2017 majors delivered for everyone but Fowler

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2017, 9:10 pm

If it seems like just yesterday you were heading down Magnolia Lane for the year’s first major, welcome to the club.

With Justin Thomas’ Sunday charge at Quail Hollow, the Grand Slam season came to a dramatic close, four months after Sergio Garcia got things underway at the Masters. For those who say professional golf has no offseason, consider that the next major golf shot won’t be hit for 231 days. How’s that for dramatic pause?

There were a few themes to this year’s major championships, with three of the four being won by first-time major winners and two stops defined by ridiculously low scoring.

Charley Hoffman got the season underway on Thursday at Augusta National, his 65 the best round of the day by four strokes and nearly 10 shots better than the Day 1 field average (74.97).

Rickie Fowler did what Rickie Fowler does at majors, moving into a share of the lead through 54 holes only to fade on Sunday (we’ll circle back around to Fowler in a moment), and Garcia doing what few that he could – win a major.

Perhaps Sunday’s final round at the Masters wasn’t exactly what we’ve come to expect from the year’s first major, with Garcia and Justin Rose battling to a standoff with closing nines of 35, but it was entertaining nonetheless and the Englishman gave one of the game’s classiest interviews in defeat.

“It was a wonderful battle with Sergio, you can’t feel bad for me. If there was anyone to lose to it was Sergio. He deserves it,” Rose said.

But what the Masters may have lacked in Sunday firepower, the U.S. Open filled the void.

One of two first-time major venues this season, conventional wisdom suggested Erin Hills, a behemoth at 7,740 yards, would be a typical U.S. Open grind. That unease was only fueled when officials made an 11th-hour decision to mow down some of the layout’s rough before play started.

What transpired on the course, however, was something entirely different.

Fowler (remember him?) once again got off to a dream start with a first-round 65, one of 44 scores under par at the Bob Hope Classic U.S. Open on Day 1. On Saturday, Thomas set a championship record in relation to par with his 9-under 63 and Johnny Miller, whose 8-under 63 in ’73 had been the U.S. Open scoring standard, wasn’t exactly impressed.

“Taking nothing away from 9 under par – 9 under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “But it isn’t a U.S. Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was set up . . . It looks like a PGA Tour event course set up.”

That Brooks Koepka would finish at a record-tying 16 under for his first major victory did nothing to counter Miller’s argument - that the combination of no wind and a soft course had turned Erin Hills into a major pushover - but Thomas would have the final word before the Grand Slam season was over.

Perhaps there was some solace for the USGA that the scoring assault continued at Royal Birkdale in July when Branden Grace made more history, becoming the first player to shoot 62 in a major on Saturday, not that the South African knew of his accomplishment until he’d putted out.

“Let's get this out of the way: I didn't know what was going on on 18. I promise you,” Grace smiled. “[Caddie Zack Rasego] came up and said, ‘You're in the history books.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

But if ignorance was bliss for Grace on Saturday, Jordan Spieth knew exactly what was going on during the final round when his tee shot at the 13th hole sailed into a dune right of the fairway.

More than 20 minutes later, after taking an unplayable lie and a drop on Birkdale’s practice tee, Spieth completed a scrambling bogey that the late Seve Ballesteros would have been proud of.

Spieth later admitted that he’d hit drives much farther off line in his career, but none were as eventful on his way to the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

“We are going to skip the first 12 holes, right?” joked Spieth when asked about his round, which included three birdies and an eagle following his adventure on No. 13.

In a twist to the Grand Slam status quo, the PGA Championship proved to be the year’s toughest major, with the year’s lowest winning total (8 under) and the season’s toughest course on the PGA Tour by more than a half stroke.

That it was Thomas, who emerged from a crowded leaderboard late on Sunday afternoon, holding the Wanamaker Trophy only seemed apropos (perhaps there should have been some sort of tweet directed at Miller, maybe next time).

It should also be noted that Fowler finished tied for fifth at the PGA despite a Saturday 73, and with 231 days until the next major, the title of "best player without one" rests squarely on his shoulders.

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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.