Masters on minds of Horschel, other contenders

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2013, 12:15 am

SAN ANTONIO – Will there be a 94th and final Masters participant this year?

Ask the question at your own peril.

Players steadfastly avoid talking about Augusta, perhaps wary of some green-jacket jinx. But if recent form and the current leaderboard are any indication, Billy Horschel seems as good a bet as any to assume the last available spot.

If nothing else, it would fulfill a guarantee he made at Q-School. Last December, at PGA West, he stood next to Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz, with the cameras rolling, and declared, “I’m going to win on the PGA Tour next year. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.”


Rarely are such proclamations made at the torture chamber known as PGA Tour Q-School. (May it rest in peace.) Walking off 18 green, most players exhale, not bluster.

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It was bold. It was cocky. And, Horschel says, it was true.

“I’m as confident as I’ve ever been, and I feel just as good as anyone else in the world right now,” he said late Saturday. “I have nothing to back that up against, but in my own mind that’s all I care about.”

At 10 under (68-68-70–206), Horschel has a two-shot lead at the Valero Texas Open, where a victory would get him into the Masters. You know, the storyline no player seems eager to talk about this week.

If Horschel, who tied for  second last week in Houston, doesn’t collect the $1.1 million first-place prize, if distractions overwhelm him or if he wilts under the spotlight – all of which seems unlikely, it should be noted – then who?

Perhaps Charley Hoffman, two strokes back, will board a flight Sunday night from San Antonio to Atlanta.

That would surprise, no doubt. It’s been a “very below-average season,” Hoffman conceded. He still doesn’t know how he broke a rib in February, but overuse seems a likely culprit. Nevertheless, he played through the injury in Arizona, and then again in L.A., before shutting it down for six weeks.

When he turns up in these parts, however, he may as well be ranked world No. 1, not his current 176. He hasn’t finished worse than 13th in the past four editions of this tournament, including a runner-up in 2011.

“I’ve been on Tour eight years and I think I know what golf courses I play well,” he said. “This is one of them.”

Is the Masters on his mind? Maybe, but it’s buried beneath thoughts of his health (now about 100 percent), and his family, and an Oaks Course that showed its fangs in the afternoon winds Saturday.

“You don’t base your career on how many Masters you play in,” said Hoffman, who has made only one appearance, in 2011. “I’m looking for win No. 3, and it would be a great bonus if win No. 3 comes with a trip to Augusta.”

It’s been nine years since Bob Estes last made that drive down Magnolia Lane. At 47, the Texan thinks he’s in the midst of a career renaissance, a byproduct of the renewed confidence with his long game.

After struggling for much of the past decade, Estes said optimistically of Augusta, “Actually, I’d be much more looking forward to playing there than before.”

Such nostalgic talk would only tease Marcel Siem, who has flirted with a trip to Georgia far too many times in the past week. Last Sunday, he won the European Tour event in Morocco and was told by local media and officials that he had moved inside the world top 50, only to fall percentage points shy.

“My dad was even more upset that I’m not in,” Siem said, “because I always promised him that I’d take him and Mom to the Masters. It’s a dream come true if I finally make it one day.”

Yes, there is a chance, albeit a slim one.

Because Valero had offered him a sponsor exemption, Siem flew privately from Morocco to his home in Germany, crashed for a few hours, then skipped across the Atlantic and arrived here having slept only a few hours.

Not surprisingly, he appeared sluggish in the first round, opening with 76. But he rebounded with rounds of 67-69, putting him six shots off the third-round lead.

“I’m pretty tired,” he said, “but the Masters is a big goal for me. The rest of my energy, I will suck it all out tomorrow.”

Horschel, however, will try to conserve energy. Maintain focus. Attack targets when necessary. Continue to putt like the cup is the size of a sinkhole.

He refuses to talk about Augusta – “It will be cool, but I’ll worry about that tomorrow if it happens” – and for good reason. All a victory here means, he says, “is that I can check off one of my goals that I’ve had since I turned pro.”

“I think I’ve put everything and done everything you need to do to get to the level to win,” he said. “Whether my time is tomorrow, I can’t tell you right now. But I hope it is.”

Take a number, Billy. So do the rest of the Masters hopefuls.

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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.