Cut Line: Shorts, slow play hit spotlight on Euro Tour

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2016, 4:01 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It’s time to reflect on Jack Nicklaus’ greatness, time to trade professionalism for a more relaxed look on the European Tour, and time to realize the solution to slow play isn’t going to be pretty.

Made Cut

Contrived excitement. Officials at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship never hesitated, sending world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, No. 3 Rory McIlroy and No. 6 Rickie Fowler out together for Rounds 1 and 2 this week.

Say what you will about this type of forced showdown, considering how rarely the game’s top players get grouped together – Spieth and McIlroy have never played together on the weekend at a PGA Tour event – it’s an intriguing chance to see the headliners go head-to-head.

“We were saying walking off the last green there, we wish that we could play this group all the time,” Spieth said following the opening round. “It's very rare to get it, so we're soaking it in. It's fun feeding off each other.”

We all agree it would be a much better pairing on, say Masters Sunday to see Spieth, McIlroy, Fowler, etc. together, but this early in the golf season we’ll take what we can get.

Golden years. They say once you reach a certain age you stop counting birthdays, but when you’ve won 18 majors and are widely considered the best player of all time it’s hard to fly under the radar.

Jack Nicklaus turned 76 on Thursday, a milestone that was celebrated far and wide on social media and an opportunity to revisit some of the Golden Bear’s greatest moments.

And what does a legend do on his birthday?

“I don’t ever play golf, but I’m going to go play on my birthday,” Nicklaus said on “Morning Drive.”

No word on whether Nicklaus broke his age on Thursday, but we would like to think he did.

Tweet of the week: @TigerWoods “Happy Birthday Jack, 76 years young and could probably shoot your age anytime you wanted to.”

There was no shortage of social media shoutouts to Nicklaus on Thursday, but from one GOAT to another seems like a winner.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Pace setters. When European Tour CEO Keith Pelley declared war on slow play many figured it was little more than an empty promise. Slow play, after all, has been public enemy No. 1 for decades and yet nothing meaningful has been done to speed things up.

Pelley’s answer was a new, albeit complicated “monitoring” system announced this week in Abu Dhabi that is aimed at singling out the game’s slowpokes.

Although the new plan may end up being an encouraging first step in practice, on Thursday it was the cause of considerable handwringing when Spieth was assessed a monitoring penalty after taking too long to hit his birdie putt on the eighth hole.

Spieth was guilty of violating the new policy. The European Tour, however, is equally guilty of not properly explaining the rule to those with a need to know.

Short answers. Slow play wasn’t the only bold move made by Pelley and Co. this week.

The tour announced a new rule that will allow players to wear shorts during practice and pro-am rounds, a move that was quickly embraced by players.

“Isn’t this great,” beamed Ernie Els, who showed up for a practice round on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi wearing blue shorts.

In fact, reaction from players and fans was so positive it led some to ask if it was something the PGA Tour should consider?

“I think it's awesome. It will be something that I would love to see on the PGA Tour, as well. Guys seem to all love it over here,” Spieth said. “I've not heard one person, one tour player complain about it. And most of the guys that are really talking highly of it are the older guys oddly enough.”

It will be interesting to see who listens when the world No. 1 talks.

Missed Cut

Musical chairs. For those who keep track of such things, the last few days have been a hectic time for PGA Tour sponsors. First Barclays WD’d from the first FedEx Cup playoff event and was replaced by Northern Trust, which was then replaced by Hyundai at the annual Los Angeles-area tournament.

The empty chair, however, is now the Tournament of Champions in Maui.

While it seems likely the Tour will find a replacement for the winners-only event, it is a bit of a kick that the folks at Kapalua are left searching after one of the most successful events in a decade. This year’s field included six of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and the world No. 1 (Spieth) for the first time since 2005.

It seems no good deed goes unpunished.

Transatlantic tiff. Chalk it up to a scheduling anomaly, the byproduct of golf’s return to the Olympic Games and an exceedingly crowded summer tournament schedule, but that doesn’t make things any easier for those who have to walk the delicate transatlantic line.

This year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played the same week as the French Open, a marquee event on the European Tour held at the site of the 2018 Ryder Cup outside of Paris.

Pelley decided to protect an important partner because of the conflict, removing the Bridgestone from the European Tour schedule and making the French Open count as two starts for his members with double the Ryder Cup points.

While Pelley’s move is perfectly understandable it makes many of his top players endure a tough choice, like Martin Kaymer who said he’s still not sure which event he will play the first week of July.

Henrik Stenson conjured up a slightly different solution.

“No Bridgestone for me, No French Open,” Stenson said this week. “Because of the clash with the French Open I decided not to make anyone happy or mad. I’m just not playing.”

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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.