The Unusual Suspect

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2010, 3:06 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – When Seve Ballesteros, the sentimental heart and soul of St. Andrews, was forced to withdraw from the Champion’s Challenge one could sense something was afoot; and when Mother Nature pulled the plug on the four-hole exhibition between heroes of Opens past it was clear the golf gods had something different planned for the 150th anniversary of the game’s oldest tilt.

If Louis Oosthuizen is to become the Tony Lema of our generation so be it, but we suspect the script is far from foregone at the Open Championship.

What Oosthuizen lacks in championship pedigree, he has more than made up for with an effortless one-piece action and some of the best lag putting this side of Augusta National.

Even playing alongside Mark Calcavecchia – who made a 9 at the par-5 fifth hole and looked like a man itching to get on the road to Carnoustie for next week’s Senior British Open – Oosthuizen made the game look easy.

But like an NBA game it’s the last quarter that counts and everyone makes a run.

The usual suspects have all come and gone. Tiger Woods said on Saturday following his second-consecutive 73 that he is hitting the ball better than he is scoring. Unfortunately for the world No.1 the claret jug is not doled out on an interpretative basis.

He will begin the final turn a dozen clear of the South African gate crasher, which is a better position than world No. 2 Phil Mickelson who bounced his tee shot off a corporate tent adjacent the 16th hole, insert your own joke here, and is another shot adrift at 2 under.

If there will be a challenge on Sunday it will likely come by way an often-injured Englishman who is fighting a cold and hasn’t been the same since a rib injury during his Open Championship warm-up last year sent him to the bench.

Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen is 18 holes away from hoisting the coveted claret jug. (Getty Images)

Paul Casey moved to within one stroke of Oosthuizen with a birdie at the eighth hole and posted a bogey-free 67 to trim a stroke off the South African’s 36-hole advantage, and if anyone within a pitching wedge of the leader has the game to run down a claret jug it is Casey.

Or at least it was Casey. That was before he injured a rib muscle preparing for last year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. Before he struggled through yet another nagging injury with what at times felt like an endless self life.

“This is the way he was swinging before the Open last year when he got hurt,” said Casey’s swing coach Peter Kostis. “It’s poetic justice that he’s playing well here.”

Or maybe it’s the golf gods looking for an out.

Barring a Dustin Johnson-like start for Oosthuizen on Sunday at the Old Course, it will be Casey or it will be a walk-over by a little-known champion on a course that has a history of favoring the favorite. Woods, Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Faldo, Oosthuizen – with all due respect to the affable South African, you pick which player doesn’t belong.

But the issue is simple math. Oosthuizen’s third-round 69 has eliminated most other options. Among the group within nine strokes of Oosthuizen not a single one of them has a major on the mantle.

Lee Westwood, at 7 under par, has the most experience, but his putting has been as cold as a Scottish breeze this week and his track record at major championships is hardly a reason to visit the local betting house.

“Stranger things have been happening this week,” Westwood said. “It can be done, we know that.”

One needed to look no further than Jean van de Velde for validation of Westwood’s optimism. Van de Velde is an on-course radio reporter this week and golf’s ultimate proper verb, as in “he pulled a Van de Velde.” But Oosthuizen doesn’t exactly have the look of the forlorn Frenchman and the Old Course, for all its history and appeal, is not Carnoustie.

Just as Casey and Westwood were about to tee off on the snapshot 18th hole well past cocktail hour on the Firth of Forth, Oosthuizen’s approach shot into the 17th hole rolled just over the green and onto the tee box a few feet from the Englishmen.

Westwood mockingly made a move toward the golf ball with his driver. It wasn’t exactly a white-flag moment, but the field, and the golf gods, are running out of time and options.

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.

Getty Images

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.

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.

Getty Images

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.