10-million-dollar Bill

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2011, 11:13 pm

ATLANTA – Now this we can understand, two players trading blows on a classic layout with $11.4 million on the line.

On Sunday at East Lake the Confusion Cup gave way to the ultimate competitive clarity. A playoff to decide a playoff, overtime overload for some, a work of art for Bill Haas. A day that began with one American Solheim Cup player in tears ended with a U.S. Presidents Cup captain cheering.

To recap, Haas secured the Tour Championship title, the FedEx Cup crown, some $11.4 million in assorted winnings and a likely text message from U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples welcoming him to the team sometime soon thanks to a gritty performance that simplified the endless calculations with refreshing simplicity.

Haas finished 72 holes at the Tour Championship tied with Hunter Mahan at 8 under, traded pars at the first extra hole, got up-and-down from East Lake – really, the lake, or at least part of its receded boundaries – at the second and coolly two-putted the last overtime frame (No. 18) from 50 feet for par and a $10 million payday and $1.4 million winner’s check.

Three extra holes to decide a championship in Atlanta. Sound familiar?

Not a bad haul for a guy who’d been clipped twice this season in a playoff and finished his Saturday round bogey/double-bogey to slip out of the lead, and seemingly off Couples’ radar for a captain’s pick on Tuesday.

“I told him, ‘You’re probably playing better than anyone else in the field, you just need to believe in it,’” said Jay Haas, Bill’s father and one of Couples’ assistant captains. “You’d have thought he was the worst golfer in Georgia last night, so I am unbelievably proud of him.”

If Couples needed any proof of the young Haas’ grit it came by way a flurry of Seve-like saves at the first and second extra holes. The latter was particularly impressive considering he went from a fairway bunker to a bank adjacent the 17th green. From the mud Haas made magic, splashing his shot to 2 feet to extend the playoff.

“During the practice round me and my caddie looked down there (on No. 17) and saw how low the water was. We threw some balls down there just in case,” said Mahan, who dropped his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the last extra hole and failed to convert his 14-footer for par. “But he spun it – that’s all you need to know about that shot.”

And all one needed to know about the FedEx Cup was answered on Sunday. For the second time in five years the Tour hit the lottery, with a dramatic finish that cleared the math-muddled air and gave the galleries, however thin, something to understand.

To comprehend the extent of the projection madness consider this scenario as the action unfolded with the final groups finishing their rounds. If Mahan were to double bogey the 18th hole in regulation, Haas would have won the Tour Championship and Luke Donald would have collected the FedEx Cup cash and prizes, or so the Tour’s pocket protectors explained.

When Webb Simpson, the points leader entering the finale, walked off the golf course more than an hour before the leaders were finished he was tied for 22nd and needed Aaron Baddeley to win the Tour Championship to claim the cup.

Baddeley’s driver issues ultimately cost him the Tour Championship, but his tie for third likely secured him one of International captain Greg Norman’s picks and a place at his beloved Royal Melbourne in November.

“It’s frustrating not to win but at the same time I did show Greg I can do what I need to do and look forward to getting a call from him,” Baddeley said.

For the first time in the five-year FedEx Cup experiment the gravity of winning the gross domestic product of a small nation weighed heavily on all comers. Some will decry the competitive disconnect that comes with millionaires playing for millions, but on Sunday the dollar demons were ever-present.

“With everything going on in my head I just wanted to give myself a chance and I did,” said Jason Day, who held a share of the lead until a bogey-bogey finish dropped him into a tie for sixth.

Until now the FedEx Cup champions (Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk) have been those who, by all accounts, had bank accounts that weren’t going to be changed dramatically by a $10 million infusion. Singh won $10.9 million in 2004 long before he hoisted the cup, Furyk had $46.2 million in career earnings last year when he won and Woods, well, he is Woods.

The point is, the $10 million was nice but it wasn’t a game-changer. Until Sunday. Not that Haas seemed interested in the season-long victory during his duel with Mahan.

“We had some interviews on the 18th green and I noticed both trophies sitting there and there wasn’t another player there, so I asked my wife if I’d won both (the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup),” Haas said when asked how he learned he’d won both titles.

“All these things had to happen for me to win. I didn’t know what to say. My hands were shaking in regulation, in the playoff. It’s hard.”

About the only thing Haas didn’t decide at East Lake was the Player of the Year race, a messy mix of multiple winners that includes Keegan Bradley with two titles and a PGA high card, Luke Donald and his 13 top-10 finishes and a WGC and Simpson, who won twice in the last month of the season and also had two runner-up showings.

But that final accolade will be decided by player vote, not convoluted math thanks to Haas’ competitive clarity. For Haas the Tour Championship was a life-changing victory. For the rest of us it was simply a nice change.

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.