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Cut Line: A Pat on the (come)back

By Rex HoggardOctober 13, 2017, 1:36 pm

The PGA Tour’s Asian swing kicks off this week with a pair of inspiring tales; while the circuit seems to be slow-playing, or worse, ignoring, some of last season’s most inspirational stories.

Made Cut

Being Pat. A year ago Pat Perez finished tied for 33rd at the CIMB Classic, a relatively non-descript finish that the veteran has since credited for his dramatic turnaround last season.

After being sidelined for most of 2016 by a shoulder injury, Perez received a sponsor’s invitation to play the Malaysian stop in ’16 and said the event helped boost his confidence and led to his victory a few weeks later in Mexico.

Asked last month at the Tour Championship why he plays the CIMB Classic, Perez’s answer was distinctly Pat:

“I'll give you two reasons: Free money and free points. Three [reasons], free [airline] ticket,” he laughed. “I mean, it's a no-brainer.”

There is no cut at the event, which kicks off the circuit’s three-event Asian swing, and that means players are guaranteed to earn FedExCup points; and Perez is making the most of the opportunity with rounds of 66-65 to take a one-stroke lead at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

“How could I possibly not go?” he said. “I'm not that big-time to act like I'm too good to go.”

Picking up the pieces. Paul Casey left East Lake quietly last month, no smile, no easy laugh. He’d come close, again, and he’d come up short, again.

After starting the final round of the Tour Championship with a two-stroke lead, he limped home with a 73 to finish fifth, the third time in four playoff events he failed convert a Sunday opportunity. He doesn’t need to be reminded that he’s now eight years removed from his lone PGA Tour victory (2009 Shell Houston Open) or that at 40 years old he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

The Englishman could have gone home and spent a few weeks lamenting his play and pouting, but that’s not his style. Instead, he went back to work this week and rebounded from an opening 77 at the CIMB Classic with a second-round 63 to move into a tie for 23rd.

Casey said at East Lake that his second Tour victory was just around the corner. Perhaps, but he ended up on the right side of the cut this week because he refuses to stop trying.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Time for courage. Last week the Tour announced that Justin Thomas had won the circuit’s Player of the Year Award and Xander Schauffele had collected top-rookie honors, a pair of obvious winners that probably didn’t even need a vote.

Missing from those announcements, however, was whether the circuit plans to dole out the Courage Award this season. The Courage Award was created in 2012 for “a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity (such as personal tragedy or a debilitating injury or illness).”

Although the award hasn’t been given out since 2015, there would seem to be a few worthy candidates this season. Gary Woodland advanced to the Tour Championship following a difficult year that included the loss of one child due to complications during pregnancy and the premature birth of his son (he said at East Lake that his son, Jaxson, is doing much better).

Patrick Cantlay would also seem to qualify as a candidate following years of lingering back issues and the tragic loss of his caddie, who died in a hit-and-run accident earlier this year. Despite all this, Cantlay advanced to East Lake after making just 13 starts last season.

The Courage Award, which is voted on by Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and the four player directors, was always going to be an occasional accomplishment, but if Woodland and Cantlay’s seasons don’t qualify as courageous we’re not sure what does.

Long ball. While we’re leaving the more esoteric debate over how increased driving distances impact the modern game for another day, it’s worth noting that last season’s Tour average was 292.5 yards, a 2 1/2 yard gain over the 2015-16 season.

In fact, it’s a record average, but the more concerning statistic to come out of the season-ending numbers crunch was this: 17 years ago only one player (John Daly) averaged over 300 yards off the tee. That number ballooned to 43 last season.

Although you can dress up statistics however you’d like, continued distance gains will only make the powers that be (USGA and R&A) intensify their efforts to reel in the long ball, and that’s probably not going to be painless for anyone involved.


Missed Cut

Fully booked. Although much has been made of the Tour’s endless schedule and non-existent off-season, the bigger issue is how the wrap-around concept has impacted players graduating from the Web.com Tour.

For the second consecutive year, the secondary circuit’s finale was impacted by weather that led to a Monday finish, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t be a huge concern. But for the 50 players vying to secure their status in the Big Leagues it did create a problem with the PGA Tour’s season opener looming just two days and a cross-country flight away.

Included in that list was Chesson Hadley, who won both the regular season and finals money list. After finishing tied for 46th at the Web.com Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., he opened the new season with rounds of 72-61-70-73 to finish tied for third in Napa, Calif. It’s too much golf in too small of a window, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Web.com Tour schedule is riddled with early holes – with this season’s line up featuring two events in January, two in February and just one in March – that could help space out events and ease the late-season crunch.

There’s no scenario that leads to a real off-season for the PGA Tour, but the Web.com Tour needs a break.

Tweet of the week: @chessonhadley (Chesson Hadley) “My caddie told me this week that this was our 19 [of] 21 weeks in a row competing. I just landed in Raleigh [N.C.] and home feels so good. Off week baby!”

 

 

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.