Stenson in position to ice victory at Bay Hill

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2015, 11:26 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – The PGA Tour’s Iceman can be a difficult read.

This isn’t an aloof-Swede deal so much as it is the emotional distance Henrik Stenson tends to travel in relatively short periods of time.

This is, after all, the same player who destroyed a driver and a locker a week after winning the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship. It’s equally significant that a week after that implosion at the BMW Championship, he won the Tour Championship and collected the $10 million FedEx Cup.

It’s the same guy who told the media on Friday at Bay Hill that “I kind of kicked myself in the butt” after a particularly slow start on Day 2.

Since that motivational pep talk on Friday, Stenson has played his last 27 holes in 12 under to add a measure of star power to an otherwise nondescript field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

At 38, Stenson will tell you he has worked to control his emotions, and for the casual observer the Iceman seems to live up to his nickname. What’s hidden from prying eyes behind a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, however, is a competitor who can still run as hot as a ’67 Ford Mustang.

“I’m kicking myself in the butt all the time,” smiled Stenson, who finished his round with a 19-footer for eagle on 16 and kick-in birdie on 18 for a 6-under 66 and a two-stroke lead. “Today, I was going about my business, didn’t get off to a fast start but it was still OK. I kept it in play and took my chances when I got them.”

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For tournament officials, the third-ranked Swede is a much-needed addition to the marquee and a sign, however faint, that things may be returning to normal on the PGA Tour.

The parity that has gripped the Tour this season can be summed up with a single sound bite – in 18 events there have been 18 different winners.

Or, for the more visually motivated, a once over of the Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard would also suffice as a paradigm of parity.

In order, Morgan Hoffmann – a 25-year-old Tour sophomore whose best finish this season was T-17 at Doral – looms just two strokes behind Stenson after a third-round 71. He's followed by Jason Kokrak – an almost 30-year-old who considers his back-to-back state high school championships his biggest thrill in golf – Matt Jones, Ben Martin, and Matt Every.

It's the collision of balance that has overtaken golf at the highest level and a Bay Hill layout softened by less-than-ideal conditions, an agronomic necessity that helped vault Stenson to his 16-under total.

There hasn’t been a winner that far under par at Arnie’s Place since the event went by the Bay Hill Classic (1987).

Rory McIlroy seemed headed in a similar direction as Stenson, moving to within one shot of the lead at 12 under before three consecutive bogeys dropped the world No. 1 a touchdown off the lead.

“There were parts of the round that were good. I have to concentrate on that and focus on the positives and try and take those into tomorrow,” said McIlroy, who seems to have lapsed into Masters mode following a slow start to his 2015 season on Tour.

So the challenge of catching Stenson will fall to the likes of Hoffmann and Kokrak, the latter of whom tied for the round-of-the-day with a 7-under 65.

“I’m going to make birdies, they’re going to make birdies. I’ll just try to make the best of it,” said Kokrak, who will head out in Sunday’s penultimate group with Jones. “The gameplan stays the same.”

After two dominant days to begin the week (66-65), Hoffmann took a similarly high-minded approach to his final-round pairing with Stenson, and Every certainly has the track record at Bay Hill, having won last year’s API.

But the numbers on this are rather straightforward.

Combined, the five players within three strokes of the lead have three Tour victories, one less than Stenson, which leads one to concede the likelihood of at least one Tour trend ending on Sunday.

The last eight 54-hole leaders on Tour all failed to close Sunday with a victory, whereas Stenson is a perfect 1 for 1 with the three-quarter advantage.

That the Swede has also started his Tour year with back-to-back fourth-place finishes would also tilt the scales in his favor. But it’s his improved demeanor on the golf course that may be the most telling sign of how far Stenson’s game has evolved.

And that’s not to say Stenson is any easier to read.

In his signature style late Saturday, as he spoke with the media, Stenson’s train of thought drifted from blithe to blunt in a single answer.

“When they asked me on Thursday if I wanted to be announced from Florida or Sweden, of course I took Orlando for support,” he laughed before adding, “the golf god doesn’t know what’s happened the last three days. Hopefully I tell it good [on Sunday]. That would be a good closing.”

It seems the dichotomy of the Iceman doesn’t stop on the golf course.

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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.