McDowell, Watson, Dufner discuss life after big wins

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2013, 8:04 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing the winner’s tartan jacket last Sunday night, Graeme McDowell appeared relieved – that he had survived a hellish day at Harbour Town, that he’s seeing signs of improvement and that his near three-year winless drought on the PGA Tour was over.

In 2010, seemingly half a career ago, G-Mac enjoyed a dream season. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He delivered the clinching point at the Ryder Cup. He took down Tiger Woods at his own tournament. They were three spectacular, legacy-defining moments, and they occurred in a six-month span. A market correction loomed.

The following year, he changed equipment and grappled internally with who he was as a golfer and where he was going. Finally, he emerged as the man you saw at Hilton Head – ebullient, engaged to be married, a proud restaurant owner and, yes, a two-time PGA Tour winner.

Yet in the wake of McDowell’s resurgence, it’s worth exploring: Why is a breakthrough season so rarely followed by another stellar campaign?

After all, no 2012 major champion has won this year, on any tour, anywhere. Neither have a few of the promising stars of last season, namely Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner, the defending champion here at the Zurich Classic.

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Indeed, the latter may be best remembered this year for doing nothing, in the form of Dufnering.

In that viral photo from late March, Dufner was snapped leaning against a wall in a children’s classroom, legs erect, arms stiff at his side, completely zoned out. The pose has become something of a cultural phenomenon – when Wednesday’s pro-am was suspended due to severe weather, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and Fowler each took turns posting #Dufnering photos on Twitter. It never gets old, thankfully.

Unfortunately for Dufner, 36, however, this season has been similarly expressionless. A few months ago, he fell into a bad habit (shutting his clubface at the top of the swing) after playing in windy conditions. As a result, the two-time winner in 2012 has had four top 25s, zero top 10s and no realistic chances to win, but thinks now that he has “turned the page.”

“I don’t feel like I’ve added any pressure on myself (this season),” he said. “I feel like I can win events, but I don’t feel like I should win events out here on a regular basis. You can play a lot of great golf and not win events.”

Justin Rose says players such as Dufner are simply evolving. The Englishman initiated his own self-evaluation after last year’s victory at Doral, where he took a massive career leap in capturing his first World Golf Championship. Currently, he has racked up 16 consecutive top-25 finishes worldwide – an incredible streak that dates to Labor Day – as he has ascended to No. 4 in the world rankings. But there have been no victories during that span, save for the unofficial eight-man cash-grab in Turkey.

“Life gets busier,” Rose, 32, said. “Sponsorship demands, media obligations, the phone starts ringing a bit more. A lot of that happens without you really realizing it’s changing. All of a sudden you realize you don’t have quite the same time to practice or don’t have enough time for family or time for yourself. That all has a very big effect.

“Expectations ramp up and that can lead to frustration if things aren’t going your way. We want to play our best golf and have breakout years and push ourselves to the next level, but that next level comes with its own set of challenges. You’ve got to be ready to face them.”

Watson confronts those challenges more publicly than most. Last year, just weeks before the Masters, he and wife Angie adopted their first son, Caleb, now 14 months. In the months following the green-jacket ceremony, Watson has smashed produce with his pink driver on late-night TV, appeared in a few Ping commercials, filmed another Golf Boys video and unveiled his hovercraft golf cart. In other words, life intervened.

But since winning the Masters, since becoming a breakout star, Watson has not won or finished in the top 10 in his last four majors.

What changed?

Well, to hear Watson, quite a bit.

“The media, when you win a big event, they don’t attack you but they flock to you. You have a voice now, something to say. When you just top 10 each week, they don’t really flock to you. Sponsors want more of your time. Fans want more of your time. There are more charity things you can do, more events you can go to. High-up people are calling you, wanting to hang out. Golf is the last thing on everybody’s mind.”

Watson, 34, says he’s adjusting not just to celebrity life but to life itself. He hopes to start a foundation, to raise money for charity. He and Angie want to adopt another son, to enjoy their new house in Florida.

Soon, young Caleb will begin school, and Watson says it’s never too early to look at retirement options, or discuss insurance policies.

“There are a lot of things that distract you from golf,” he says. “But for me, golf is the easy part. Life is the harder thing. We all struggle with that at some point.”

Eventually, talent overcomes and they will win again, much like McDowell after a near three-year drought on Tour.

The hope next time, of course, is that the adjustment period isn’t so harsh.

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.

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.