Fun Zone

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2010, 10:14 pm

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As Rory McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chandler made his way down the TPC Sawgrass practice tee on Wednesday we couldn’t resist: How was the party?

“A hell of a lot of fun,” he smiled, referring to the 21st birthday/first PGA Tour title shindig at Lulu’s Waterfront Grille near TPC Sawgrass for the young Northern Irishman on Tuesday.

The same could be said for golf lately.

The combination of a down economy and a superstar that has been down and out since Nov. 27 had cast a pall over the golf world for the better part of a young season, but a B-12 shot of young and old have rejuvenated the game like few thought possible in recent weeks.

Phil Mickelson’s Masters moment left few with a dry eye or a steady pulse less than a month ago, and McIlroy’s four-shot walk-over at Charlotte’s mid-major matched the hype, a rarity in a game that tends to award star status based on potential more so than practical application.

There was a lot of water-cooler talk on the TPC practice tee over which accomplishment was more impressive, McIlroy’s closing 62 or Ryo Ishikawa’s final-round 58 to win the Japan Tour’s Crowns tournament? Chandler, hardly an impartial bystander, said it best.

“They are both amazing rounds, aren’t they?” he said. “It’s good for golf, that’s the important thing. You really can’t compare the two.”

No, you can’t compare the two. One was played on a 7,400-yard, par-72 behemoth against a world class field with the weight of an entire nation weighing heavily on young shoulders. The other came against a field of understudies on a 6,545-yard, par-70 layout that, although widely applauded as a fine track, will never be confused for a major championship venue.

It’s hard to say who needed the Quail Hollow clinic more, McIlroy or golf?

If golf is at its best when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are going head-to-head, it proved downright entertaining last week. Lament the early exit of Woods last week all you want, if McIlory’s 62 didn’t get the blood flowing you should seek medical attention.

For McIlory, however, the victory was the tonic for a 400-pound gorilla that was getting heavier with each pedestrian week, with each missed cut.

Before Quail Hollow McIlory’s best U.S. finish in a stroke-play event was 40th, and his decision to take up PGA Tour membership this year was starting to appear premature if not problematic.

No one knew this more than Padraig Harrington. Although he’s from the other side of the Irish tracks he knows the pressure of unfulfilled expectations, be they self-imposed or otherwise.

“He wasn't contending, wasn't winning,” said Harrington late Sunday at Quail Hollow where he’d lingered to congratulate a player nearly half his age. “It's a lot of pressure on him, a lot of focus on him at home, and it's putting him under enormous pressure to deliver, and obviously every week that he doesn't deliver, it's getting on him.”

Five events into a rookie campaign is hardly a complete sample, but when you’ve been dubbed the next world-beater-in-waiting back-to-back missed cuts, like McIlory suffered before arriving in North Carolina, can do strange things to a 20-year-old psyche.

Interesting then that the simple thought that got him back on track is the one thing one would expect a 20 year old to have plenty of: “Just going out and playing like you’re a kid again. Go, hit it, find it. Hit it, find it again. Hole the putt, go to the next tee. Just really look forward to hitting the next shot.”

Swing gurus call that “caveman golf,” and it is good advice for anyone playing this week’s Players Championship, particularly a someone like McIlory who missed the cut in his first start at TPC Sawgrass last year.

On Sunday McIlroy called it the “zone,” but those who watched the Northern Irishman make quick work of Quail Hollow figured it’s something closer to a “fun zone.”

“It looks like he’s having fun again,” Chandler smiled.

The same could be said for golf these days.

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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 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.