U.S. 'best golfing nation' at International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 25, 2016, 12:32 am

GURNEE, Ill. – The words washing over Stacy Lewis were sweeter than any douse of celebratory champagne.

“To be called the best golfing nation is pretty satisfying, just to hear that being announced when we're getting those trophies,” Lewis said Sunday evening after the United States won the UL International Crown. “That was so cool for me, because we're under constant scrutiny of, `Why aren't the Americans playing well? Why aren't they winning?’ I don't know how else to say it, other than it's just really satisfying.”

This looked like it might be an epically bad year for the United States in women’s golf, when June rolled around and Lexi Thompson was the only American winner of an LPGA event. Now, there looms the possibility it might be an epically grand summer, with Brittany Lang winning the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago, with the Ricoh Women’s British Open next week and the Olympics a couple weeks after that.

All of a sudden, the Americans have momentum working for them.

“I think we're all pumped for the major next week,” Lewis said. “Everybody is playing well.

“I had a feeling that this could happen, because we were all playing well at the U.S. Open. Cristie Kerr and I kind of talked about that. Hopefully, the four of us can ride some momentum and bring another trophy back to the U.S.”

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The Americans beamed when they were “crowned as the best golfing nation” in the women’s game at the trophy presentation. They were literally crowned champions. UL CEO and president Keith Williams placed sterling silver Tiffany crowns upon the heads of Lewis, Kerr, Thompson and Gerina Piller in the festive aftermath.

Best golfing nation?

The Americans haven’t heard words like that to describe them in a long time.

“This week has been unbelievable for us,” Lewis said.

Just as they did at the Solheim Cup in Germany last fall, the Americans dug themselves out of a hole to win.

After getting swept Thursday in the opening round of fourballs at the Merit Club, the Americans rallied hard, losing just one of their next eight matches.

This comeback wasn’t as epic or historic as what the Americans mounted against the Europeans at St. Leon-Rot last September, but it was impressive nonetheless, given how a first-round sweep led to their elimination in the inaugural International Crown two years ago.

Lewis, Thompson, Piller and Kerr were all members of that winning Solheim Cup team last fall.

In fact, they were the best American pairings in Germany, going undefeated as partners. Kerr paired with Thompson at the Merit Club, just as she did for three matches at the Solheim Cup. And Lewis paired with Piller, just as she did for two matches at St. Leon-Rot.

Cumulatively, they were 4-0-1 in Germany.

So there was comfort and confidence carrying over from that Solheim Cup.

“We didn't really talk about that,” Piller said. “But I know for me, and I'm sure everyone else, that deep down inside, it was kind of like `We can do this. We've done this before. We've done the unthinkable, and now we're kind of in a similar situation.’ There wasn't a whole lot of panic going on within our team, which was great.”

Kerr, the veteran, clinched the victory with a two-putt birdie at the 16th hole in Sunday singles, defeating England’s gritty Mel Reid, 3 and 2. The Americans took three of their four singles matches.

“It's so complicated trying to figure out all the points, I was like, `Just handle my match, and we'll worry about it later,’” Kerr said.

The United States won the second rendition of the UL with 13 points, one point ahead of the Republic of Korea, the top seed. That’s the equivalent of winning by a halved match. England finished third with 11 points.

“We had zero points the first day, and we still ended up with the most,” Lewis said. “It's just a testament to [my teammates] and their will to want to win this thing.”

Lewis, the former Rolex world No. 1, led off for the Americans, defeating Japan’s Mika Miyazato. It was Lewis’ first singles victory as a professional golfer. She is 0-2-1 in Solheim Cup singles.

It was also Lewis’ first victory on American soil playing for a United States team.

It all made the victory that much more special to her.

“I never won an amateur event on U.S. soil, so it’s really nice,” Lewis said.

Piller came out after Lewis and defeated Chinese Taipei’s Yani Tseng, 4 and 3.

Thompson lost her match to So Yeon Ryu (2 and 1), but she was a force in fourballs, going 2-1 with Kerr.

“Being out here representing my country, it's always the highest honor,” Thompson said. “To be alongside these girls, it's the best. Words can't describe it.”

But the words “best golfing nation” were sweet anyway.

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.

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.