All Montys Men

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2010, 11:38 pm
2010 ryder cup logoWith a smirk and a wink Ben Crenshaw gazed into the camera and offered one of the most surreal prognostications in modern golf.

“I have a good feeling about tomorrow. That's all I'm gonna say.”

In retrospect, if Gentle Ben knew a secret it was that the European lineup, a group that had built a commanding 10-6 lead through team play at the 1999 Ryder Cup, had more holes in its bullpen than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For two days European captain Mark James had deftly played around what some considered his liabilities in the team portion of the competition, but in Sunday singles there was no protection for the likes of Jean Van de Velde, Jarmo Sandelin and Andrew Coltart.

All three went out early on Sunday at Brookline having watched from the sidelines for two days and suffered convincing losses that helped spur the American side to the greatest comeback in the history of the matches.

Brookline was hardly an aberration. The theory went that after the European stalwarts of Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Lee Westwood the bench was thin. In short, Europe was top heavy.

It’s a problem with which current captain Colin Montgomerie is utterly unfamiliar. How far has the pendulum swung for the Europeans? Consider that if Monty had to pick his team today he would have to split his three captain’s picks between the likes of Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

All total, there are nine Europeans in the top 50 in the World Ranking who are not currently on the team via two separate points lists, including three in the top 20 (Casey No. 8, Harrington No. 17 and Rose No. 18). And that equation ignores Welshman Rhys Davis, who at 50th in the World Ranking is a statistical long shot but would be a sentimental favorite considering the site of this year’s matches at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.

“I could pick two teams that could beat each other on any given day,” Montgomerie boasted on Tuesday. “Our players have performed brilliantly worldwide, so much so that there are a number of issues that have to be addressed in the fact that these picks, right now, you'll see there's a number of world stars, and I mean world stars, that aren't already qualified within that team.”

It is a measure of Monty’s depth that Harrington, a team staple since 1999 who has a 7-11-3 record in 21 matches, is not only on the wrong side of cut line with one major to play but is something of a long shot based on his current form.

“It just depends how (Harrington is) playing at the time. On current form, maybe not,” Graeme McDowell said. “There's a lot of players needing a pick. Paul Casey obviously could get himself on the side, and there's a lot of top, top players, Henrik Stenson. So there's a lot of stuff to happen between now and the picks, and I'm sure Monty was wishing maybe he had an extra pick at the minute.”

The current European team would include Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, McDowell, a four-ball and foursomes dream pairing for Monty, and Luke Donald from a list based on the World Ranking; and Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ross McGowen off a list based on the Race for Dubai points list.

Fortunately Monty has over a month before he must make any decisions and a major and a World Golf Championship that could help simplify his choices. But right now that does little to solve a puzzle that currently has far too many pieces.

As unthinkable as a European Ryder Cup team without the likes of Garcia or Harrington may seem – Europe has not fielded a side without the two in more than a decade – the current structure of the points system and landscape may require that Monty make some difficult decisions.

“Those picks right now are the biggest headache we have, but a very positive headache at the same time, a very positive one,” Montgomerie said. “We have never had so many champions, world stars, top 20 players in the world, that aren't on the Ryder Cup team and that proves how strong we are.”

But then Monty’s woes are trivial by comparison to the angina that American captain Corey Pavin must be having as the matches inch closer. Sunday’s leaderboard at St. Andrews was dominated by Europeans, with the continent taking six of the top 10 spots, and the final tally at the U.S. Open – four Europeans among the top 10 – was almost as dominant.

Individual accomplishments mean little when the independent contractors take the pitch to play for country and points (see Woods, Tiger), but following his disappointing loss to Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday at the Open Championship it was impossible for Casey to hide his optimism about the home side’s chances in October.

“We're already going to have an unbelievable team. We're going to have a great team. It doesn't guarantee a victory, but I think we'll be pretty good,” said Casey with a knowing smile that, like Gentle Ben in 1999, suggested he knew the answer to a question most of us haven’t even asked.
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.

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.

Getty Images

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.