West Coast swing feeling the pinch

By Randall MellFebruary 5, 2014, 10:35 pm

They’re juggling.

They’re experimenting.

They’re re-thinking how best to prepare for golf’s biggest events.

The game’s best players are finding their schedules becoming more complicated and challenging as golf’s “world tour” continues to evolve.

We’re seeing these challenges making an impact on the West Coast swing while bolstering the Florida swing. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson look like they will both make their fewest West Coast swing starts ever.

Woods may end up playing just once on the West Coast, Mickelson just three times.

Age and health are functions of new scheduling choices for Woods and Mickelson, but there’s more to it than that.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, videos and photos

“The year basically gets pretty congested for most of the players, starting at the British Open, and some who play the week prior to the British, because then if you play the British Open, then usually some guys have to go play Canada,” Woods said last week. “For me, I take that week off, but then it's Firestone, then it's the PGA, then a week off, then all four playoff events, and then for the Americans, there's a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup every year ...

“Now, with this new wraparound schedule going on, I think we're all trying to get our heads literally wrapped around it, and trying to get a feel for it. I don't know how far behind I was in FedEx Cup points when I came back, but Jimmy Walker already has won twice with this new scheduling system. It's very different.”

It’s another new twist players are figuring out.

Adam Scott is amid a six-week break. He’s skipping the entire West Coast swing for the first time since he joined the PGA Tour in 2003. He won’t tee it up again until the Honda Classic in three weeks.

“There’s got to be a break somewhere,” said Scott, who made the most of the Australian swing in December. “You can’t continue to perform at the level you want if you play all the time.”

Graeme McDowell is making his first start of 2014 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week. He’s ending a 10-week break.

“I’m actually scheduling myself to prepare myself more for the playoffs this year, because I feel I’ve been beat up by the time I’ve come to August, September, the last three years,” McDowell told the Irish Golf Desk. “My schedule revolves around being ready for the summer this year, being ready for August, September, the Ryder Cup.”

McDowell could be speaking for a lot of players.

With the PGA Tour’s new wraparound schedule, with rich international paydays waiting late in the season, the beginning of a new year is looking like the best time for elite players to get some rest.

Mickelson is skipping the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, usually a staple on his schedule. He’s also skipping the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He has played as many as six West Coast swing events before the Masters in the past. This year will mark the first time he’ll play fewer than four times on the West Coast swing.

Woods is off to a sluggish start in great measure, it appears, because he took some extra time off in the offseason to rest. It’s carrying over to fewer starts on the West coast swing and fewer pre-Masters starts.

Woods used to play eight events at year’s start to get himself ready for the Masters. That’s how many times he played before he won at Augusta National in ’97, in ’01 and in ’02. He played seven times at year’s start before he won his last Masters in ’05.

With Woods looking as if he’ll join Mickelson in skipping the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this year, it appears Woods will play just five times leading into this Masters, just once on the West Coast swing, his fewest starts out there. Well, that’s not counting 2010, when he was coming back from his personal woes and didn’t play anywhere before the Masters. Woods, Mickelson, Scott and Rory McIlroy are all scheduled to play Honda and the WGC-Cadillac Championship on the Florida swing.

With Woods 38 now, age is part of the function of his changing schedule. So is his health. The nature of the changing “world tour” is also a factor, with so many big events late in the summer.

So much has changed since Woods joined the Tour in ’96. With the launch of World Golf Championship events, with the creation of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with lucrative international opportunities growing late in the year, scheduling choices have expanded.

And the game’s best are still figuring just what their best choices are. So, expect more juggling and experimenting.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

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.