Kim, Villegas eager to start fresh in 2012

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2011, 1:59 am

NAPLES, Fla. – A silly-season event might be just the tonic a pair of frustrated young stars need this week.

Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas hope to have some fun at the Franklin Templeton Shootout to punctuate years that were no fun at all.

Typically, the players who parade to Tiburon Golf Club do so as a reward for successful seasons.

Kim, 26, and Villegas, 29, arrive on the heels of the worst seasons of their young careers.

Both are three-time PGA Tour winners. Both last won in 2010. Both are dynamic personalities with big games and big potential, yet both battled battered confidence and suspect they may have tried too hard.

“It has been a long couple years,” Kim said after Wednesday’s pro-am. “It has been tough, but I think I’m going to come out a better player for it.”

Villegas struck a similar tone.

“That’s the nature of the game, golf and sports,” Villegas said. “You have great years, average years, bad years. This year was, hopefully, one of the bad ones, and next year we can turn it around.”

Kim is teamed with Webb Simpson this week, Villegas with Rickie Fowler. They’ll play a format of modified alternate shot, better ball and two-man scramble.

“This format is probably the most fun you can get,” Villegas said.

Kim’s all for making the game feel fun again. He recorded a career-low two top-10 finishes this season. He slumped to 87th on the PGA Tour money list, his lowest finish in his five seasons. He finished 176th in greens in regulation, 81st in scoring.

The slide goes back directly to Kim’s thumb surgery in May 2010. After a strong start that year, with a tie for second at the Honda Classic, a third-place finish at the Masters and a tie for seventh at the Wells Fargo Championship, Kim needed surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb.

After three months away, Kim made his comeback at the WGC-Bridgestone in a desperate bid to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He came back too soon. His thumb wasn’t ready, and his swing suffered.

Deep into that year, there was lingering pain, but, mostly, there were doubts in Kim’s head about his thumb. He couldn’t make sure passes, and an accumulation of uncertain passes damaged his confidence.

“I feel like I’m finally over the injury, mentally,” Kim said.

Kim became so frustrated this season, he took six weeks off after being eliminated from the FedEx Cup. He touched his clubs once in that time away, playing in a previously scheduled corporate outing. He said he needed the escape because, mentally, he was beating himself up something awful.

“It’s actually tougher to make cuts, or be right on the cut line on a Friday, than it is to just win a golf tournament,” Kim said. “When you’re not playing well, when you’re grinding to make pars, to make cuts, or you need a birdie on the last hole to make a cut, that’s harder than being in contention.”

Kim said that wore him out this year.

“So the month and a half I took off did wonders for me before going to Asia,” Kim said.

In his late October return at the Shanghai Masters, Kim felt refreshed. He posted four rounds in the 60s and took Rory McIlroy to a playoff before losing on the first extra hole.

“Golf is all about confidence, repetition,” Kim said. “If you continue to hit bad shots, no matter who you are, it will start to bother you. You start to try to figure a way out of the funk. Sometimes, the more you dig, the deeper the hole gets and you can’t get out of it. So that month and a half off was necessary.”

Kim arrived in Naples ready to enjoy the game again. He said his mother has helped him work on a better attitude, a better perspective in understanding golf isn’t his whole world. He says it is helping.

“Playing the PGA Tour, you forget how lucky you are,” Kim said. “I’m ready to start a new season. I’m ready to play some better golf. It’s happened before where I’ve had bad years and come back with good years.”

Villegas’ year got off to a trying start with a disqualification after the first round of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The DQ came after a TV viewer called in to report seeing Villegas sweep away loose impediments as Villegas’ ball rolled back toward his feet on a chip shot.

After that, nothing went to plan, with Villegas believing he probably worked too hard and tinkered too much to get better. He said he was playing with a grip that got too strong.

“I was seeing a lot of double crosses, and that’s just not pretty,” Villegas said. “I just hit the ball badly the first half. When you start doing that, you start losing confidence, and maybe you start over-thinking, trying to change certain things that don’t necessarily need to be changed. It’s a little snowball effect.”

With just one top-10 finish deep into August, Villegas’ game began to fall into place. He made a strong FedEx Cup run. He has recorded four top 10s in his last six starts.

“I’m looking forward to next year,” Villegas said. “I’m hitting it better. I definitely have more confidence. I’m happier.”

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 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.