Cut Line: Running ahead of schedule

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2016, 9:32 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Fans may still be trying to wrap their heads around the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule, but the fourth edition of the fall experiment shows signs that the players are starting to get a feel for what could be a crucial portion of the calendar.

Made Cut

East Lake or bust. Initially dismissed as secondary events, the fall portion of the Tour’s wraparound schedule has taken on a unique importance since it began in the 2013-14 season.

This week's defending champion Kevin Kisner finished runner-up at last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions and broke through for his first Tour title at Sea Island Resort, virtually locking up a start at the Tour Championship. Kevin Na had a similar run, finishing third, second and second in the fall to pave his path to East Lake. Justin Thomas has put together a similar run this fall, with a victory and a tie for eighth to move to No. 2 on the FedEx Cup points list.

While a number of the game’s top players will probably always view the fall as a reason to rest, many Tour types are starting to appreciate the fall for what it is – an opportunity.

Feeling the Love. He missed the cut at the RSM Classic, which won’t make him happy, but having the weekend off will allow Davis Love III to spend some time working the BBQ grill at Sea Island Resort and generally embrace the role of host.

In Love’s defense, he’s not 100 percent healthy following hip surgery in July and along with this week’s hosting duties have come a series of press conferences and social functions to celebrate his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame next year.

Oh, and there is still that Ryder Cup thing to deal with.

It’s Love’s week to watch over the Ryder Cup, and the golden chalice is getting plenty of attention.

“It has a little bit of a smell of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon right now for some reason from last night,” Love smiled on Wednesday.

Following the most eventful year of his career, maybe a little time off this weekend isn’t a bad thing.

Tweet of the week:

The Australian continues to struggle through a prolonged slump, posting rounds of 77-87 to miss the cut at the RSM Classic, but there is something to be learned from the humor and grace he’s shown throughout all of his tough times.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Buggin’ out. As proof that it’s never too late to turn things around, Rory McIlroy closed his PGA Tour season with a pair of playoff victories and the FedEx Cup hardware.

Compared to the rest of his season, with just one other worldwide win, it was an 11th-hour save that will make the holidays much more enjoyable. 

Like many top players, McIlroy also came under fire for his decision to skip the Olympics, citing, among other things, concerns over the Zika virus. This week at the European Tour’s finale in Dubai, the Northern Irishman had an interesting take on that decision.

“I think when I get older and I want to have kids, then it might have been a good decision,” McIlroy said. “Everything that happened in the Olympics went well, and I’m glad that it did go well, but a few people used that excuse [Zika] and I sort of jumped on the bandwagon.”

It was a playful interview with a boy named Billy and was largely tongue-in-cheek, but McIlroy’s honesty, if not his motivations, is worth a respectful nod.

Transatlantic tilt. This week, the European Tour unveiled its new Rolex Series, a seven-event slate to boost the circuit’s appeal with key tournaments.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley called the initiative a “critical game-changer,” and the plan dovetails with the CEO’s plan to target specific week’s to go head-to-head with the PGA Tour, with larger purses at marquee events.

Among the seven Rolex events are the three Race to Dubai stops, including this week’s DP World Tour Championship, last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and the Turkish Airlines Open, which already rival or exceed the strength of field for events on the U.S. tour during the same week.

By picking his spots, Pelley has created an interesting dynamic to challenge the PGA Tour. Your move, Ponte Vedra Beach.

Missed Cut

Playing favorites. Remember that feeling back in school when teams were being picked and someone got left out? Lee Westwood does.

Westwood planned to spend next week in Australia, playing with partner  Danny Willett at the World Cup of Golf, but when Willett withdrew to nurse a nagging back injury, the top spot for England fell to Chris Wood, who had other plans.

As allowed under the rules, Wood picked Andy Sullivan to be his partner at Kingston Heath Golf Club, a snub that didn’t sit well with Westwood, who had already booked his travel to Australia.

“I haven’t spoken to Woody yet, but frustrated would be one word you could use to describe how I feel about it,” Westwood told The Sun in Dubai. “It’s not great when it all happens at the last minute, especially as I’d geared all my end of season plans around playing in the World Cup.”

Just a hunch, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see a Wood-Westwood pairing at the new team event in New Orleans next year.

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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.