Winning Titles Shedding Titles

By Rex HoggardMay 10, 2010, 5:12 am

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On the eve of Sunday’s final round at The Players Championship one long-time PGA Tour observer laid down a surprising truth, “Not only is Tim Clark the best player without a Tour title, he’s the best without a major.”

Less than 24 hours later on a golf course baked hard by heat and humidity the wee South African inched 1 ½ innings closer to shedding both titles with a fairways-and-greens schtick that never played well at the March Players but is custom fit to the May version, and an oversized putter that made quick work of the meanest greens this side of Oakmont.

Clark won the Bridesmaids Open on Sunday over perennial also-rans Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby, not with a roar but an authoritative clearing of the throat.

Clinical was Clark in his maiden Tour breakthrough, hitting 42 of 56 dusty fairways, 55 of 72 springy greens and 63 of 67 putts inside 10 feet. All total one would have thought the mid-length Clark was exactly what Pete Dye had in mind when he dug TPC Scruffy out of the swamp.

“A part of me is a bit disappointed because now no one is going to talk about me anymore. At least you had something to write about before. Now I'm just another guy with a win,” smiled Clark, who shot one of just two rounds in the 60s on Sunday (67) for a 16-under 272 total and one-stroke victory over Allenby.

For the record, the last two Tour standard bearers, Rory McIlroy last week at Quail Hollow and Clark at TPC, posted the rounds of the day on Saturday and Sunday, proving once and for all that weekends are made for winners and relegating Rounds 1 and 2 to qualifying laps.

The Players was Clark’s 206th Tour start, a record of futility that had started to weigh on Clark’s narrow shoulders for some time as he piled up the near-misses (eight runners-up and 40 top 10s).

“He told me a few months ago, ‘I can’t win, I can’t win,’” said Allenby, undone, again, by an uncooperative putter. “And then he goes out and beats me.”

The TPC dance card is officially full with Clark’s victory. Since the move to May in 2007 the crystal has been hoisted by the bombers (Phil Mickelson, 2007 and Henrik Stenson, 2009) the ballstriker (Sergio Garcia, 2008) and now the plodder thanks, in large part, to a perfectly storm-free week.

Hard and fast conditions took driver out of most players’ hands – Lucas Glover, for example, hit no more than four drivers each day. Clark, however, was able to keep the ball in play with the driver and play from the same spots as those he’s usually chasing.

The quintessential moment of length equalization occurred on the 18th hole on Sunday when Clark roped a driver perfectly into the fairway while playing partner Charley Hoffman had to lay back with a fairway wood and ended up some 70 yards behind Clark.

“He said, ‘I need to get some adrenaline because I’ve never hit a drive that long in my life,’” Hoffman said.

Yet as inspiring as Clark’s breakthrough was, Westwood’s also-ran had the look of a trend that is starting to lurch toward a habit. The Englishman was quoted recently that he is the second-best player based on how well he is hitting the ball. Thursday through Saturday it’s a hard point to argue. Sundays, however, are a different game altogether.

Westwood has racked up more silver and bronze of late than Canada, finishing second at last month’s Masters, this year’s Dubai Desert Classic and either second or third in half of the last eight majors.

Tiger Woods famously once opined that “second sucks” and no one knows that better than Westwood.

At Sawgrass it seems Karma, more so than a suspect short game or a spotty closer’s record, would explain Westwood’s Sunday misfortunes. The Englishman skipped the event last year and leveled the ultimate slight last week at Quail Hollow.

“The Players probably used to be regarded as the fifth major, and it felt that way back in the late '90s,” Westwood said. “But since the invention of the World Golf Championships, I think it's actually stepped back from that. They have to go in now before The Players Championship. So what is it, eighth on the list now?”

On Sunday Westwood began the final 18 holes at the “eighth major” with a one-stroke lead, missed four of his first seven fairways and dropped into a tie for the lead when Clark birdied the 11th hole. At the 14th Westwood had tree trouble, made bogey and the freefall was on.

“I just didn’t play well enough on Saturday and Sunday,” said Westwood, whose last shot at Players’ glory dropped into the pond surrounding the famed 17th hole and he finished tied for fourth place after a closing 2-over 74.

Allenby’s chances lasted a bit longer but ended in familiar fashion: an eagle left hanging on the lip at the 16th hole and a birdie putt at the 17th that stopped a roll short.

The Australian remains winless since 2002 but found a surprising amount of solace in his eighth runner-up finish on Tour and his third this season.

“My turn will come, that’s for sure,” Allenby said. “I’m not disappointed.”

It’s a good bet that neither is Clark. Not after his performance over the last 36 holes at TPC Sawgrass. Not after nine seasons of heartbreak.

“I think had I not won a tournament and come to the end of my PGA Tour career, there would have been some issues,” Clark admitted as the bagpipes echoed across Sawgrass. “At the end of the day, these are tournaments that you do judge your career on, The Players Championship and majors.”

With 36 near-flawless holes, Clark shed the better part of two unwanted titles. Not a bad weekend.

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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.