Honeymoon over for Tiger-Stricker pairing

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 29, 2012, 1:25 am

MEDINAH, Ill. – The spark that was supposed to propel Tiger Woods to an improbable comeback victory – or at least a half point – occurred on the 16th hole, as you probably know, since your TV sets at home likely shook because of the roar.

At the time, the once-unbeatable team of Woods and Steve Stricker were 2 down to world No. 3 Lee Westwood and a lanky, awesomely talented Belgian named Nicolas Colsaerts, who was playing in his first Ryder Cup. Already on Friday the U.S. pair had lost in morning foursomes, a defeat so uninspiring that it led many to wonder if Woods should sit out a session for the first time in his career.

That seemed a distant memory, however, as Woods faced a slippery 25-foot putt on the 16th at Medinah. He barely touched his putt, the ball picking up speed as it rolled down the slope, and eventually it rammed into the back of the cup for a vintage birdie-3. One down.

Unlike some of his other memorable moments, Woods didn’t scream or pump his fist when the putt dropped. Instead, he simply pointed his finger in the direction of the 17th tee – onward!

This, after all, was the moment that American golf fans had been clamoring for.

Phil Mickelson, who sported a ghastly 11-17-6 record in the Ryder Cup, had gone 2-0 on Day 1, clearly reinvigorated by the stirring play of rookie Keegan Bradley. And now Woods had a chance to ensure that the Americans would not drop a full point in the afternoon session. The teeing ground at No. 17 shook.

But on that watery par-3, where everything was supposed to swing in his opponent’s favor, Colsaerts answered Woods’ tight approach by draining a 20-foot birdie from the front of the green. Woods would make his 5-foot birdie putt too, ensuring the match would indeed go the distance, but it was Colsaerts who had best seized the moment. It was a high-stakes, international game of H-O-R-S-E.

Despite a valiant charge from Woods (five back-nine birdies, seven in all), his comeback ended on a sour note. His 12-foot putt on the final green – the putt that could have secured a half point for the Americans and given his team 3 1/2 points in the afternoon – slid by on the low side. Walking up to the cup, he swatted away the ball in disgust.

It was the lone lowlight on an otherwise sterling afternoon for the U.S. team, which now leads, 5-3, heading into Saturday.

“We had a chance to go all square on the last hole,” Woods said, “and I missed it.”

In an epic anchor match that featured 17 birdies and an eagle, Colsaerts and Westwood held on to win, 1 up, and avoid an American sweep in the fourball session.

Well, no, sorry, that’s not quite accurate.

Colsaerts won, 1 up, after a near-flawless, 1-on-2 performance that rivaled any these biennial matches have ever produced. He was 7 under on his own ball through 10 holes, and he fired the stroke-play equivalent of a 10-under 62.

“It was one of the best putting rounds I’ve ever seen,” Woods said afterward.

The defeat in fading light Friday ultimately will signal the end of the Woods-Stricker Era, at least in 2012.

Tiger single-handedly kept his team in the match – as Colsaerts did his – but the more popular headline Saturday inevitably will be “Woods loses another team match,” and not “Colsaerts thwarts Woods’ late rally.”

The former is true, of course, however harsh the reality. Woods’ record in team play now stands at 9-15-1, after his oh-fer on Friday.

Tiger himself said earlier this week that he accepts blame for the past failures of the U.S. Ryder Cup team; he didn’t earn the points he needed.

He shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for this, though, especially with the U.S. leading after Day 1.

That said, it’s time for a change, for Tiger to test free agency, to find a new partner.

His partnership with Stricker was always predicated on the fact that Stricker’s steady play and otherworldly putting would make the difference. But if suddenly those putts don’t drop, if he begins to waver, what remains? Well, for this U.S. duo, four consecutive losses in team competition. Call that irreconcilable differences.

Perhaps sensing the need for change – or at least a break – Love opted to bench Woods for Saturday morning foursomes, the first time that the world No. 2 has ever sat out a session.

“We really don’t have room for guys to play five (sessions),” Love reasoned. “We don’t have enough basketballs for this team.”

Maybe so, but they do, however, have a surplus of good putters.

Pair Woods with one of them Saturday afternoon, and his disappointing Ryder Cup may be salvaged, after all.

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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 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.