If not Doral, where? Players pick favorite courses

By Rex HoggardMarch 10, 2015, 7:50 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – To be clear, the new and infused Blue Monster at Doral is not going to be winning any popularity contests among the play-for-pay types.

Don’t take our word for it.

“I can't stand the golf course,” Bubba Watson said last week. “It's way too tough for me.”

And J.B. Holmes, after a particularly bad bounce on the first hole during Friday’s second round, was equally critical, “It's pretty bad that you can hit two perfect shots and the ball can go in the water because of just a ridiculous green design that’s really just terrible.”

That Watson and Holmes finished third and second, respectively, on Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship is an indication of how deep the discontent with course runs. A large number of Tour frat brothers have offered even less measured assessments of TPC Trump.

There were even rumors last week that the severity of Gil Hanse’s redesign may lead some players to skip the Cadillac in the future, although it’s status as a World Golf Championships event with no cut and guaranteed money would make that unlikely.

In fact, in a wildly unscientific poll of Tour players this week, Doral was ranked alongside dental surgery as a means to kill a few hours. In a hypothetical exercise, your scribe asked a half dozen players what schedule they would play if the golf course, not an event’s status as a major or WGC, was the only consideration.

“Memorial (Muirfield), Colonial, Quail Hollow, Riviera, TPC Sawgrass, Hilton Head (Harbour Town), Pebble, Phoenix (TPC Scottsdale), Hartford (TPC River Highlands), Tampa (Innisbrook), Augusta ... Akron (Firestone), Crooked Stick, because it’s in my home state, and (TPC) Boston and East Lake,” said Bo Van Pelt with surprisingly little prompting.

Brandt Snedeker’s “dream schedule” would include similar stops, Augusta National for the Masters, Harbour Town for the RBC Heritage, East Lake for the Tour Championship, but there were exceptions.

Doral was not on Snedeker’s list. Doral wasn’t on anyone’s list.

“I do a pretty good job playing where I want to play, but sometimes it’s travelling, sometimes scheduling plays a big role in it,” Snedeker said. “If you have five great events in a row, you can’t play them all. Memphis (TPC Southwind) is a great golf course, but it’s the week before the U.S. Open.”

With the exception of Jason Bohn, no one mentioned Bay Hill, which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational, any of their must-play lists.

In fact, some of those polled didn’t include Augusta National, pointing out that the golf course now plays much more difficult following a series of alterations in recent years.

That’s not to say players have anything against a difficult golf course.

“I play the Honda; it eats me alive, but it’s a high-quality test of golf,” Bohn said.

But it’s telling that some of the Tour stops that don’t draw the best fields - stops like Harbour Town, Colonial, TPC River Highlands and this week’s event at Innisbrook - nonethless showed up on every player’s wish list, while more high-profile stops like Doral and Torrey Pines don’t enjoy the same universal support.

Despite an impressive bump in field quality for this year’s event – five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are playing the Valspar Championship – the event traditionally struggles to attract top players. Still, it was included on every player’s “dream” list.

“It’s all based on golf course,” Bohn said. “All the golf courses I like are traditional-style golf courses that yield to shot making, tournaments where low scoring is not guaranteed to win. Harder and shorter, because I’m older.”

Lists also varied from player to player depending on individual styles. A player like David Toms, who won a PGA Championship on the strength of his wedge play, tends to steer clear of sprawling ballparks like Doral and Bay Hill.

“There’s not that many left for me and the type of player that I am,” said Toms, who rattled off a predictably short list of favorite venues - Colonial, Harbour Town, Innisbrook and Pebble Beach.

“Length is such a factor now, you saw it last week. You had the best players in the world and there were only a handful that could have won that golf tournament. It’s a small list for sure.”

By contrast, Lee Westwood – who ranks among the Tour’s top third in driving distance – would look elsewhere to expand his schedule given the opportunity.

“There would be the odd exemptions," he said. "I’d probably play Torrey Pines a bit more often. That seems to suit me.”

Based on exit polling on Sunday at Doral the new Blue Monster suits few but don’t expect a collective schedule overhaul anytime soon. It is, after all, a WGC.

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.

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.