One marathon day down, two more to go at U.S. Open

By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2016, 1:46 am

OAKMONT, Pa. – After 13 hours of nonstop golf, Andrew Landry is still atop the leaderboard at the 116th U.S. Open, even though he struck just one shot Friday. Only now he has company, with Dustin Johnson bombing his way into a share of the lead after a near-flawless display at Oakmont.

After firing the first bogey-free round in an Open here since 1994, Johnson putted for birdie on all but two holes in the second round. Opting to finish in darkness, Johnson’s stress-free 69 pushed him to 4-under 136.

“I felt like I played really good all day,” he said. “Very pleased with how it went today.”

More than a quarter of the way through this disjointed Open, the leaderboard lacks some of the familiar names – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are a combined 20 over par – but it has reignited the best-player-without-a-major debate and also turned the spotlight onto a familiar protagonist.

Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, with 26 top-5s in majors between them, all were inside the top four when the second round was suspended.

Their early standing should come as little surprise. 

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Star-crossed at golf’s biggest events, Johnson was still one of the pre-tournament favorites based not only on his recent form (consecutive top-5s on Tour), but because of a venue that so perfectly fit his brawny game. A long, straight driver enjoys a massive advantage at Oakmont, and Johnson has been lethal off the tee, finding 71 percent (20 of 28) of the fairways while leading the field in driving distance, at 318.8 yards a pop.

“He played awesome,” Garcia said.

Westwood, now 43, shared second place two months ago at the Masters, while Garcia has regained his form, winning last month at the Nelson. The Spaniard closed out his day with a 50-footer for par on a course he described as the most difficult he’s ever played.

The rest of the picture here is less clear, with an eclectic cast of characters from major rookies to grinder-types to promising Europeans. Yet as Day 2 drew to a close, it was instructive to keep these early results in perspective: Only 47 of the 155 players have completed 36 holes, and half the field hasn’t even started its second round.

That’s why Landry, ranked 624th in the world and playing in his first major, was still at the top. Early Friday morning, he didn’t even bring his staff bag or his caddie to the course. His only task was cleaning up a 10-foot birdie putt that gave him an opening 66, the low first-round score at an Oakmont Open. 

Prior to this week, Landry hadn’t been inside the top 20 after any round this season, but now he’ll sleep on the lead at his national championship for the second consecutive night. Cooped up indoors after his early finish, Landry, sporting a new, clean-shaven look, returned to the course late Friday afternoon to spend about an hour at the practice area. His second round begins at 7:11 a.m. ET Saturday.

Among those who have yet to begin their second round: two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson (1 under), defending U.S. Open champion Spieth (2 over) and world No. 3 McIlroy (7 over). 

No U.S. Open is complete without a chorus of complaints, of course, and so it was Friday that some of the early-late starters groaned about their misfortune, as they endured three weather delays in one round while the other half of the field (including Johnson, the co-leader) played as many as 36 holes in a single day on a soft, gettable course.

The numbers suggest their grumblings were at least somewhat justified: The scoring average for the early-late starters (75.22) was nearly two shots higher than the afternoon wave (73.27). There were five more under-par rounds on the course when play was finally called, at 8:42 p.m. ET, after 13 consecutive hours of golf.

Oakmont’s slick, sloping greens have frightened members and Open competitors for years, but they haven’t been as fearsome over the first two days here, after nearly three inches of rain in a 36-hour span. The greens are rolling about a foot slower than the USGA hoped, allowing players to putt more aggressively. And the surfaces are soft and receptive, eliminating any fear that well-struck wedge shots would take a firm bounce and bound over the back. It’s a testament to Oakmont’s classic design – and its long, dense, penal rough – that only six players who have started two rounds remain under par.

Over the next two days, Oakmont will only get firmer, speedier and scarier, with a forecast that calls for low humidity and high temperatures in the upper-80s. (Hello, mud balls.) It’s a safe bet that Daniel Summerhays’ second-round 65 will stand as the low score of the week. One of the last players into the field as an alternate, Summerhays surged into a tie for seventh, just three shots off the clubhouse lead. “I need to think about that round, just sear it right into my memory,” he said. More importantly, he’s already signed two scorecards while the rest of the field is playing catch-up.

Indeed, another marathon day looms Saturday, with golf scheduled from sunrise to sunset. In 24 hours, the leaderboard figures to look much different.

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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.