Finally healthy, Day's ready for another run at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 9, 2015, 3:14 am

SAN DIEGO – Last year at this time, Jason Day truly believed he was on the verge of becoming the No. 1 player in the world.

Then he hyperextended his thumb.

Then he suffered a bulging disc in his back.

And then he thought, Well, here we go again.

Dreams of that top spot faded. Again. He watched Rory McIlroy script one of the best seasons in recent memory and open up a huge lead in the rankings.

“It was bad timing,” Day said Sunday, shaking his head. “Really bad timing.”

A few months ago, he sat down with his team (caddie/swing coach Colin Swatton, mental coach, trainer and agent) and said, essentially: Now what?

Day couldn’t go through another injury-plagued season, not after a depressing summer in which he seriously contemplated what he was going to do, and whether he was going to be able to play to the level he was capable.

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That elite level was on display again Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open, where Day erased a three-shot deficit with a 2-under 70 and defeated J.B. Holmes on the second playoff hole.

“I needed this win,” he said. “I really wanted to win.”

Once again No. 4 in the world, Day says he’s never been more motivated than he was this offseason – “I really wanted to kick butt” – and it’s easy to see why.

He was tired of watching Rory dominate.

He was tired of feeling like an underachiever.

He was tired of battling injuries.

For the first time in his career, he didn’t jot down goals for this season. With only two Tour titles in seven years, Day didn’t say that he wanted to have a bunch of top 10s, or to win multiple times, or to capture a major title. No, he simply said this: He wanted to give 100 percent – in every tournament, every round, every day.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “I don’t want to go through life thinking about what if I tried a little harder. If I can put in 100 percent every day, really give it a good shot, then at the end of my career I know that it’s been successful, because that’s as much as I could do.”

Last year felt like Day’s breakthrough. He authored a stirring performance at the WGC-Match Play, a victory that he thought would soon propel him to No. 1. But his hyperextended left thumb only got worse. He withdrew from Doral and didn’t play again until the Masters, when he tied for 20th despite not hitting a practice ball for two months leading into the event.

That lingering injury affected him for three months, and it even forced him to weaken his left-hand grip to alleviate some of the pressure. There was the bout with vertigo at Firestone. And eventually, that ailment gave way to another – a bulging disc in his lower back that sidelined him at the BMW Championship. After gutting out a T-4 at the Tour Championship, Day shut it down for the better part of three months, scrapping his obligations in his home country of Australia so that he could focus on rehabbing and building up strength in his thumb and back.

The process was all too familiar. For years Day has been labeled as one of the Tour’s immensely talented but injury-plagued stars. Every time he seemed close to surging forward, he broke down and retreated. An injury to his ankle. His wrist. His thumb. His back.

What followed was the usual finger-pointing, the hushed discussions that Day swung too hard, practiced too much or was just too brittle for a full Tour slate.

“We said one year where you’re fully healthy, it’s going to be a big year,” Swatton said. “This is the start.”

So don’t underestimate the importance of winning this event, in these U.S. Open-like conditions at Torrey Pines.

“If you have a big year you have to win early,” Swatton said. “This will calm him down, but it’ll also give him the sense to say all the hard work is worth it, and the hard work will pay off. From here it’ll only help him stay focused, stay hungry and definitely want to chase Rory down.”

In his last seven OWGR events, Day has a win and six finishes of seventh or better, with a scoring average over that span of 68.36.

On the world’s biggest stage there is a void waiting to be filled, with a diminished Tiger Woods, a dominant McIlroy and a host of occasional winners in pursuit.

Firmly committed, Day is now fully prepared to challenge for No. 1.

As usual, he just hopes he can stay healthy.

“It’s obviously going to be tough to try and catch him,” he said, “but that’s why we are here. We love to compete, and we love to try and see what we’ve got.”

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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.