Donald's loss highlights Day 1 upsets

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2012, 1:01 am

MARANA, Ariz. – And then there were 32, the ultimate herd-thinning at the most Draconian of PGA Tour stops.

Golf’s most frenzied Wednesday, with respect to the Master’s Par 3 Contest, didn’t disappoint with a flurry of on-cue comebacks, histrionics and, yes, even the odd upset; although it’s always a stretch to consider any lower seed at this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship a Cinderella.

This is not March Madness, nor is this Gonzaga over Duke, although there was almost a Gonzo over Tiger that would have somehow qualified as a bonafide stunner.

But Tiger Woods rallied to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, 1 up, and even the legitimate upset came with an oversized asterisk.

On a spreadsheet Ernie Els’ Day 1 destruction of world No. 1 Luke Donald was nothing less than a stunner, a No. 1 seed toppled by a 64th-seeded player in dramatic 5-and-4 clarity. It’s just the third time a top seed has been sent packing by a No. 64 at the Match Play.

They make movies about that kind of upset.

In reality, however, Els is anything but a mid-major surprise.

Within the two-year World Ranking cycle the South African has ranked as high as sixth and he’s less than two years removed from his last multi-win season.

Again, this was not Gonzaga over Duke, nor was this much of a surprise. Seventeen of the 32 matches were won by lower seeded players, although Donald was the only No. 1 seed to lose.

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy beat George Coetzee, 2 up; No. 3 Lee Westwood, who has never advanced past the second round at the Match Play, clipped Nicolas Colsaerts, 3 and 1, and No. 4 Martin Kaymer, last year’s runner-up, rolled over Greg Chalmers, 4 and 2.

Whatever one’s pedigree, or world ranking, the depth of the modern game and capricious nature of match play leaves little room for true upsets when it comes to the world’s top 64 players.

Just ask Els. In 2003 the Big Easy lost as a No. 1 seed to Phil Tataurangi and again to Bernhard Langer in 2006 and Jonathan Byrd in 2008.

“I feel for Luke, he had everything to lose,” said Els, who birdied his last two holes to close out Donald. “I know exactly what it feels like and it’s not a great feeling.”

Steve Stricker was the last No. 1 seed to lose to the 64th seed, although it’s worth nothing that neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson played the WGC in 2010 which made Stricker the de facto top seed, and Woods lost to Peter O’Malley in 2002, which in itself makes Donald’s loss significant but not dramatically so.

In the vacuum left behind by Woods’ prolonged slump has emerged parity in professional golf like never before, a truth evidenced by the 16 lower-seeded victories on Wednesday. It’s the most “upsets” since 1999 when the inaugural Match Play was held at La Costa Resort in southern California.

Not that any of this made the loss easier for Donald, whose dominance last year at Dove Mountain was unmatched. The Englishman never trailed in any of his 89 holes, became the first player to win an event without ever having played the 18th hole and made 32 birdies, which is slightly better than one every three holes.

On Wednesday against Els he managed just three birdies, four bogeys and likely sealed his fate with a sloppy three-putt from 37 feet at the par-5 11th. After missing his 10-footer for birdie two holes later he glanced at the leaderboard which had Els’ putting stats from 21 feet with the notation “Hall of Fame member.”

It was a helpful reminder for a crowd conditioned to view a 64th seed as a long shot, but did little to soften the blow for Donald.

“I just played awful,” Donald said. “Today I don’t think I would have been able to beat anyone at match play. It’s frustrating because I’ve been working really hard.”

No, this wasn’t Gonzaga over Duke, but it certainly felt like the end of the world for Donald.

Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Thursday/Friday 2-6PM ET; Saturday noon-2PM ET; Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Saturday/Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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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.