Ernst living dream after locking up Tour card with win

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2013, 7:15 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In the last week Derek Ernst has covered more than 1,100 miles in a well-used rental car, but that doesn’t compare to the metaphorical distance he has travelled professionally over the same period.

A little over a year ago, the affable Ernst was winning a college event at Arizona State and daydreaming of a distant day when the crystal he was hoisting was on a PGA Tour Sunday.

That cold and rainy day arrived last week at a course that has proven adept at identifying young champions and potential world-beaters (see McIlroy, Rory; Fowler, Rickie), when the 22-year-old outdueled the likes of Phil Mickelson, McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Nick Watney.

No more will Ernst be distracted by thoughts of winning his first Tour tilt, or any other thoughts for that matter. At least if his finish at the Wells Fargo Championship was any indication.

“My mind was just cluttered with all these different things,” Ernst said of his rookie card before Quail Hollow that featured five missed cuts and not a single finish inside the top 40.

From clarity of thought come moments of brilliance.

With Mickelson, McIlroy & Co. closing in, Ernst birdied two of his last four holes to force a playoff with David Lynn which he won with a par at the first extra frame.

But if the victory was impressive, consider the icy approach he took in extra frames. After hitting what he believed was a good drive at the 18th hole in the playoff, Ernst arrived at his golf ball to discover he had 218 yards to the hole. Less than 20 minutes earlier he’d hit what he thought was a similar drive and had 188 yards to the pin.

“I had a 6-iron in regulation and a 3-iron in the playoff,” he laughed. “I wasn’t (pumped up). I was really calm. I needed more adrenaline to hit the drive further.”

On paper, Ernst is listed as a rookie. But in practice nothing about his Sunday suggested he was overwhelmed by the moment.

Susie Meyers expected nothing less.

Meyers is a former LPGA Tour player turned swing coach, although that description is the acme of understatement.

“I really do work the golf swing big, but I present the information so they don’t know that we are working on the golf swing,” said Meyers, who teaches out of Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Ariz. “I really just coach the person.”

In the case of Ernst, it felt more like speed coaching.

The two began working together in mid-April and from the outset Ernst knew Meyers’ approach was different.

“The mental part always plays a big factor, but that’s what I struggled with earlier in the year. She just talked to me. For the first hour we just sat down and talked,” said Ernst, who earned a spot in this week’s field at The Players via his Wells Fargo victory.

The themes sound familiar – keep a quiet mind, stay in the moment, remain patient – but something about the message, or maybe it was the messenger, sounded new. When Ernst left the golf course late last Saturday trailing Mickelson and Watney by two strokes, Meyers had one last bit of advice.

“I figured he was going to play a lot of holes, so I told him, ‘Your job is not to think that I have three holes left to play, or two holes. Just focus on each shot,’” said Meyers, who also works with Michael Thompson, this year’s Honda Classic champion. “Not many people can do that.”

Ernst wasn’t even in the field at Quail Hollow when he began last week. The fourth alternate got the call while he was on his way to play in a Tour event in Georgia, so he just kept driving.

On Sunday, $1.2 million richer, he climbed into another rental car for the drive to TPC Sawgrass. When reminded that most Tour winners tend to fly from stop to stop, Ernst smiled sheepishly, “I wanted to waste the day so we drove.”

It seems apropos that Ernst’s first Tour victory would come at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship – a player dogged by cluttered thoughts enduring a week full of distractions, from spotty greens to Sunday’s wet finish.

“I don’t think Derek saw adversity at all, he just didn’t cloud anything up with the normal Tour player stuff,” Meyers said. “It’s been an awesome time to have a kid walk into your life and listen to what you say.”

If last week’s performance at Quail Hollow was any indication, the golf world will have to start listening to Ernst now. When he began the season his goal was to retain his Tour card. Now that he’s locked that up for two years, he said on Tuesday that he has no problem moving on to the next phase of his career.

“I want to win more now. Why not?” he said.

The only thing he has to iron out is his travel plans. Driving from Tour stop to Tour stop may become a tad consuming.

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.

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.