Payne Stewart More than a champion

By Rich LernerOctober 23, 2009, 8:53 pm

My most vivid memory from the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst was not Payne Stewarts winning putt but rather what happened in the press center after.

Unquestionably the gutsy 72nd-hole par lives forever as a testament to Stewarts fearless quality. He was also mischievous, which is no great revelation to those who knew him.

Payne Stewart memorial statue
Payne Stewart's winning putt in the 1999 U.S. Open is memorialized at Pinehurst. (Getty Images)

On the left side of a packed media room, I stood in front of a television camera, intently delivering my report on the momentous events of the day. Unbeknownst to me, Payne slipped into the gathering. Just behind me and seeing that I was oblivious, he began waving his arms, with that big smile of his, reporters erupting in laughter. It was a spontaneous, happy moment, albeit at my expense.

And it was pure Payne. He loved to play.

People forget though that Payne was a work in progress in the months leading up to that U.S. Open. He had opened himself to the possibility that he needed improvement, not just as a golfer but as a man.

I interviewed Payne at his lavish home in Orlando just before Pinehurst. It struck me that like a lot of men in their early 40s Payne figured it was time to grow up because suddenly time wasnt the best friend it used to be.

He had curbed his drinking because he saw how it affected his behavior and knew that his mother was an alcoholic.

We had a big family discussion about this, he said in 1999. Id come home and quite a few nights drink three martinis and it hit me that I needed to dial it back. Alcoholism is in our family and I know the toll it can take so hopefully I wont ever have to go through that.

Payne paid closer attention to his family because any kid would rather have a father first and a famous golfer for a dad second.

Hoggard: Stewart's legacy lives on in son Aaron

I think probably my family has made me mature more, Payne said. I need to set an example for my kids. I dont want them to act the way I used to act. I want them to learn through me.

Aaron was 10 and Chelsea 13. By all accounts today theyre both well adjusted, in no small measure because of the brave parenting of Paynes widow Tracey, but also because of the changes Payne had made in the final years of his life.

Payne also rededicated himself to his craft because he realized that talent wasted is an awful burden to grow old with.

I didnt want to look back and say I couldve done more, he said.

Soon after we talked, Payne won the U.S. Open. Given his sound emotional state, I wasnt surprised.

Payne also desperately wanted to be part of the 1999 Ryder Cup, certain he could help restore Americas sagging fortunes.

At Brookline, with that intoxicating patriotic brew producing some ugly behavior, specifically toward Colin Montgomerie, Payne tried to restore civility.

He conceded his match against Monty, even though it was one Payne was not going to win. Still, though, Payne did the right thing. And thats where Payne was in his life, at a point where doing the right thing ' with family and with golf ' was a priority.

And so 10 years after his greatest triumph and tragic death, Paynes story will always be instructive, a reminder that change is possible and healthy, that yesterday only matters if you learn from it, that tomorrows not promised. Its also a reminder that now is the time to act, time to smile, time to contemplate, time to be bold, time to care and the time to do the right thing.

What we do does resonate, in ways big and small. This day and forever.

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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.