No more fear factor

By Randall MellAugust 10, 2011, 7:38 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods mercilessly choked new growth.

He towered so formidably over the game that young talent couldn’t blossom in his shadow. His beat downs stunted youthful ambition before it could threaten his dominion.

“Tiger destroyed a lot of players, confidence wise,” says Butch Harmon, Woods’ former swing coach.

It’s probably no coincidence that a new wave of youth is on the rise as Woods slumps.

The irony is that Woods inspired this new generation, and now he’s doing the kids a large favor by getting out of their way so they have room to grow.

The PGA Championship begins Thursday with so many gifted young players aiming for the big prize at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa don’t have clear paths to superstardom, but they have the advantage a generation didn’t have a decade ago. They have a path unblocked by Woods.

“Is it easier for young guys now that Tiger isn’t sucking up all the oxygen?” Stewart Cink said. “In a way it is, because it gives more young players an opportunity to show their stuff. He isn’t winning as much. He isn’t hogging all the attention, all the press. There’s room right now for a Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler to emerge and become a superstar. These guys were going to be good anyway, but in Tiger’s absence . . .”

In Tiger’s absence, there’s a chance to make it happen faster.

“These kids don’t have the fear of Tiger because they aren’t getting their brains beat in by Tiger,” Harmon said. “They are fearless.

“It’s unbelievable how good they are, and they’re only going to get better.”

The game’s at pivotal turning point with Woods off his form, with a changing of the guard at hand. The wonderful question looming over all of it is whether Woods regains his form, whether he bounces back to make these kids measure themselves against the guy they grew up idolizing.

If Tiger finds his form, the game could enjoy another terrific jolt seeing him take on his litter.

These kids weren’t just inspired watching Woods beat down all his peers. They dreamed of beating Woods themselves.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was 7 years old when Woods won his first major in a 12-shot runaway at the Masters. McIlroy said as a boy he imagined duels with Woods, imagined having putts to beat Woods in the U.S. Open or Masters.

McIlroy imagined measuring himself against Woods. He was asked Wednesday if he still imagines it.

“Tiger didn’t give anyone a chance 10 years ago,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, it would be great to measure yourself up against that, but on the other side, if he does get back to that, get back to the way he played, it gives us less of a chance. So, it’s sort of a double-edged sword.”

Manassero, the 18-year-old Italian who’s already won twice on the European Tour, was a week shy of his fourth birthday when Woods won his first Masters, but Manassero says he remembers it.

“I actually do have a little memory of it, because it was such a big Masters,” Manassero said. “I really watched the Tiger era, and I followed him closely. I think all of us who grew up watching him dominate would like to see him come back. We grew up with the idea he would own all the major championship records, so it would be really, really good to see him back doing it again after all that’s passed.”

Manassero said dueling Woods would be like walking through a dream.

“Getting to duel with Tiger would be an achievement in itself, but if it would go my way, that would be amazing,” Manassero said.

Fowler, 22, was 8 when he watched Woods win his first Masters.

“If you grew up watching Tiger and weren’t inspired, something’s wrong,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he would relish seeing Woods return to form in hopes he could measure himself against Woods at his best.

“Definitely,” Fowler said. “I want to win tournaments, and I’m obviously looking for my first, and I want to win with Tiger Woods in the field. I would like to see him playing well again. I want to beat the best players in the world.”

They want to beat the guy who looked like he was going to be the best who ever lived.

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.

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.