No. 1 in play for McIlroy, Westwood

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2012, 12:55 am

MARANA, Ariz. – As Rory McIlroy brushed past Lee Westwood just before lunch hour on Saturday at Dove Mountain the young Ulsterman couldn’t resist, “See you on the first tee tomorrow morning.”

WGC-Accenture Match Play officials could only dream of such a change in fortune.

This week golf’s version of March Madness has lost world No. 1 Luke Donald (early vacation), three-time champion Tiger Woods (vacationing putter) and Phil Mickelson (family vacation), although, given the 'Q' rating of some who advanced to the Elite Eight, Lefty may have thought to postpone his week off and make a run at his first WGC-Match Play title.

Yet as the day’s four matches ended with surprising swiftness, the dream semifinal bout between Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood began to seem more likely. By the time Martin Laird conceded the 16th hole to Westwood the best-case scenario was a reality.

“That’s the trouble with kids today – they think they are always right,” Westwood smiled when reminded of McIlroy’s prophetic comment.

He and the kid will tee off early Sunday playing for more than just an afternoon time in the championship match. Both players can overtake Donald, who lost in Round 1 to Ernie Els, atop the World Golf Ranking, with a victory this week.

That the duo were part of the same management shop until a high-profile split between McIlroy and International Sports Management chief Chubby Chandler only adds to the subtext, although both players were quick to downplay the significance of the perceived rift.

“We don’t spend as much time together as we did when we were in the same management group, but that’s understandable,” Westwood said. “But there’s nothing strained about the relationship between the two of us.”

Nor does Westwood imagine the possibility of becoming No. 1 will weigh on him Sunday, an opportunity somewhat mitigated by the fact he’s been there before – for 22 weeks, in fact – while McIlroy has not.

“I’ve been No. 1 a couple of times,” Westwood said. “He may be thinking about it, but my main goal is to play as well as I’ve been playing tomorrow morning and try and win that match.”

McIlroy had a similar take and also dismissed the notion that he would struggle against Westwood, who some considered something of a mentor to the Ulsterman. When asked if he considered the Englishman “a big brother,” McIlroy left no room for ambiguity.

“To be honest not really because you’re going to each tournament to try and win and beat each other. That’s what I always tried to do,” McIlroy said. “I’d look at Darren Clarke or Nick Faldo (as a big-brother type).”

Not that any of those undertones much matter to tournament officials, who have been snake-bitten in recent years by the Match Play’s capricious format. The Match Play is like fondue, an occasional treat and part-time curiosity but no one would want a steady diet of the stuff, particularly WGC officials who endured a second consecutive day of blowouts.

For the first time in the 14-year history of the event not a single quarterfinal match made it to the 17th hole, a reality so stark one half wonders why architect Jack Nicklaus even bothered with the last two holes at Dove Mountain.

Mark Wilson cruised past long-hitting Peter Hanson, 4 and 3; Hunter Mahan stunned Matt Kuchar, 6 and 5; McIlroy closed out rookie Sang-Moon Bae’s impressive Match Play run, 3 and 2; and Westwood finished the rout with a 4-and-2 victory over Martin Laird.

Yet from Saturday’s carnage comes opportunity. The all-American matchup of Mahan and Wilson will lead off the morning’s semifinal lineup, guaranteeing that for the first time since 2008 a player from the U.S. will advance to the final, followed by Westwood and McIlroy, the first time since 2000 two No. 1-seeded players from the same side of the bracket have played their way into a semifinal clash.

This much seems certain, if form holds it could be a quick Sunday. Since Friday, just one of the 12 matches have made it to the final hole, and a match hasn’t gone to extra holes since Wednesday’s opening round.

As a rule, blowouts aren’t best for any format, particularly a match-play tournament. Just ask the 30 or so fans huddled around the 18th green late Saturday afternoon. Either no one knew or no one cared that the matches, and the day, were over without a single meaningful shot played into the closer.

Officials can only hope for a little more action on Sunday at the 18th, not to mention the 17th hole, but at least they have the matchups that everyone wanted.

Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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.

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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.