Cut Line: Mid-term grades for Spieth, Day, Woods

By Rex HoggardApril 22, 2016, 5:23 pm

This may come as a surprise to those who don’t start paying attention to golf until the Masters, but this week’s Valero Texas Open is the official turn of the PGA Tour season.

San Antonio is the 24th of 47 Tour events, which means it’s time for mid-term grades with a nod to an exceedingly busy second half of the season – which will include three majors, a Ryder Cup, Olympics and FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Jordan Spieth (B-). Things started well enough with an eight-stroke romp at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but they haven’t been the same since.

Spieth dropped out of the top spot in the World Golf Ranking last month, failed to post a top-5 finish on the Tour until Augusta National and blew a five-stroke lead with nine holes to play at the Masters.

Along the way Spieth made stops in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, which some believe has left the 22 year old in a perpetual state of jetlag. Spieth seemed to acknowledge as much before leaving Abu Dhabi in January.

“I'll get back to the [PGA] Tour schedule and reevaluate how next season will finish up into the New Year,” he said.

Still, Spieth came within nine holes of winning his second consecutive green jacket and he will have plenty of starts to change the narrative before the final putt drops.

Olympics (C). Vijay Singh seemed to open the door last week when he withdrew his name from the Olympic field, although given the Fijian’s history with the Tour (the two sides are currently locked in an extended legal battle) it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Even this week’s news that Adam Scott would not make the trip to Rio was not a shocking revelation considering the Australian’s unwavering insistence that the Olympics has never been a top priority for him.

News on Thursday, however, that Louis Oosthuizen has also removed his name from Olympic consideration qualified as a genuine concern.

Like Singh and Scott, Oosthuizen cited scheduling issues for skipping the Games and the crowded late-season line up always promised to be a challenge (the last 12 weeks of the season include seven must-play events for top players).

“The IGF understands the challenges players face in terms of scheduling this summer and it is regrettable to see a few leading players withdraw,” International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson said in a statement. “Real history will be made at this year's Olympic competitions and it is our belief that the unique experience of competing will live forever with athletes that take part.”

Eventually the competition will decide the relative success of golf’s return to the Olympics and there’s no reason to doubt the event will be compelling, but more withdrawals could certainly become a distraction.

Tim Finchem (B). The commissioner’s current contract was schedule to expire this June and there has been a succession plan in place – deputy commissioner Jay Monahan is reportedly running the day-to-day operations of the circuit – for months, but late last month the Tour announced Finchem is going to hang around a bit longer.

Finchem has regularly referenced a few projects he wants to complete before stepping down, which likely include the next round of television contracts.

Opinions vary on Finchem, but it’s tough to look at his record and not acknowledge he’s made the Tour better and bigger; but it’s also tough to ignore the need to embrace change.

“In the years to come, you will see the Tour doing things that maybe right now you would be surprised that we would think in that context,” Finchem said earlier this year at Doral.

Finchem’s legacy has already been written, but on this front progress is paved down a different path.

Jason Day (A). Because you can’t dole out an “A+” without a major, but the Australian has otherwise been a model of production this season.

Highlighted by back-to-back victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Match Play, Day overtook Spieth atop the World Golf Ranking last month and doesn’t appear interested in giving it up any time soon.

Day’s play, and his story, is easy to overlook. He enjoys the relative anonymity of not being Spieth or Rory McIlroy and would much rather spend a quiet afternoon at home with his family than entertaining the world via social media.

But his play – in eight starts he has seven top-25 finishes – has lived up to even the most unrealistically lofty standards, which is saying something after the year he had in 2015.

European Ryder Cup team (A). This is not looking good for the U.S. team and captain Davis Love III.

Although anything that happens in April shouldn’t impact the outcome of the matches in October, there’s no denying that the Continent is building plenty of momentum.

While the normal cast of European characters has played solid this season – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson – it’s the newcomers that may be the most concerning for Love.

Following his victory at the Masters, Danny Willett is starting to look like the kind of European that runs the tables on the Americans every two years; and Matthew Fitzpatrick is a name U.S. fans should get used to hearing.

Tiger Woods (Incomplete). It’s become a common assessment for the former world No. 1, but then what grade can you give a player who has made just eight Tour starts in the last year?

News on Friday that Woods may be planning a return to the Tour in two weeks at the Wells Fargo Championship is an encouraging sign from a player who sounded like he had more questions than answers last December.

But the real question is what can one expect from a 40 year old fresh off multiple back procedures?

If Woods follows his normal schedule, he would have around eight events remaining in the 2015-16 season (he’s currently not qualified for the World Golf Championships, FedEx Cup playoffs or Olympics).

That’s not exactly a lot of time to kick off the dust and make a statement.

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Cabrera and son 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 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.