Long Drives and Tomsmanship
In a sport which prefers a soft strain of piano, John Dalys a Merle Haggard song. Hes straight country, with a Marlboro hanging from his lips, and a truckfull of busted nights, busted marriages and busted tee balls. The victory at the BMW International puts an exclamation point on the comeback that should be a made-for-TV movie with a Nashville soundtrack. It restores his marketability overseas and allows him to improve his financial situation. Amazing, because this wasnt believed possible a year ago. There was still the specter of sevens and eights on any given hole and the occasional WD. That Daly had the mental and physical stamina to stay focused for four straight days at a high, high level is most gratifying of all. What now? Its always perilous to try to predict the future with John. But its sure rosier than its been in some time. And if the more-likely and consistent challengers to Tiger over the next few years figure to be Duval and Mickelson, the one who would bring the house down is John Daly tangling with Tiger on the backside at a longer and harder Augusta National.
Where Did She Come From?
Donna Caponi confided to me while I was in the booth for the First Union Betsy King Classic that Kate Golden had much more talent than her performance indicated. A week later Caponi looks like a prophet when Golden fired a final-round 63 to come from six back to beat Annika Sorenstam - of all players - at the Rail Classic. It was Goldens first win and it was as improbable as any on the women's tour all season. Her final-round scoring average coming in was 73, and Sorenstam was so firmly in control through three rounds that no one stopped to consider for a moment any scenario but Annika collecting her seventh win of the year and sewing up the Rolex Player of the Year race.
Mastery is within reach of more than a few in golf. Kate Golden mastered it for a Sunday. Joel Edwards mastered it for a week and hed been at it for 25 years and had never before won a PGA Tour Event, in a runaway no less.
Mike Weir missed the cut at Vancouver last week. That qualifies as a huge disappointment since Weir gets only two chances a year to perform in his home country in PGA Tour events, and also because Vancouver was the site of his PGA breakthrough. It would be nice to see him bounce back this week at The Canadian Open at Royal Montreal. Tigers defending and international French-speaking and lovely Montreal in early September for a national title defense qualifies as a good place to be.
The Tom Lehman debate is interesting. Does Lehman deserve some respect for having taken the U.S. first out of the gates on the happiest Sunday in American golf history when he routed Lee Westwood in the opening singles at Brookline? For being a flag-loving, all-American, God-fearing man perfectly cut out to play in matches like these? Should Curtis have trusted that a player of the stature of Lehman could put his house and game in order in three- or four-weeks' time? Rhetorical questions. Its possible but unlikely that Captain Curtis opted for the bland but effective Verplank and in the process removed a major agent of European agitation in Lehman. Captain Sam Torrance, in the aftermath of the 17th hole controversy at Brookline, seethed at the time and said of Lehman, And he calls himself a man of God. Lehman is not widely liked by the Euros, who see him as perhaps a phony. Get past the Jimmy Stewart modesty and Lehman couldnt give a hoot what they think of him. Lehmans a streetfighter. But whats interesting here is that Curtis in his day was thought to be a streetfighter, a veteran guy you wanted in the foxhole, you couldnt be without. Turned out that Curtis - at least in 1995 when HE was the captains choice of Lanny Wadkins - was the wrong guy. There will be some added pressure on Verplank to deliver on Curtis belief in him. But Ill bet therell come a time when we say, itd be nice to have Tom Lehman right about now.
Olazabal wont be there either, and thats a gaping absence just in terms of what Ollies done for the Euro Ryder Cuppers through the years. He was always a dynamite foursomes and four-ball partner, particularly with Seve. Beginning in 87 at Jacks House - Muirfield in Ohio - the two teamed very successfully. Ollie was 21 back in 87. And though hes weathered, battered by the years, it would have been nice if he had the chance to redeem the collapse against Justin Leonard in 99. But it wont happen. The Euros need to sort out their selection process, find a way to get the best 12. With due respect, Pierre Fulke doesnt belong. Jose does.
I played golf last week with a bunch of friends and brothers, one of whom showed up in a Shingo hat. Naturally, we called him Shingo for the next three days. Shingo became an essence. A mantra. Shingo smiles. Shingo bounces. Shingo enjoys. Shingo plays. Katayama in Atlanta gave us a new golfing fundamental called Shingoism. Next time youre tight on the course, think Shingo. Also, henceforth any play involving smarts and course management is to be known as Tomsmanship. An example would be, He displayed excellent Tomsmanship layin up to the right here, Jimmy!
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
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.
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
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
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
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
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
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.