Woods on the verge of ending victory drought

By Rex HoggardJanuary 28, 2012, 4:30 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Remember when this was automatic? Death, taxes, Tiger, so predictable, so perfunctory.

Tiger Woods closing out 54-hole leads was akin to the sun rising in the east, a lock so solid you could bet the house as long as said homestead wasn’t underwater with a toxic mortgage.

Before the 2009 PGA Championship and someone named Y.E. Yang tilted against the ultimate windmill, Woods had never lost a 54-hole advantage in a major championship. Before the 2010 Chevron World Challenge and Graeme Mcdowell he’d never yielded a four-stroke, three-day advantage in any contest.

The consensus was the game’s preeminent frontrunner had lost a step on his layup and wouldn’t cast the same ominous shadow on would-be contenders as his winless drought stretched to two years.

It is curious then that as Robert Karlsson made his way to the clubhouse late Saturday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he paused to glance up at the leaderboard and its headliner – WOODS -11.

“This is what we want,” said Karlsson, who, as fate would have it, was Woods’ Round 3 partner at the 2008 U.S. Open. “This is the best I’ve seen him play in a long time.”

Left unsaid was whether Woods’ aura would be worth a half stroke per side the way some believe it used to.

Tiger 3.0 may not inspire angina the way the old model did, but all eyes were on Woods on Saturday. His third-round 66 was his second bogey-free effort this week and moved him into a tie for the lead with Robert Rock and two-strokes clear of all others.

For close observers, Saturday’s 66 may be his biggest accomplishment of the week. Day 3 was the ultimate litmus test for Woods, who ranked 176th in Round 3 scoring on the PGA Tour last year and in November was sent spiraling down the leaderboard by a third-round 75 at the Australian Open.

In short, Saturday’s have been anything but special for the one-time Round 3 specialist.

But after two days of indifferent play on Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s par 5s, Woods began his run at the 10th with a 3-wood that dropped 40 feet from the hole and a two-putt birdie. On the 18th hole it was the same 3-wood to 70 feet for birdie that assured him a share of the lead.

“(No.) 10 was a nice way to start the back nine. I could get a 5-wood there but the wind was coming off the right so I just banked a 3-wood,” said Woods, who was 1 under on the par 5s through 45 holes. “On 18, I told Joey (LaCava), I’m going to hit the same shot I hit on 10 and it worked out.”

Following an opening round of 70 Woods’ game had steadily improved and on Saturday the only thing better than his lag putting was his play off the tee. Although he hit just four fairways on his closing nine none of the misses were more than two paces off the fairway and the new and improved stinger continues to be a staple.

“I’ve got the club in a position where I can hit that shot and I can get some heat on it and get it out there,” Woods said. “Given the right conditions and if I chase it out there with a little bit of a draw I can almost hit it as far as my driver.”

Rory McIlroy, who was paired for the third consecutive day with Woods, made a game of it and pulled to within a stroke of the lead through 53 holes, but he played the 18th up the adjacent 10th fairway, or nearly so, and highlights a group of four players two strokes back.

The Ulsterman, who has never gone head-to-head with Woods for a title, seems the most likely candidate to be this week’s Yang or McDowell and he didn’t sound like a man mulling his chances in the “B flight.”

“I’ve seen him up close the last three days, how he’s playing, and I feel like if I go out there and play my best golf I’ve got a good chance,” McIlroy said.

Whether Woods still has his 54-hole mojo remains to be seen, but the only thing more ominous at Abu Dhabi Golf Club late Saturday was the cartoonish clubhouse that looks more like a ride at Epcot than a traditional 19th hole.

He may not be the lock he once was, but with a 54-hole lead Woods still looms large.

You can catch final-round coverage of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship live Sunday on Golf Channel from 3-8 AM ET.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

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.