Coming Up Empty

By Randall MellJune 21, 2010, 8:38 am
2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – You could almost see tendrils of smoke coming out Ernie Els’ ears as he marched out of the scoring trailer and through assembled media at the end of Sunday’s U.S. Open.

Witnesses testifying against the mob don’t make more determined exits from courthouses.

“He wants [a major championship] really badly,” said Chubby Chandler, his agent. “That’s his 31st top 10 in a major. Pretty amazing.”

And immensely aggravating.

Tiger Woods stopped to face the inquisition in the media bullpen behind the 18th green at Pebble Beach, but there was frustration of his own. Woods recounted bad decisions at the sixth, 10th and 12th holes that he believes cost him a chance to win his 15th major championship.

“You take away those three mental errors, and I’m right there, I’m tied for the lead,” Woods said.

Phil Mickelson staggered away lamenting his chance to win his first U.S. Open.

“Obviously, I wanted to win,” Mickelson said. “I had opportunities.”

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell winning the U.S. Open to become the first European to win the title in 40 years wasn’t the stunning upset here on the craggy shores of Carmel Bay. It was that three of the titans of this era failed to capitalize on terrific opportunities.

McDowell finished a shot ahead of France’s Gregory Havret to win.

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson failed to record his first U.S. Open victory. (Getty Images)

History will note that the three most decorated players of this era kept backing up when circumstances begged them to step forward.

Els finished third two shots back with Mickelson and Woods tied for fourth three back.

If you wondered if all those twentysomethings winning is a sign that a new era is dawning, this U.S. Open adds to your suspicions.

Without Woods at his best, the game seems as wide open as this U.S. Open was going to the back nine.

That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re entering an exciting new era of golf.

If the back nine is where the Masters begins, it’s where the U.S. Open ends, at least at Pebble Beach on this gray and dreary ending.

McDowell didn’t win this title so much as everyone else lost it.

Apologies to McDowell, because that’s immensely unfair to him, but that’s how this crazy Sunday felt with so many of the game’s best players squandering chances.

There was a terrific moment at the fourth tee box early in the day.

That’s where Woods set up to play under the large leaderboard there. It’s where he first got to see that Dustin Johnson was falling apart and turning this championship into a free-for-all.

With Johnson making triple bogey behind him, Woods could see he was now within three shots of the lead. So were Els and Mickelson.

Pebble Beach crackled with spectacular possibilities, but that’s what made this finish so unsatisfying.

The disappointment wasn’t in seeing McDowell win. It was in seeing three players as gifted as Woods, Mickelson and Els fail to challenge him. The three of them combined to make two birdies on the back nine.

Mickelson birdied the first hole, but he seemed to lose momentum failing to capitalize after smashing his tee shot to the fringe of the fourth green, a 325-yard par 4. He three putted for par.

“That was frustrating,” Mickelson said.

Almost as frustrating as failing to make a single birdie on the back nine.

“All I had to do was shoot even par in the back, and I'm in a playoff,” Mickelson said.

Woods was paired with Havret, where we saw the strongest evidence yet that Woods no longer intimidates opponents. Havret schooled Woods on the front nine, playing precision and almost error-free golf, making the turn in 1 under for the day. Woods bogeyed four of his first eight holes.

“This course baits you into being aggressive,” Woods said.

Woods took the bait too often. His swing was too loose under Sunday pressure.

Els’ putting continues to be a problem under pressure. His stroke’s tentative and short and unreliable and that doesn’t bode well for his dream of adding to his two U.S. Open titles and British Open title.

Was the setup too difficult? Tom Watson said it was difficult but fair.

Even McDowell was surprised he wasn’t pushed by this era’s proven stars.

“I was surprised that Gregory Havret was the guy closest to me,” McDowell said. “No disrespect to Gregory, he's a great player, but when you have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els obviously there, you're not expecting Gregory Havret to be the guy you've got to fend off.”

That pretty much summed up this Sunday at Pebble Beach.

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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 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.