Stories from the Sony

By Rich LernerJanuary 14, 2011, 5:37 am
HONOLULU – The Sony Open marks the first full-field event of the season – whenever it may officially begin. And with the start of a new year come plenty of new stories – not all from new players.


There was a time when the sun was up at the Sony.

It was Tuesday and it was warm and bright, though no brighter than the slacks John Daly sported. They were a yellow and black diamond print, an entire matching ensemble from the shoes right up to the bottle blond hair.

JD was in a good mood, which was nice to see because for so long his demeanor has seemed so flat.
John Daly
John Daly making a splash Tuesday at the Sony Open. (Getty Images)

“Greatest Christmas of my life,” he said. “I got custody of Little John.”  

John and girlfriend Ana Cladakis will homeschool 7-year-old Little John, suddenly conjuring up an unexpected vision of 'Little House on the Prairie.'

Father and teacher, John’s also a businessman and at that moment he was losing money.

“Jason’s killing us,” he said, referring to Jason Duffner, teaming with Roland Thatcher against John and Pat Perez.

And on cue, Duffner jammed home a downhill 30-footer for birdie at Waialae’s short par-4 12th.  

“Really?” asked Daly. “#@%* you, Rolie!” The players, caddies and this reporter lost it.

“I’m (ranked) third in the world on Tuesdays,” cracked Duffner.  

Daly answered by making an 18-footer for a half.

“I’m going back to my old stroke,” he explained. “I keep the right arm on my hip for an inside-out stroke. Everyone told me the opposite. Get over it more with my hands up but I started cutting everything.”

So there’s hope. It rolls in off the Pacific every January. But in golf, hope gets tempered quickly. When storms descended on Oahu, Round 1 was cancelled.

Thursday morning John stood outside a Denny’s on Waikiki smoking a cigarette, wondering what to do with the day ahead.

It was a slick little move, really, executed with Ricky Rubio flair. On the range, the caddie tossed the golf ball behind his back to the pro who nonchalantly caught it, teed it up and fired away.  

The caddie is 15-year-old Taylor Funk, and his boss is his father, Fred Funk, the 54-year-old former Players champion.    

Interestingly, this isn’t a one off, father-son experience. Taylor’s going to caddie upwards of 20 events this year between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour.

He’s homeschooled and no stranger to tour life. “He already knows everybody because he’s kind of been everyone’s mascot out here since he was born,” said Fred.

Taylor’s not much bigger than the golf bag, but “He helps reads putts and really does it all,” said Fred, whose long-time caddie, Mark Long, determined he didn’t want to work full-time.

A 5 handicap, Taylor believes in his man, as caddies refer to their players. “I still think he can win out here on the right golf course,” Taylor said. “And Waialae’s the right course. The rough’s up and the fairways are tight.”

The boss hasn’t decided how he’s going to pay the caddie. “I know one thing,” said Fred. “The money might be in his account but he won’t see it.”

David Saka is an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Hawaii who qualifyied for the Sony through a local amateur event. His caddie/coach/instructor Kevin Ralbovsky knows Vijay Singh and set up a practice round earlier this week. Jim Furyk joined up.  

So there he was, all of 5’3” and 125 pounds, walking the fairways of Waialae with the 6’3” Hall of Fame member and the FedEx Cup champion.

His assessment of the experience was simple: “They’re very good.”  

He added, “Vijay drives it really far. He’s got me by like 75 yards.”

“Nobody climbs that mountain twice.”  

Paul Goydos, talking about Tiger Woods, is to us media chops what Wes Welker is to Tom Brady: Mr. Reliable.  

He doesn’t own Johnny Miller’s resume, but among current players, he’s most inclined to speak with Miller-like conviction.

On Tiger, while Goydos doesn’t believe he’ll ever be as good as he was 10 years ago, he does think he’ll be the best ever.

“Do I think he’ll be No. 1 again and hold onto it for a while? Yes,' he said. “He’ll win his 100 tournaments and beat Jack’s major record.'

“My goodness, he had a chance to win two majors last year – the Masters and the U.S. Open.'

Dustin Johnson also had a chance to win the U.S. Open until he blew a tire on Sunday.

“He showed me a lot,” Goydos said. “He came back from two heartbreaking losses to win the BMW.

“We’ve never had an athlete like this. He’s got game until the end of the world.”

Like so many, Goydos thinks this is an exciting time for golf with so many confident and capable young players. But he cautions that the Tiger-Phil era is by no means over.

“I wouldn’t be remotely surprised,” he said, “if over the next 10 years they combine to win 10 of the 40 majors played.”

Colleague Jerry Foltz knows the incoming class of PGA Tour rookies off his work on the Nationwide Tour and provided the following thumbnail sketches of a few notable players.

Kevin Chappell: “Has Pat Perez fire with maybe a bit more discipline. Not afraid to go low or occasionally slam a club.”

Daniel Summerhays: “Dynamic, old-school ball striker who likes to work the ball. Wouldn’t be surprised if he won.”

Jhonattan Vegas: “First Tour player from Venezuela. An absolute bomber who can bring a course to its knees.”

Keegan Bradley: “Nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley. Hits it a country mile and an easy guy to root for.”

Jamie Lovemark: “Doesn’t really have a weakness.”

Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey: “Been told his whole life he’s never going to succeed. Has the demeanor of a country boy, swing of a lumberjack and the mentality of a boxer.”  

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.

Getty Images

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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.