Get ready for another grind in PGA finale

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2017, 12:59 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Remember when Nick Faldo made 18 pars during the final round to win the 1987 Open Championship?

Yeah, most people don’t; but for those astute historians that do recall that most mundane of majors 30 years ago the 99th PGA Championship is starting to feel a little bit like that – a sweaty, sweltering grind that left the field pretty much in the same position they were in when they started the day.

Playing the role of Faldo at Quail Hollow is Kevin Kisner, a bulldog of a player and a former Georgia Bulldog who didn’t manage 18 pars on Day 3 but his position at the end of the round had remained virtually unchanged.

Collectively, the top five players on the leaderboard were 1 over par on a day that wasn’t exactly separation Saturday, with Kisner maintaining his spot atop the field with a 1-over 72 for a one-stroke lead over Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama.

In his prime, Sir Nick would have fit in perfectly at this Quail Hollow, all 7,600 yards of willowy rough and grainy deception. He also would have appreciated Kisner’s moxie.

The two-time PGA Tour winner went 25 holes around Quail Hollow without a bogey until his misstep at the 12th after wildly missing a fairway, which is itself wild considering Kisner’s consistency off the tee this week.

Two birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 padded his lead, which he never lost, before he found the water with his approach on the 16th hole for a double bogey-6. A bogey at the last set the stage for what promises to be survival Sunday.

This new and improved Quail Hollow will do that, even to the world’s best.


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Defense may win championships in team sports, but when Tour pros are relegated to putting for pars it makes for something less than awe-inspiring golf.

Unless Sunday brings a dramatic weather change, like the one that led to Friday’s scoring matinee, or the PGA of America suddenly goes inexplicably soft, it will likely be more of the same on Sunday.

“You have to play away from the hole on so many shots throughout the day, and then all of a sudden they give you a couple holes in a row on each side that you've got to attack,” said Kisner, whose stock in trade this week has been his driving (he’s fourth in the field in fairways hit) and greens in regulation (first in the field). “You've got to be able to take 30 feet and take your medicine. I think that's one of the biggest things out there.”

All you need to know about the PGA Quail Hollow is that the layout’s 18th and first holes are the first and second toughest frames this week, respectively. Those two holes would also rank as the third and fifth toughest on Tour this season. Consider it bookend round busters.

Kisner, who likes to “wheel” putts in on the high side with dying speed, relishes the role of dark horse, tackling Quail Hollow the way a chess master would go after Bobby Fischer, methodically with a plan and a purpose.

He estimated in his practice rounds there were four birdie holes each round, Nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15, while the other 14 required tentative precision, a drive that finds a fairway even if that leaves a lengthy approach. He’s hit a lot of 6-iron approach shots this week. He loves his 6-iron.

“Think his 6-iron has got a hole in it ... right in the sweet spot,” joked Kisner’s swing coach John Tillery.

The saving grace may be that unlike Muirfield in ’87 for Faldo, there are birdies to be had at Quail Hollow, which has been softened to a less-demanding version of its new Bermuda grass self by two days of on-again, off-again downpours.

Graham DeLaet cracked the code, however temporarily, when he nearly aced the 13th and 14th (a par 4) holes, added an eagle at the 15th and finished his run with a birdie at the 16th to go 6 under in four holes.

“It was difficult. It's a really, really, really challenging test out there, especially with the greens being as firm as they are. It's just so hard to get birdie looks,” said the guy whose 68 moved him into a tie for seventh.

It’s also a bit of a buzz kill following the last two majors where low scoring has been the rule rather than the exception.

Although there is a segment of the golf public that savors the old Grand Slam grind, where par is a good score and Tour professionals regularly look foolish, those types of slugfests don’t necessarily bring out the best in the brightest, as evidenced by a leaderboard that has exactly one top-10 player in the world ranking (Matsuyama) within six strokes of the lead.

“The PGA Championship I think is going to be the toughest for me,” said Jordan Spieth, who played his way out of the tournament, not to mention a chance to become the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam, with a third-round 71. “If we look historically back on my career, I think I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it's set up.”

Now whether Spieth was talking about this particular PGA or all of them will only be decided by time, but there was no denying that the relative difficulty of Quail Hollow is not a perfect fit for the game’s current marquee.

“The way they set the golf course up this week, it's made you play cautious golf. You have to be happy with 25, 30 feet,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who also did little to help his title chances with a 73 on his way to a tie for 47th. “Kevin Kisner led [he’s actually fourth in the field] in proximity to the hole with 36 feet. That is sort of the way of this golf course.”

That the tournament will in all likelihood be decided on the layout’s Green Mile, Nos. 16, 17 and 18, is only fitting, as foreshadowed by Saturday’s finale for the anchor threesome which played that stretch in a combined 7 over par that included Jason Day’s quadruple bogey-8 at the 18th hole.

This Quail Hollow is not for the timid, nor does it inspire the kind of scoring frenzy fans cheered at the U.S. Open or Open Championship. This PGA is relentless and may well be won by the player who, like Faldo, can make 18 pars and survive.

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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.