance to break through and win his first major. Stricker won three times in ’09 while finishing on a roll. He won the FedEx Cup playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship, closing hard under pressure. He played well while paired with Woods a bunch of times during the FedEx Cup playoffs, then teamed with Woods in a dominant Presidents Cup pairing. The way he performed in Woods’ presence says something about the rising level of his confidence. It makes you wonder if Stricker might be following the path of Mark O’Meara, who won his two majors at 41 after beneficially matching his game against Woods in countless rounds together and pairings in team events. Stricker’s late-blooming development makes him a man worth watching this new year.
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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.