McIlroy, Woods light up the desert in Dubai

By Rex HoggardJanuary 30, 2014, 11:18 am

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Sometime between last year’s chaos and Thursday’s chef-d'oeuvre the planets aligned, the cosmic cylinders tumbled into place and sanity prevailed.

For context, flash back some 12 months to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the season opener for Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. So much promise. So much anticipation.

The Ulsterman had just been ushered in as Nike Golf’s newest world beater and appeared poised to finally go head-to-head with golf’s alpha male in a meaningful way. At the time, McIlroy was No. 1 in the world and Woods was in full rebound mode following a three-win season in 2012.

The letdown was palpable. McIlroy signed for a pair of 75s and watched the rest of the tournament from his couch, while Woods was tagged for an illegal drop on Friday and was on the next flight back Stateside.

That difficult day seemed a lifetime away on Thursday when Woods and McIlroy set out early at the Dubai Desert Classic. Woods birdied his first hole – the dynamic duo started on the 10th – McIlroy poured in three consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole and the two briefly shared the lead when Woods birdied the 15th hole.

McIlroy would pull away from Woods, and everyone else, with a closing-nine of 31 for a two-stroke lead, but if the world No. 1 wasn’t happy with his opening 68 he wasn’t letting on.

“Overall it was a pretty good score. Maybe could have gotten two more out of it,” Woods said. “After going 0-for-12 on birdies on the par 5s last week (at the Farmers Insurance Open), it was actually nice to make one on the first hole, right out of the gate.”

Considering how much Woods struggled to put his driver in the fairway on a warm and sunny day, his 4-under-par card was a testament to a short game that was showing no signs of early-season rust.

Woods connected with just two fairways out of the eight times he hit driver, but that was about the only thing Thursday’s round had in common with his Saturday outing at Torrey Pines, when he signed for a 79 and missed his first 54-hole cut on the PGA Tour.

Twenty-five putts and a healthy dose of game management added up to his 68 and a tie for fifth as he made his way to the practice tee for an extracurricular session.

“It’s my old pattern again. With my last coach it was a push block,” said Woods, who played from the desert left of the fairway three times through his first seven holes.

“We tried to get out of that and go to a cut. It’s harder to aim right knowing that I’ve got to cut it. Last year all my misses were in the left rough. But they were all straight balls. It was dead straight because I aimed it there. Trying to aim down the right side of the fairway is a little harder.”

If Woods’ opening round was of the “about what it should have been” variety, McIlroy’s 9-under 63 was a work of art. He never came close to making a bogey, drove the ball with confident abandon (12 of 14 fairways) and rolled in an eagle putt at the third hole to move two clear.

Last year in Abu Dhabi he was signing for 75s. On Thursday he was considering what it would take to shoot 59.

“When I eagled (No.) 3 and that got me to 8 under par, I guess I had six holes left and needed five birdies for the magical number,” he smiled. “I didn’t birdie the par 3 (fourth) so then I wanted to shoot 62. I shot 62 last week in a casual round. So I wanted to try and shoot two 62s in one week.”

McIlroy’s comeback has been almost as distinct as his collapse. He finished tied for fifth in Dubai late last year at the DP World Tour Championship, won the Australian Open in a shootout with Adam Scott to close the season and began 2014 in Abu Dhabi with a runner-up showing.

For both players, Day 1 in Dubai was a dramatic contrast to last year’s troubles down the road in Abu Dhabi. By comparison, Thursday seemed effortless. But there are few in the game who know better than Woods and McIlroy that’s not the case.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy,” McIlroy said. “It can feel easier than it has been in the past, but you still have to work hard. It may feel easy and these scores may look somewhat routine out there, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Maybe the only real difference between last year’s early exit and Thursday’s rounds is that Abu Dhabi just looked like work.

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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 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.