Teen dreams, Olympic drama at U.S. Women's Open

By Randall MellJuly 5, 2016, 11:29 am

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko relishes the return of the U.S. Women’s Open to California for the first time in more than three decades.

Ko has already won twice in California this year, including the year’s first major championship.

Six of Ko’s 13 LPGA titles have come on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. She likes the mountainous topography of the region.

“It reminds me of New Zealand,” the Kiwi Ko said. “When you go to places that aren’t home but feel a lot like home, it makes a difference.”

World No. 2 Brooke Henderson is just as pleased to be teeing it up at CordeValle Golf Club just south of San Jose this week with all three of her LPGA titles coming on the West Coast over the last 10 months. The Canadian claimed her first major last month at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship outside Seattle.

“Getting the major championship win in Washington, knowing that I can win a major championship, was definitely a huge momentum changer,” Henderson said. “And then coming off a win in Portland, I think it really is going to give me a lot of confidence.”

Can these young stars keep the teenage sweep of majors going this season?

Will the 19-year-old Ko and 18-year-old Henderson be able to repeat the theatrics they created in their epic duel at Sahalee in June? They put a jolt of new excitement in the women’s game with their dramatic finishes at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

U.S. Women’s Open: Articles, photos and videos

What about Ariya Jutanugarn, who fell just short of joining Ko and Henderson in that playoff? The 20-year-old Thai is bidding to win a tour-best fourth LPGA title this season and her first major.

The U.S. Women’s Open is stacked with storylines beyond this youthful trio as Olympic qualifying will conclude with the final putt’s drop on Sunday. The Olympic golf dream seems to be a much larger ambition among the women than the men with South Africa’s Lee Anne Pace so far the only woman to withdraw her name from Olympic consideration, because of the Zika virus. Several of the top names in men’s golf, including Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, have already done so.

“The Olympics has been my No. 1 goal,” said Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world at No. 4. “Winning the Olympics would be better than a major.”

The competition to make it to Rio de Janeiro is most intense within the South Korean ranks with the battle so bunched that a dozen women are still within reach of claiming one of the four spots available to that country.

“A gold medal would be bigger than winning a major because it’s the first time for us in the Olympics,” Sei Young Kim said of the intense interest back in South Korea. “The Olympics is the reason I came over to play the LPGA.”

The Koreans don’t have a monopoly on Olympic qualifying drama.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb’s Olympic dream hangs in the balance as she sits outside the qualifying criteria and needs a big finish this week to claim a spot on the Australian team. Webb has fallen to No. 59 in the world rankings and needs to pass No. 39 Sun-Hyun Oh to secure a spot on the Aussie team in Rio. Oh is also in this week’s field.

And what about the United States?

It’s been a tough haul so far in 2016 for the Americans, who are on pace for a historically awful year. Through the first 19 LPGA events this year, Thompson is the lone player from the United States to win an event. In the 67-year history of the LPGA, the Americans have never gone more than 17 consecutive events without winning. If they fail to win the U.S. Women’s Open this week, it will mark 16 straight the Americans have failed to win this year.

The Americans have never failed to win at least four LPGA titles in a season, but the South Koreans have to be the favored nation this week. The South Koreans are putting their stamp on the U.S. Women’s Open. They’re looking to win the championship for the fifth time in the last six years.

In Gee Chun defeated fellow South Korean Amy Yang in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club outside Philadelphia.

If the Olympics were staged today, Thompson and Stacy Lewis would be the only American women playing.

According to Olympic rules, a country is allowed a maximum of four qualifiers, provided all four are among the top 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Only Thompson at No. 4 and Lewis at No. 8 were among the top 15 in Monday’s release of the newest rankings.

How much have American women slipped since Olympic qualifying began two years ago? There were eight Americans among the top 15 in the Rolex rankings when Olympic qualifying began on July 14, 2014. Lewis, Thompson, Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Lizette Salas and Jessica Korda were part of that group, that first week.

Gerina Piller’s hovering on the Olympic bubble this week at No. 16 with Kerr at No. 21, Korda No. 24, Lincicome No. 25 and Morgan Pressel No. 28. 

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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 GolfChannel.com 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.