Tiger: My Turn

By Rex HoggardAugust 2, 2011, 4:37 pm

AKRON, Ohio – If Tiger Woods has learned anything from the last 20 odd months it has been how to take a punch, if not a punch line.

Standing “eight counts” have become the status quo from a curious public that has grown accustomed to hoping for the best but expecting the worst, from a contentious media that has seemingly lost interest in the benefit of the doubt, from a game that has ebbed and flowed with alarming regularity.

Yet of all of Woods’ setbacks since November 2009 this most recent cosmic haymaker may have been the one that caused the most soul searching, at least professionally. On the morning of May 12 he stepped to the practice tee at TPC Sawgrass to prepare for the first round in the game’s faux major and he and swing coach Sean Foley could only smile.

“I had it at TPC,” he beamed on Tuesday at Firestone. “It’s the best I’d hit it in a while and then I got hurt.”

He got hurt, you see, because he’s a knucklehead. To be fair, he also made one-legged history at the 2008 U.S. Open because of that same “knucklehead” gene. You know the story, doctors assemble in Woods’ Isleworth home to advise him not to play the national championship at Torrey Pines, Woods informs the MDs that not only is he playing but he’s going to win. Cut the scene, fade to black.

Now fast forward to Woods post-2011 Masters – hobbled by an ailing left knee and tattered Achilles’ tendon. Different doctors, same message, same defiant swagger. But this time Woods doesn’t win on one leg, he doesn’t contend, he doesn’t even make it past the turn on Thursday.

That front-nine 42 at Sawgrass and fast exit must have done a real number on the world’s 28th-ranked player. They say Woods is an “old” 35 years old, whatever that means, and he certainly sounded a bit wiser on Tuesday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when asked the status of his assorted ailments.

“I came back and played The Players,” he said. “If I’d have sat out a week or two I’d have been able to play this stretch.”

This “stretch” is the competitive equivalent of “go time,” as young Rickie Fowler would say. This “stretch” included the U.S. Open, played on a course (Congressional) where Woods had won before, and the British Open. For those keeping score that “stretch” is what counts more so than the FedEx Cup playoff, which Woods is currently not qualified for, or West Coast Swing or the Presidents Cup.

In Woods’ dogged drive to Jack Nicklaus’ gold standard of 18 majors he cost himself two grand slam starts. Motivational speakers say we learn more from our failures than we do from our victories, a truth Woods put to the test through his first dozen years as a professional. Yet to hear the man talk on Tuesday it is clear Woods is done with the machismo of the short view.

Even during his 11 weeks of rehab and rest, Woods sounded as if he was surprisingly calm, if not the model patient. He flirted with the idea of coming off the “DL” at last week’s Greenbrier Classic but was advised to stay on the sidelines by his medical team.

“It gets hard when you’re on the cusp of going. You’re like, ‘I feel like I can go,’” Woods figured. But the payoff came via a quick nine holes on Tuesday at Firestone.

Just before 7 a.m. Woods teed off with longtime friend Bryon Bell on the bag and swing coach Sean Foley at his side. He wasn’t “on,” missing three of his first four fairways, but then that’s the beauty of practice – you don’t have to count ’em all.

“It’s Tuesday,” Woods figured. “It’s not a competitive environment, but the shot lines were crisp and tight . . . it feels good to hit balls and feel nothing (in his left leg).”

If Woods sounded pleased with his play on Tuesday on the South Course, Foley was equally optimistic, if not a bit more guarded.

“I never have any expectations,” said Foley, who travelled to south Florida last Thursday and Friday to work with Woods on the practice tee for the first time since The Players. “The fairways he missed were 5 yards off and the ones he hit were miles down there. His ball-striking is sharp, just give it time and let the Spidey senses come back.”

Call it a soft opening, a measured returned from a lock-out of an altogether different sort.

The real tell, of course, will come on Thursday, when he is forced to make the leap from “practice speed to game speed,” as one longtime Tour trainer called it.

Woods’ post-Players learning curve only goes so far, however. For those viewing the Bridgestone, which he has won seven times, as a rehab start know this – the World Golf Championship is neither a “simulated game” nor are there any “ball counts.” The time to tinker and ease your way back into the fray is on Tuesday and Wednesday, not Thursday.

When asked what his expectations are for this week Woods, at his stoic best, offered only five words, “Same as always, hasn’t changed.” Unsaid, but understood, the expectation is to win.

After 20 months of taking punches, Woods sounded like a man who is finally ready to start landing some of his own.

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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.