Par 5 Stars and Stripes

By Randall MellFebruary 15, 2011, 7:52 pm
Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for professional golf at large ...

Will the PGA Tour’s stars start to shine in L.A.?

Six weeks into the season, the average world ranking of the year’s PGA Tour winners is No. 139.

Nobody inside the top 30 at the time of his victory has won yet this year.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is looking for his first non-major win since 2009. (Getty Images)
Bubba Watson’s the highest ranked winner. He was No. 33 when he won the Farmers Insurance Open three weeks ago.

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 at the Bob Hope Classic, Wilson No. 91 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and D.A. Points No. 167 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

With Tiger Woods in a funk, it isn’t that nobody’s dominant today. It’s that nobody’s even close.

Matt Kuchar won once last year and was a serious candidate for PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Since the start of the 2009 season, here’s a list of the PGA Tour pros with the most victories:

Tiger Woods, 6.

Steve Stricker, 5.

Phil Mickelson, 4.

Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Mark Wilson, 3.
Can the Northern Trust Open thrive without Tiger Woods?

Jerry West might not have landed Woods, but the NBA legend and tournament executive director has a very strong field with a lot of potentially compelling storylines.

We saw at Torrey Pines just three weeks ago how riveting the action can be without Woods in the mix.

Watson’s victory over Mickelson and Vegas was great theater and all three are in the field again this week. So is defending champion Stricker. Five of the top 10 in the world rankings are at Rivera. That’s one more than played in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with Woods there last week. Thirty of the top 50 are at Riviera, that’s three times more than played at Dubai last week. West has an All-Star field and it will be interesting to see if Southern California turns out to watch.
Can Phil Mickelson win at Riviera for the third time?

Mickelson won at Riviera in 2009 and ’08 and finished second there in ’07.

In his last 16 rounds on that demanding course, his scoring average is 68.18.

Yes, Lefty's playing well enough to win this week, though you have to wonder if endurance will become a factor. In a very busy start to the season, he’s playing in his fifth consecutive tournament. Though Mickelson hasn’t gone low to spark a run to victory yet this year, he’s avoiding the poor rounds that slowed him after his Masters victory last year. In 20 rounds this season, Mickelson’s been under par 19 times. He was at even par in the only round he failed to break par and has a run going of 13 consecutive rounds under par.

Next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship will mark Mickelson’s sixth consecutive week.
Is Yani Tseng poised to be the next dominant player in the women’s game?

With back-to-back victories in Australia to open the season, 2010 LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Yani Tseng seized the No. 1 Rolex world ranking for the first time in her career.

Tseng, 22, is a power player serving notice that she might be ready to be the next dominant player in the women’s game. She’s already won three major championships, showing she can summon her best in the biggest events.

Tseng will be going for her third victory in as many weeks when she tees it up in the LPGA season-opener Thursday at the Honda LPGA Thailand event. All the big names in women’s golf will be in the 60-player field with Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi, Brittany Linicome, Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis in the mix.
How will the Americans fare in the LPGA 2011?

Will Kerr dizzy the competition with more performances like her 12-shot romp at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship?

Will Creamer remain healthy and build on her U.S. Women’s Open triumph last summer?

Will Wie win for a third consecutive season, or even up the ante with a multiple win season?

Do Lincicome, Pressel and Stanford have large moves in mind this year?

With just 13 American LPGA events on the schedule, the tour needs its American stars to shine more than ever. Yes, the Asian rise has helped cultivate new markets, but American companies like investing in American winners. It’s a fact of life.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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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.