Fowler hopes to make major statement at Quail Hollow

By Ryan LavnerAugust 11, 2017, 9:02 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler has answered the tough questions before at Quail Hollow.

Five years ago at the Wells Fargo Championship, everyone in golf was wondering when the motocross-loving, long-haired, human Crayola was going to break through on the PGA Tour. His answer was emphatic: Squaring off against Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points, and dressed in all orange, Fowler flagged his approach shot in the playoff to set off a raucous celebration.

Fowler’s victory was supposed to launch his career, and maybe even ignite a compelling rivalry between two of the sport’s young, telegenic stars.

“He has gone through a little bit of scrutiny and a lot of pressure trying to get that first win,” McIlroy said then. “But now that win is out of the way. Hopefully, that will ease the pressure a little bit.”

Except that week has only ratcheted up expectations.

Since their duel five years ago, McIlroy has blown past Fowler in the majors, 3-0 (and four total). Even in regular events there is a sense that Fowler, 28, has underachieved: His four PGA Tour titles are nothing to scoff at, of course, but his career haul is only one more than four players (Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas) have won this season alone. It doesn’t compute that the guy who has just about everything – mass appeal, good looks, the unwavering support of his peers and a killer all-around game – has yet to claim one of the legacy-making titles.

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“What he’s done and what he’s had the opportunity to do doesn’t surprise me or anybody else,” Points said Friday. “But winning majors is hard. You can do all the right things and not win. And then you can do things and be like, Oh, I didn’t really feel like I did everything that right, and then you can walk away with the trophy. He’s going to be in the hunt again and he’ll have the opportunity.”

Fowler has had plenty over the past few years.

In 2014, he joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top 5 in all four majors in one year. The big difference? Jack and Tiger at least walked away with some hardware.

This year, too, Fowler has reached the doorstep of history, only to be turned away in the final round. The 36-hole co-leader at the Masters, Fowler played in the penultimate group on Sunday, just one shot behind, and stumbled to a 76. At the U.S. Open, he held the first-round lead and again entered the final round in good position, only two shots back, but played cautiously and shot 72, getting lapped by Brooks Koepka and prompting another wave of think pieces about when he will take the next step in his career.

And so here is another opportunity. At a tougher, meaner Quail Hollow, Fowler stayed out of trouble, shot 1-under 70 Friday and positioned himself in the top 6, just five shots back heading into the weekend at the PGA Championship.

Fittingly, Fowler was grouped for the first two days with McIlroy, but he hardly resembled the thrill- and pin-seeking 23-year-old who had won here in 2012. He didn’t deviate from his game plan, often taking iron or fairway wood off the tee when McIlroy bashed away with driver. It was a calculated decision, part of what Fowler said he learned from his previous experiences in contention this year.

“You can say you played defense a little bit, but it’s not exactly like you are playing scared out there,” he said. “You are playing smart and picking your way around the golf course.”

The distance gap between McIlroy and Fowler was striking, but so were the results.

Surrendering 32 yards off the tee, on average, Fowler outplayed McIlroy by five shots over two rounds.

“With the way I’ve been playing, with how I’m swinging it this week, I know I can win,” Fowler said. “That’s already set. It’s more so in between the ears, making sure I make the right decisions and not get ahead of myself. If we do that, it will be all right.”

Fowler has a history of timely rebuttals. The victory at Quail Hollow silenced the doubters who said he was more style than substance. His thrilling comeback at The Players in 2015 came a week after a magazine poll labeled him the most overrated player in golf.

At the end of another major season, this would seem an opportune time for another statement.

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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.