Bunker Shots Phils Waste Land

By Randall MellFebruary 23, 2010, 7:55 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from the wildest stage in golf to LPGA Player of the Year ramifications in Singapore . . .

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Just six weeks to the Masters, and we’re still looking for confirmation Phil Mickelson’s the man to beat at Augusta National this spring.

Coming into the season, Mickelson looked like a good bet to win his third green jacket whether Tiger Woods was teeing it up or not.

Mickelson poses with trophy after WGC-HSBC Champio
Mickelson poses with the trophy after his one-stroke victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions (Getty Images)
Mickelson registered two pretty good knockdowns of Woods in head-to-head duels last year that got our attention. There was that pairing in the final round at Augusta National in the spring that felt like a heavyweight undercard with both players too far back to truly challenge. Still, it was great theater, Mickelson shooting 67 to Woods’ 68.

And late last fall, Mickelson added to the feeling he was more game than ever to challenge Woods in the biggest events. His win at the Tour Championship, his dazzling play at the Presidents Cup and his head-to-head trouncing of Woods in the final round of the HSBC Champions in China gave him terrific momentum heading into the new season.

Though Mickelson has yet to pick up where he left off last season – Mickelson has one top-10 finish in three starts this year – his next two starts are prime venues to begin his upswing to peak at the Masters.

Mickelson, an Arizona State graduate, has won twice at the TPC at Scottsdale and finished second there another time. He’ll be the defending champion at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral in two weeks.

Stance: There will be no preparing Germany’s Martin Kaymer for the wildest stage in golf, a.k.a. the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. He’s the highest-ranked first-timer being introduced to the hole this week at No. 8 in the world. The 16th hole  is a stadium with a 162-yard par 3 in the middle of it. “It’s like hitting a shot in the Rose Bowl,” Tom Lehman once said. For pros, playing there is like playing through a frat party.

Takeaway:  Three of the top eight players in the world rankings will be playing this week: No. 3 Mickelson, No. 5 Ian Poulter and No. 8 Kaymer. Throw in Fred Couples, Geoff Ogilvy, Anthony Kim, Davis Love III and Camilo Villegas and there’s ample star power to cheer.

Bunker shot: Apologies to Mickelson, but J.B. Holmes rules the TPC at Scottsdale. He’s the man to beat this week. Combine his all-or-nothing record on that course with his recent form, and Holmes has to be favored to win his third title at TPC Scottsdale in five years. He’s coming off a tie for second at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a tie for third at the Northern Trust Open. In the last four years of this event, Holmes has alternated between missing the cut and winning.


HSBC Women’s Champions

If Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin are going to resume the close contest they waged for Rolex Player of the Year honor last season, this is a good event to make their first moves.

Two years ago, Ochoa won the HSBC Women’s Champions on the Tanah Mera Country Club’s Gardens Course in Singapore by a whopping 11 shots. She dusted runner-up Annika Sorenstam, sending a powerful message early in the year.

Last year, Shin won on the same course, beating Katherine Hull by two shots with Ochoa tying for sixth.

Stance: Suzann Pettersen wants to rise to No. 1 in the world before her career ends. She looked capable of making a quick move to the summit when she won five LPGA events in 2007, but she didn’t follow up, going winless in ’08 and claiming one title last year. With her runner-up finish to Ai Miyazato in the season-opener last weekend, Pettersen looks as if she might be ready to begin making that climb to the top in earnest.

Takeaway: Paula Creamer’s withdrawal from last week’s season opener is troublesome. She fought through the mysterious stomach ailment last year, and when she finally began feeling better, she was derailed by a left thumb injury. She aggravated the injury last Thursday, withdrew after the first round in Thailand and flew back to Detroit to see a hand specialist last weekend. She’s off to see a second specialist in Cincinnati later this week. It’s troubling news for the American women’s game, which could use a boost to rebound from last year’s poor showing. The Americans won five LPGA events in ’09, fewest in any season since the LPGA was formed in 1950.

Bunker shot: The LPGA could use a big story this week to jolt its 2010 storylines to a big start. After this weekend’s HSBC Women’s Champions finish, the LPGA will go silent again for three weeks. An American victory in Asia would elevate anticipation of the American start to the tour schedule at the Kia Classic March 25-28 at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif.

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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.