Na waggles his way to 54-hole lead at Players

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2012, 12:40 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Earlier this week PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem figured that stroke penalties for slow play weren’t necessary. After nine languid holes with Kevin Na on Saturday, your scribe would be curious what the commish thought of waterboarding for the habitually slow?

Na is slow. Slow like continental drifts. Slow like his Round 3 playing partner Zach Johnson was named an honorary starter for next year’s Masters by the time the two finished at TPC Sawgrass. OK, too much. But you get the picture.

Here’s the rub, Na is, regardless of pace, a good guy. Hard working, good sense of humor with a solid game that has produced just four bogeys in his last 45 holes on the Stadium Course and a third-round 68 that will give him a one-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar heading into the final day at the circuit’s flagship event.

It’s just that when he settles in over a tee shot he goes catatonic.

For those short on time, here’s a snapshot of Na’s routine on a few random holes. At No. 6 he took five practice swings, 24 waggles, two step-aways and one “Sorry Zach” before finally pulling the trigger.

At the seventh he re-teed three times, made four practice swings, 19 waggles and one step-away before getting to it.

You get the picture. Think Sergio Garcia at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black without the angry fans and obscene gestures.

To Na’s credit he owns his issues, admitting after his round “there’s a lot going on (in his head).”

That he is slow is not a guarded secret. In fact, as Na made his way up the seventh fairway on Saturday Tour rules official Mark Russell made a precautionary stop. “Look guys the group in front of you is on the clock so don’t get out of position,” he warned Na and Johnson.

Despite Na’s distressing pre-shot routine, or maybe because of it, he was almost perfect on a windswept day, closing with birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to pull clear of Kuchar and within 18 holes of the greatest victory of his career.

However, good golf and speedy play seem to be mutually exclusive for Na, who was put on the clock late on the back nine and received a “bad time” on the 16th hole.

According to Tour regulations the player hitting first has 60 seconds to play his shot and Na exceeded that limit before playing his second shot at the par 5. Although he appealed the decision, saying that his caddie’s shadow prompted him to step away at the last minute, officials reviewed the video of the shot and assessed the bad time.

Two bad times in one round and a player is assessed a one-stroke penalty, which hasn’t happened on Tour in more than two decades and when it comes to slow play the Tour adheres to a strict short-term memory policy.

“He starts fresh tomorrow,” Russell said.

The same can’t be said for the TPC galleries who will endure what NBC Sport’s analyst Roger Maltbie called Na’s “episodes” on Saturday.

Although he’s never been a fast player by any measure, Na has become even more sluggish since he began working with swing coach Dale Lynch last year at the Masters, although this can hardly be laid in Lynch’s lap.

One of the circuit’s worst players with a driver in his hands, Na has improved to 15th in driving accuracy and 81st in total driving under Lynch compared to 56th and 145th, respectively, in 2010.

For a Tour type who played with fear from every tee box the added element of a dramatic swing change has led to more psychological baggage than a Kardashian.

“It stems from the fact he was such a poor driver of the golf ball,” Lynch said. “He’s very aware of it and trying very hard to remedy it but we haven’t been able to change his routine to match up with his swing.”

Lynch said Na has a similar routine while he’s practicing, just faster, and the affable Australian has seen progress in recent months with Na’s swing and his pace of play.

“He’s thinking swing thought . . . always has, and we have talked about it,” Lynch said.

To Na’s credit he’s taken the situation head on. No excuses, no longwinded explanations, just the type of brutal honesty that eludes many with the same ailment.

“I'm trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It's usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the trigger. But if it doesn't work, I've got to go in pairs,” Na said. “So it'll go four; and if it doesn't work, it'll go six; and after that, just – there's a lot going on in my head.”

Unfortunately, it’s just not happening very quickly.

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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.