Rooting for drama in the battle of Tiger vs. Jack

By Randall MellFebruary 13, 2012, 9:00 pm

There is no cheering in the press box.

The mandate governs an important ethical principle among sportswriters.

We are not supposed to root, but I have a confession to make. I do root.

Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.

I’ve rooted at nearly every sporting event I’ve ever covered.

I don’t do it openly, but in my head, I’m cheering like a face-painted NFL fanatic in a crazy team-colored wig.

I root for drama. I always have. I typically root for the team that is behind to make it close, to cut into the deficit it is facing. In the wildest back-and-forth games, I’ve rooted for both sides.

As a sports writer, as a lover of sports, I want to see a game, match or contest come down to the last play, to the last shot or the last point. (Though I admit deadlines make blowouts easier to write in late night games.)

There is nothing in sports better than a two-minute drive with the outcome on the line in an NFL or college football game . . .

Nothing like the last shot in a tie game in the NBA or college basketball . . .

Nothing like a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth in Major League Baseball . . .

Nothing like watching a player needing to make birdie at the 72nd hole to win a golf tournament . . .

There is nothing more riveting in sport than seeing how talented human beings respond when the pressure is ratcheted up to the highest level. We’re all more alive with that last Hail Mary pass in the air, with that last fade-away jump shot floating toward the basket, with the last pitch blazing toward home plate. That’s where greatness is revealed, or undone, if just for a moment in a player’s life. Those are the moments I root to see.

That’s why I have another confession to make.

I’m not just rooting for Tiger Woods to win another major championship. I’m rooting for him to win three more. I’m rooting for him to get to 17 major championship triumphs, to get to where he’s breathing down Jack Nicklaus’ neck in the greatest quest in modern sports. I’m rooting for a dramatic, pressure-packed conclusion to Woods’ attempt to overtake Nicklaus as winner of the most major championships.

Now, what happens after Woods gets to 17 majors, that is left to fate, to destiny, to the will and gifts of the humans involved in the struggle.

But I want to see the drama that quest can produce, the excitement it can create.

I want to see the greatest chase in our generation re-engaged. I want to see it come down the wire. I’m rooting for that moment.

Woods, you know, wants it more than anyone. His Sunday failure at Pebble Beach feels like it makes the quest harder, creating another scar to overcome, but it’s possible the failure merely heightens his drive. Phil Mickelson said Woods brings out the best in him. The sting of that loss might ultimately bring out the best in Woods again.

As a kid, I was a Hank Aaron fan riveted by his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s career home-run record. Growing up in southern Wisconsin, I was a paper boy for the Chicago Tribune, and every morning, before folding the papers, I’d peel out the sports page to see if Aaron hit another homer, to see how close he was to reaching and passing Ruth’s magical mark of 714 homers.

I think my face was about 2 feet from the TV screen when the Dodgers’ Al Downing served up the ball Aaron hit to pass Ruth. I felt like I was 10 feet in the air when Aaron’s blast cleared the fence at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Back then, I was rooting for Aaron to break the record.

Today, I’m rooting for the drama, for the possibility of returning to a moment like that, where greatness is defined or denied, where we’re all more alive with the last ball in the air

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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.