Par 5: Major predicament

By Randall MellJune 7, 2011, 4:16 pm

 Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large ...

Will Lee Westwood peak a week early again?

A lot of players wrestle with how to best prepare for major championships.

Do you play the week before? Do you rest the week before? Do you travel to the major championship site the weekend before to get in extra prep? Do you wear lucky socks from great rounds in your past?

Who knows? There are nearly as many formulas for winning majors as there are major championship winners.

Still, there is one rule that ranks above all others when preparing for the U.S. Open.

A player should never, ever win the week before the U.S. Open.

Why? Because nobody in the modern era has won the week before the U.S. Open and gone on to win the U.S. Open the same year.

It’s as befuddling as The Masters’ Par 3 jinx. It makes little sense.

So will Westwood make the same mistake twice? If he gets himself into contention in defense of his title on Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, you bet he’ll try. It makes little sense to play the week before a major without trying to win. No Player of integrity in this week’s event takes any such jinxes seriously. Every player in the field wants to be the guy who breaks the jinx.

Will Westwood welcome the extra pressure to perform?

It may not be possible to feel extra pressure in Westwood’s situation. He’s already loaded up with pressure by virtue of the fact that he ascended to No. 1 in the world without having won a major. He’s 38 with some close calls in majors that either embolden his bid or weigh it down. He sounds like the emboldened type as a No. 2 trying to regain his top ranking.

Still, Westwood’s decision to skip The Players Championship last month puts extra scrutiny on his run up to the U.S. Open.

Even though the PGA Tour changed its rules to give Westwood more flexibility to compete in The Players and also defend in Memphis, he passed on the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He said the 11 opportunities allowed him as a non-member playing the PGA Tour weren’t enough to make it worth the trip to The Players if he couldn’t supplement the trip with one more start. He wanted to play Quail Hollow the week before The Players and still defend in Memphis.

NBC’s Johnny Miller called Westwood’s skipping The Players as world No. 1 an affront to the championship.

“If he wins the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, he got it right,’” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s agent. “If he misses the cut at the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, why didn’t he play [The Players]?’ But you can only expect to tee it up in good shape. You can’t expect to win, only to give yourself a shot. I will be amazed if he doesn’t give himself a shot at Congressional.”

So what are the chances Robert Garrigus takes a three-shot lead to the 72nd hole this year?

It was hard to watch Garrigus blow a three-shot lead at the final hole at TPC Southwind last year, but who wouldn’t mind seeing him get another chance to win this event?

Garrigus pulled his tee shot into the water at the 72nd hole last year, took a drop and then yanked his next shot off a tree in a finish that would have made Jean Van de Velde turn his head(well, maybe not). Garrigus made triple bogey and then lost in a playoff.

Garrigus ended up being one of 2010’s feel-good stories when he redeemed himself bouncing back to win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Orlando. Given his spectacular defeat in Memphis, it was a popular victory. A win this week would be equally popular.

Who’s trying to play their way into the U.S. Open through St. Jude?

Not Sergio Garcia, thanks to his sectional qualifying effort Monday.

If there’s such a thing as karma, Garcia deserves a little golf god love at the U.S. Open after playing himself into the championship through the sectional at Tunica National in Memphis. He advanced through a playoff to earn a spot. Originally, Garcia didn’t plan on trying to qualify, but he said he found extra motivation with news his sister and her boyfriend were planning a trip from Spain to attend the U.S. Open at Congressional next week. Garcia will have more than family rooting him on after making the extra effort, which will extend his major championship appearances to 47 consecutive.

J.B. Holmes and Steve Marino weren’t so fortunate. They both missed making it through sectionals, but they can still play their way into the U.S. Open through the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week. Holmes (ranked No. 55 in the world rankings) tweeted Monday that he’d likely withdraw from Memphis so his chances are slim. Marino, No. 59, can still gain a spot in the U.S. Open by moving among the top 50 in Sunday night’s newest ranking.

Is Suzann Pettersen poised to become the No. 1 player in the world?

With all the talk about revolving No. 1s in the men’s game, it’s worth noting the women got this hot-potato theme rolling last year at the top of their world rankings.

After withdrawing from the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week with lingering effects of the flu, No. 2 Pettersen’s back in action at this week’s LPGA State Farm Classic. So is No. 1 Yani Tseng. With the event losing State Farm as its title sponsor for the last 19 years, LPGA pros will be looking to put on a good show in a bid to help woo a new title sponsor. Nine of the top 10 in the world rankings are playing this week.

Pettersen eliminated No. 1 Tseng from the Sybase Match Play Championship’s quarterfinals three weeks ago. She also knocked off Na Yeon Choi in the semifinals and Cristie Kerr in the finals in an impressive stream roll to the title. Pettersen’s run bumped her to No. 2 in the world, where she’s poised to try to become the fifth player in the last year to hold the No. 1 ranking.

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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.