Bunker Shots Remedy for a slow start

By Randall MellJanuary 26, 2010, 8:21 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Lefty’s debut to another strong event in the Middle East.

Farmers Insurance Open

The PGA Tour’s sluggish start might have a remedy this week.

Dr. Phil’s making a house call.

That’s the role Phil Mickelson served on the U.S. Presidents Cup team last fall. Captain Fred Couples kept throwing players who needed some medicinal aid at him and Mickelson kept providing the remedy required. Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Sean O’Hair all got healing help hitching their games to Mickelson’s in the team event. Nobody lost while paired with Mickelson in that week's victory against the Internationals.

Mickelson could give the entire PGA Tour a booster shot this week with a quick start.

Though Mickelson likes to play himself into shape early in the year, he knows fast starts. He’ll be looking to win his season opener for the fifth time in his career when he tees it up in Thursday’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He’ll be looking to do it for the first time since he won the Bob Hope Classic six years ago.

If Mickelson can pull it off, he’ll have achieved a first in his 19-year professional career. Though he has claimed 40 titles worldwide since turning pro in 1992, he’s never won three tournaments in a row. Mickelson won his last two starts in 2009, the Tour Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Stance: With Tiger Woods turning Torrey Pines into his traditional first start, the event has come to feel like the start of the PGA Tour season the last few years. Woods made it a big-bang start winning his season debuts there in ’06, ’07 and ’08, but his recovery from knee surgery kept him away in ’09 and the troubles in his personal life are keeping him away again this season. He isn’t the only big name staying away this year. Mickelson is the only top-10 player in the world rankings in the event.

Takeaway: Four events into the new year, with January coming to a close, it still doesn’t feel like the PGA Tour season has begun in earnest. The PGA Tour’s season-opener may never feel like Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, but the Tour could use a big event earlier in its schedule. Why not move the Accenture Match Play Championship to this week, a week before the Super Bowl? The Accenture feels like an All-Star Game with some March Madness bracketing creating office pool fun. The action-packed first two rounds of Match Play and all their upsets rank among the most crazy days of the season. The game could use the energy earlier in the year.

Bunker shot: Mickelson believes his work with Butch Harmon is paying off with his driver becoming more dependable. He believes Dave Stockton’s making his putter more reliable. He made believers of fellow Tour pros beating Woods at the Tour Championship and whipping him head-to-head in the final round of the HSBC Champions in China. There’s evidence he’s poised for his best season yet.

Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Back in the day, pros used to say the golf season didn’t begin until the Florida Swing.

You could argue now that it begins with the European Tour’s Middle Eastern Swing.

The start feels so much more important over there.

The game’s highest ranked players are testing their games against each other in the desert yet again this week.

Stance: Eight of the top 14 players in the world teed it up at the Abu Dhabi Championship last week. By comparison, the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic didn’t feature a single player among the top 14. The Qatar Masters boasts seven of the top 14 players in the world this week, nine of the top 20. Mickelson’s the lone player from the top 14 at the Farmers Insurance Open, with just three of the top 20 competing.

Takeaway: South African Charl Schwartzel will be looking to win his third consecutive European Tour start. After winning back-to-back events in his homeland, he took last week off. With a stiffer test this week, we get a better gauge of what to make of his start. Long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros is the defending champ.

Bunker shot: With his victory against a strong field at Abu Dhabi last week, Germany’s Martin Kaymer continued to build on his swelling reputation, leaping eight spots to No. 6 in the world rankings. He’s 25 but has won three European Tour events in the last six months, five for his career. He tied for sixth in his last major, the PGA Championship. His record over the last six months might be even more impressive if he hadn’t missed two months after breaking three bones in his right foot in a go-kart accident last August. Kaymer looks like the next European star in the making.

And also . . .

The Nationwide Tour’s 21st season begins with Thursday’s start to the Michael Hill New Zealand Open at the Hills Golf Club in Queenstown.

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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.