#AskLav: Tour takes break; big things still happening

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 5, 2013, 8:04 pm

Take a breath.

Put down your FedEx Cup calculators, if only for a week.

Destroy those homemade “Impeach Freddie!” signs.

Close the leaderboard page and seek treatment for playoff fever.

The PGA Tour has gone dark, and if it feels like it’s been awhile since the world’s best golfers have enjoyed a bye week … well, that’s because it has.

They’ve been handing out oversized checks for 35 weeks in a row – since the first week of January. No breaks. Indeed, the longest season in sports can sometimes seem like one big sponsor-logoed blur, a months-long NASCAR race without the dizzying side effects.

Hey, at least we needn’t worry about withdrawals. There are still a few tournaments being contested this weekend, just none with playoff implications. Your trusty correspondent, for instance, will spend a few days in the Hamptons for the 44th Walker Cup. (More on that below.)

Take a breath? Oh, no. Not in our never-ending sport.

Here, your #AskLav mailbag questions for this week:

Different points systems, but Jason Day, who at No. 18 in the world is the second highest-ranked International team member, would fall eighth in line on the American squad. Only six players on the International side are ranked inside the top 30 in the world. (The other six have an average OWGR of 47.3.) All 12 Americans are ranked 28th or better. Captain Nick Price has trouble spots all over the board. Brace yourself for another snoozer. 

Sure, it would have been fun to see this human bundle of emotion thrown into the Presidents Cup, but Horschel hasn’t been the same player since he sported those octopus pants at Merion. (Let’s hope that’s merely a coincidence.) In eight starts since, he has no finish better than 30th with three missed cuts – or, put another way, two more than in his previous 18 starts combined. Perhaps he was pressing to make the team, or maybe his stretch of poor play was just unfortunate timing. Whatever the case, he should be in the mix for the team that heads to Gleneagles.

No, not a chance. The Ryder Cup has a history of bad blood and close matches. The Presidents Cup has a history too … of being woefully one-sided. The U.S. is 7-1-1 in the biennial event, and if this year’s event is won in another rout – and there’s a good chance that’ll happen, with the International side boasting just five PGA/European tour wins among its 10 automatic qualifiers – it’s time to blow the thing up. Give the captain the power to select all 12 of his players, schoolyard-style. Include players from Europe. Make drastic changes to the format. Do something, anything. Because this Cup is on the verge of irrelevance, if it isn’t already. 

How about this: The American team should win. After all, the U.S. has lost only twice on home soil since 1922. But the 2011 event – which Team GB&I won, 14-12, in breezy Scottish conditions – tends to skew the way we view this event. Looking back, that U.S. squad was as stacked as it’s ever been: Spieth. Henley. English. Uihlein. Cantlay. They should have cruised to victory and extended their dominating record in the event (now 34-8-1). But the Americans were crushed 1 ½ to 6 ½ in foursomes, and not even a late singles rally could make up the deficit.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago, and the Americans flew to Long Island for a two-day practice session at National Golf Links. Team chemistry shouldn’t be an issue – not with six players (three apiece) from the University of California and Alabama – but Team GB&I might have a slight edge in current form, if the recent U.S. Amateur was any indication. In the end, the match could come down to the mid-ams – there are two this year, per a new and controversial USGA rule – and how they fare in foursomes, assuming they’ll play in both sessions. The early prediction (subject to change, of course): U.S. wins, 14 ½ to 11 ½.

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 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.

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.