Woodland's resolve on display at PGA, through crisis

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2017, 8:56 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When Gary Woodland arrived at Washburn University in the fall of 2002 he was an undersized point guard who admittedly had never really been tested.

That changed quickly.

“At one of his first practices [Woodland] gets in there and gets a rebound and I stop practice and start giving it to the guys, ‘What are you doing letting this freshman get a rebound?’ I made them run laps forever,” recalled Bob Chipman, the Ichabods’ basketball coach for 38 seasons. “The seniors laid into him after that, don’t you dare try to get another rebound.”

Woodland didn’t stop then and he hasn’t stopped since.

Chipman went on to explain that Woodland had a magical shooting touch at Washburn, setting the 3-point record for a freshman in his lone season with the team, but what he truly admired was that unquantifiable toughness –

“hard-nosed” is how the legendary coach explained it.

“He is hard-nosed,” said Butch Harmon, Woodland’s swing coach, “just look at him. He’s tough, he’s an athlete, he’s a joy to work with because he’s used to being coached as a basketball player.”

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Woodland’s time at Washburn was short and he left the team after his freshman year to play golf at Kansas and eventually the PGA Tour. But that toughness that defined his time in Topeka, Kan., was just as evident on Thursday at the PGA Championship when he rounded Quail Hollow Club in 68 strokes for a share of second place, just a stroke off the first-round lead.

It was there two weeks ago when he found a way to finish fourth at the RBC Canadian Open with what has become a common problem for the 33-year-old in recent months – a stone, cold putter.

“The way I’ve putted lately, I haven’t made anything, so you have to find a way to get through that and focus on other things and hopefully putts go in,” Woodland said. “I grinded through to finish fourth in Canada and found a way to give myself a chance on Sunday when I wasn’t making any putts.”

But most telling is how he found a way to move forward after what he calls the hardest year of his life. In March, Woodland revealed via social media that his wife, Gabby, who was pregnant with twins, suffered from complications which resulted in the loss of one child.

In June, Gabby gave birth to the couple’s first child, Jaxson, who was born 10 weeks early and weighed just 3 pounds.

“With what we dealt with for a long time and the struggle my wife has had to deal with. It’s been hard for me to leave home,” Woodland said following his best round at a major since the 2012 PGA Championship.

Jaxson still needs a monitor to help with his breathing and he’s scheduled to undergo surgery next week for a hernia, but he’s home, which is all that matters to both mother and father after what has understandably been an emotional few months for the Woodlands.

Every day, after good round or bad, Woodland leaves the golf course and spends time with Jaxson via FaceTime. The perspective has made everything in Woodland’s life predictably easier, even a putter that hasn’t been cooperating.

“Just knowing he’s safe. Before he was born we didn’t know if he was going to make it. And then he was born so early, luckily the doctors and the nurses were so good,” Woodland said.

This definitely makes me forget about the missed putts down the stretch

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It was Woodland’s improved putting on Day 1 at Quail Hollow, where he took just 16 putts per green in regulation, that moved him into contention, not to mention a long game that is a perfect fit for what is quickly becoming the season’s toughest major venue.

“He’s probably playing the best he’s ever played in his life. He’s driving the ball beautifully, his distance really helps,” Harmon said. “This week he’s made some putts, which he’s been struggling with.”

But there was no hiding the solace of having Jaxson at home awaiting his FaceTime call. That ease had been missing the last few months on Tour as Woodland, normally one of the circuit’s most engaging players, wrestled with the emotions and uncertainty.

Throughout the last few months Woodland’s toughness was tested, but the hard-nosed player never stopped moving forward, just like he did at Washburn.

“I learned how to work and how to fight [at Washburn],” Woodland said on Thursday.

Late in Woodland’s season at Washburn, Chipman recalled a game against Northwest Missouri State, the Ichabods’ rivals.

“They had us beaten bad, so at the half I threw [Woodland] in and he hit five 3-pointers, the last one was way beyond NBA range to win the game,” Chipman laughed. “I figure a guy that can do that shouldn’t have any problem making putts.”

Just as the guy who endured the trials brought by the last few months seems to be having no problem dealing with the relative pressure of a major championship.

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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.