Fading Stars

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2011, 7:51 am

Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES – Have you cast a gaze at the PGA Tour heavens lately?

There’s something wrong.

The stars don’t have their usual luster this season.

It’s not just the Tiger Woods constellation trying to find its dazzling hue.

With the West Coast Swing nearing its end, the PGA Tour’s best and brightest aren’t at their best nor are they particularly bright.

Phil Mickelson’s still searching for his winning form. He arrived at the Northern Trust Open this week looking for his first victory since last year’s Masters.

Defending champion Steve Stricker barely made the cut this week and left Riviera playing the final four holes in 4-over par.

Jim Furyk barely avoided missing his third consecutive cut.

Even at Riviera, a course built in the shadow of Tinseltown, the famed home of stars like Humphrey Bogart, Douglas Fairbanks, Gregory Peck, Dean Martin and Vic Damone, star power couldn’t win out.

Freddie Couples got beat.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is still looking for his first win since the 2010 Masters.
And it’s saying something that Couples, 51, and Vijay Singh, 47, were the biggest names on the weekend leaderboard.

No offense to Aaron Baddeley, he’s a good story, by all accounts a terrific gentleman, but despite the stardom predicted for him as a hotshot kid from Australia, he’s been mostly a supporting actor in the four seasons since his last victory.

Baddeley arrived at Riviera ranked No. 224 in the world.

In that respect, he’s a perfect fit in the PGA Tour winner’s circle this year.

The world rank of the average winner this season is No. 151.

Jonathan Byrd was No. 121 when he won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Mark Wilson No. 237 when he won the Sony Open, Jhonny Vegas No. 187 when he won the Bob Hope Classic, Wilson No. 91 at the Waste Management Open and D.A. Points No. 167 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Bubba Watson is the highest ranked winner of a PGA Tour event this season, winning the Farmers Insurance Open with the No. 33 ranking.

I wrote this last week, but my point hasn’t changed. With Woods in a funk, it isn’t that nobody’s dominant today. It’s that nobody’s close.

The current No. 1 in the world (Lee Westwood) has won just once on the European Tour or PGA Tour in the last 16 months and has never won a major.

It’s notable that Frank Chirkinian was named a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee last week. The Emmy winning CBS executive producer for golf will tell you it’s vital the sport has dominant winners to generate excitement in the game.

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, is it’s always looking for a star,” Chirkinian once said. “It’s the only sport where fans will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

At this rate, Mark Wilson might have locked up the 2011 PGA Tour Player of the Year award with his two West Coast titles.

I know, it’s early, but this is a trend dating back through all of last season.

Matt Kuchar was a serious contender for PGA Tour Player of the Year honors with just one victory in 2010.

Last year opened with 13 different PGA Tour winners over the first 13 events.

The PGA Tour’s evolving. There are some potentially dominant figures and dynamic stars knocking on the door. Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jhonny Vegas and Rickie Fowler all have large doses of game or personality to brighten golf’s heavens. Westwood could put it all together in the majors this year. Mickelson may be on the verge of a big run. Woods might find his magic again.

In the meantime, golf’s heavens don’t make you gape in wonder so much.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.