Cut Line: Jack's role in luring Tiger to Honda

By Rex HoggardMarch 2, 2012, 7:43 pm

Less than two turns into the Florida Swing and the Sunshine State has already delivered one of the year’s strongest fields (Honda Classic), its strangest exchange (between Tiger Woods and Alex Miceli) and its most sentimental frontrunner (Davis Love III).

And they say the Left Coast is unpredictable.

Made Cut

Upgrades. Call it the PGA Tour’s “most improved” or even the circuit’s “best in class,” although the distinction between pro golf’s haves and have-nots doesn’t seem to fit considering this week’s marquee at the Honda Classic. Whatever one calls the south Florida staple know that it is a vast improvement over what previously passed for a Tour stop.

Observers will point to the event’s jump across PGA Boulevard in 2007 to PGA National as the turning point and the math supports that thesis. In 2006, Luke Donald earned 22 World Golf Ranking points for winning the Honda. A year later at PGA National Mark Wilson earned 50 points for his playoff victory.

But that assessment ignores the work that Ken Kennerly, the tournament’s executive director, has done to transform the Honda from a Florida Swing afterthought to an A-list gathering.

Kennerly courted top international players looking for a home away from home between World Golf Championships and made the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation the event’s primary beneficiary, which helped the event land the game’s ultimate top card.

“Tiger said having Jack’s (Nicklaus) charity involved was one of his four points for entering,” Kennerly said of Woods, who is playing the event for the first time as a professional. “It is important to him, having children, and that definitely factored into his decision.”

Filling the void. To pinch a well-used line from colleague John Hawkins, Tiger Woods doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle. Last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, however, suggests that the public is at least starting to notice other needles.

Sunday’s final between eventual champion Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy was the highest-rated non-Woods finale in the tournament’s history. It was a best-case scenario for WGC officials with McIlroy and Lee Westwood dueling in the morning’s semifinal for a chance to play for the world’s No. 1 ranking and Mahan providing the appropriate level of patriotic zeal.

There was a time when there were two kinds of tournaments, Tiger events and non-Tiger stops and that’s not likely to change be some gray area between those extremes.

Tweet of the day: @Chris_Kirk “Tiger factor huge today (at Honda Classic), I pretended everyone came just to watch me.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Something old, something new . . . Pro shops and sporting goods stores are filled with high-handicap players combing through the latest and greatest in equipment advances in search of an answer.

The last two weeks on Tour have proven that play-for-pay types aren’t much different. Early last week Mahan’s alignment was so off with his trusty Ping Anser putter that company equipment representatives persuaded him to try the new mallet-head, face-balanced Nome putter. The result was one of the best putting weeks of his career.

This week in south Florida it was Davis Love III who put a new Scotty Cameron in play on his way to a course record-tying 64 on Thursday and one of his best putting rounds in years.

Something new, however, isn’t always the fix. Earlier this week Woods went back to his old Ping grip on his Nike Method 001 putter. On Day 1 he needed 34 putts and ranked near the bottom of the field.

Olympic effort. That’s what the U.S. Golf Association is hoping to have when the U.S. Open arrives at venerable Olympic Club in June. USGA executive director Mike Davis said the Lake Course will be “extremely stern.” Translation: those accustomed to the softer side of the USGA may be disappointed.

Here are a few numbers for potential Open hopefuls to consider: The opening hole, normally a par 5 for members, will be a 533-yard par 4; while the par-5 16th will play as long as 670 yards, which would make it the longest hole in championship history.

“I am convinced that this will be the hardest start in a U.S. Open,” Davis said. “The first six holes are going to just be brutal. I would contend if you play the first six holes 2 over, I don’t think you’re giving up anything to the field.”

“Cut Line” blames this on Rory McIlroy and his record-setting romp last year at Congressional.

Missed Cut

The advocate. Whether Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun violated Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy or was the victim of spotty workmanship on the part of the sample collector will likely never be known. Yet as it applies to professional golf Braun’s is an inescapable cautionary tale.

Braun’s 50-game suspension was lifted because of an administrative snafu and “Cut Line” couldn’t help but think that had Doug Barron, the only player in Tour history to be suspended for violating the circuit’s PED policy, had similar representation in his corner in 2009 he wouldn’t have lost a year of his career to suspension.

No one wants to use the “U” (union) word in golf, but it is curious that Barron is now legally using many of the same medications that got him banned and he even played last fall’s Q-School. In ’09 Barron trusted the system and became a Trivial Pursuit answer. Watching Braun on television this week, we couldn’t help but wonder if maybe golf’s system is broken.

The Big Mess. Tiger Woods’ chilly exchange with Golf Channel contributor Alex Miceli aside, Wednesday’s toe-to-toe between the two had less to do with divergent personalities than it did simple economics.

Every time Woods is asked about Hank Haney’s impending book “The Big Miss” presales jump exponentially and the one thing Woods has always struggled with is someone making a buck off of his name.

On Wednesday at the Honda Classic Woods was asked seven book-related questions and his answer, more or less, was the same to each, telling one reporter, “I’ve already talked about it.” In fairness, Woods did address the book at his season opener in Abu Dhabi but that will do little to stem the tide of questions in the weeks leading up to the book’s pre-Masters release.

Haney’s publishers want to make money, Woods wants the book to go away. In the interim, golf ends up with the big mess.

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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 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.