Good health is Tiger's biggest ally in 2014

By Rex HoggardJanuary 29, 2014, 3:01 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – “It’s never easy when you’re injured, but I guess it depends on the injury. Some can be completely mental,” the player said without looking up from his practice session.

It wasn’t Tiger Woods who figured that when dealing with ailments large and small it’s often a question of mind over matter, it was Paul Casey but given both players’ history with the MRI machine it seemed an apropos observation.

Casey, like Woods, has endured his share of injuries, everything from a severe case of turf toe to a dislocated shoulder, and realized early in his career that not all injuries are created equal. Some, regardless of the best efforts of modern medicine, linger long past the rehabilitation process.

Woods, for example, embarked on his quest to overhaul his swing with Sean Foley in part to protect a left knee that had become brittle as a result of endless practice and the physical realities of torque.

It stands to reason that his rebuilt left knee was an ever present speed bump in the years following surgery in 2008 and could explain a competitive swoon that led to winless seasons in 2010 and ’11.

Conversely, the world No. 1 began 2014 with a clean bill of health. Sure, there were the back spasms during The Barclays and a strained left elbow that kept him from playing his own AT&T National last summer, but relatively speaking last year was one of his healthiest in recent memory.

“Did you see Barlcays?” Woods responded when asked if he was encouraged by his ability to largely avoid the DL in 2014. “Relatively, yes. I was pleased to get through the season. Relatively.”

Fair enough, it wasn’t exactly a clean card. But he did make it through 2014 without a dramatic WD, like the injury-induced early exits at Doral in 2012 and The Players in ’10 and ’11. And that, by any measure, is encouraging.

This is important viewed in contrast to those winless 2010 and ’11 campaigns, because during those two calendars he managed just 21 starts. That dry spell was the byproduct of serious injuries that are sometimes more difficult emotionally than they are physically to move past.

In early 2012, Casey figured he’d completely recovered from the shoulder injury that he sustained during a snowboarding accident when his trainer tossed him a baseball and told him to start throwing.

“I threw the first one pretty weak and he said, ‘No, really throw it,’” Casey recalled. “I couldn’t do it. I had a real fear of letting (his shoulder) go.”

Considering Woods’ well-documented knee woes it’s not difficult to imagine how hard it was for him to throttle back up to 100 percent even with a doctor’s note declaring him right as rain.

Woods’ ailing elbow and balky back in 2013 were, without question, concerning, but considering his record – five PGA Tour victories and his PGA Tour 12th Player of the Year award – whatever mental aftermath wrought by those injuries was manageable.

“I definitely feel fit. There’s no doubt about that,” said Woods on Wednesday at the Dubai Desert Classic.

For all the micro-analysis following his Saturday struggles at Torrey Pines and his first 54-hole missed cut on the PGA Tour it seems the more compelling measure of Woods’ success, and his potential, rests in his ability to avoid the doctor’s office.

If Woods’ third-round 79 at the Farmers Insurance Open was weighing on him when he arrived in Dubai he wasn’t showing it.

“I was just a fraction off and a fraction off on a golf course set up that hard, it bit a lot of us and, unfortunately, it bit me pretty hard,” he said. “I needed to make a few changes – just a few slight adjustments and I did that.”

Changes he can make. No player throughout the course of his career has proven more adept at adjusting on the fly than Woods and with a renewed confidence in his swing a few missed fairways on a Torrey Pines course masquerading as a U.S. Open stop is no reason to lose sleep.

Making it through an entire year without a single injury-induced WD, however, is a reason to be confident that his body can withstand the rigors of countless swings and his mind can execute without fear.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

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.