Bumps Along the Way

By Rex HoggardSeptember 16, 2010, 1:19 am

The transformation of Dustin Johnson began in a Whistling Straits closet turned scoring hut with an eraser, of all implements.

Or maybe the epiphany came on Pebble Beach’s second hole on Sunday at this year’s national championship. Or a Las Vegas office in April with a tough decision, or a dark South Carolina byway in 2009 following a bad decision. Or was it another nondescript cubicle in Myrtle Beach, S.C., some six years before that?

If all great careers begin with an “ah ha” moment, Johnson’s ride to the top has been dotted with more turns and detours than a southern California “shortcut,” but the day he arrived on campus at Coastal Carolina in 2003 seems a logical jumping off point.

Allen Terrell, the Chanticleers’ golf coach who recruited Johnson, remembers 6 foot, 4 inches of talent that was filled with insecurity which manifested itself in an attitude that wasn’t always productive. What Terrell liked about his new charge, beyond his obvious physical gifts, was his ability to learn quickly, like the time he showed up late to a team meeting.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson suffered heartbreak at this year's PGA Championship. (Getty Images)

“He got three hours in the range picker listening to Allen’s life lessons,” Terrell recalled during a conversation in June. “He was never late again.”

From there Johnson blossomed, a Walker Cup and PGA Tour card (2007) were followed by a victory his rookie year (2008) and another just months later at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (2009).

But in the spring of 2009 there was a wrong turn in his rise when he was arrested in Myrtle Beach for driving under the influence.

“Eight years ago, however long ago, I couldn’t see myself being here,” Johnson said after his ’09 Pebble Beach victory. A little over two months later the rest of the golf world began to understand what he meant.

It’s a testament to Johnson’s drive and talent that he has climbed as high as he has, No. 12 in the world and among a half dozen contenders for the Player of the Year trophy heading into next week’s Tour Championship, having faced as many demons as he has in a life that has been less than charmed.

A little over a year later he followed that “bad” decision with perhaps the toughest choice of his short professional life when he approached Butch Harmon for swing advice. He’d worked with Terrell since coming to Coastal Carolina, and, luckily for Johnson, the coach said the two still talk regularly about the golf swing as well as life. But that didn’t make the decision any easier.

Many within “Camp Dustin” say that first meeting between prospect and swing professor in Harmon’s Las Vegas office set the tone for the rest of 2010.

“We sat down in Butch’s office and he put down pictures of Dustin and (Harmon’s father, Claude) at the top of their back swings,” Johnson’s caddie Bobby Brown recalled. “Claude was shut at the top, just like Dustin and (Harmon) said he wasn’t going to try to change that.”

What followed was an unforgettable summer. The highlight shows will remember the triple bogey on Pebble Beach’s second hole and final-round 82 at the U.S. Open, but all Johnson recalls from that fateful Sunday was that he put himself in the hunt to win a major championship.

Pete Dye’s penchant for poorly placed bunkers and Johnson using his eraser to add one will be the lasting collective snapshots from the PGA Championship, but Johnson’s revisionist history recalls only birdies on two of his last three holes of regulation.

It isn’t so much that he won last week’s BMW Championship, Tour titles seem like foregone conclusions at this point, it’s how quickly he processed mounting heartbreak and moved on.

Similarly, it’s not how he’s handled victory or defeat it’s how he’s co-opted the two into a singular bulletin board message – improve.

We’ve watched plenty of singular talents fall well short of potential, the byproduct of unrealistic expectations, wavering focus or both. But Johnson has won big, lost big and has never stopped thinking big.

Randy Myers, Johnson’s Sea Island (Ga.) based trainer, calls Johnson the next generation of golfer. During a different time Johnson would have played basketball, like his grandfather at South Carolina, or football or baseball.

“This guy is a race horse,” Myers said. “He’s the Randy Moss of golf. The Derek Jeter. They used to say Cal Ripken was too tall to play shortstop, now they are all 6-foot-3. Once you can teach these guys to be athletic, one of these guys will change the game.”

Earlier this year at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Johnson underwent a sports performance assessment test. On a whim, Myers had his results compared to that of NBA players. His vertical leap was in the 70 percent range for an NBA player and his speed and strength were also comparable.

Whether Johnson is golf’s new professional prototype is a question for the next generation. Where he counts among the current crop, however, is starting to become more apparent.

Johnson is the only current twenty-something with more than three Tour titles and his BMW performance was impressive to the extreme. Consider Sunday’s card at Cog Hill, he led the field with a 313-yard driving average, contain your surprise. What may warrant a double-take is that the big man hit 10 of 14 tree-lined fairways. Not bad for a bomber.

During a quiet dinner last Tuesday in Chicago Myers noticed a change. “I saw this calm in him that I hadn’t seen in him for a long while,” he recalled. “We knew he had the physical capabilities, but the thing was his power under pressure. All these things finally started coming together.”

Perhaps his BMW breakthrough, an emotional accomplishment more so than a competitive eureka moment, will be remembered as the pivotal moment in his career. With Johnson, you can pick your epiphany, they all lead down the same road.

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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.