Tour journeymen shine in the rain at Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 28, 2016, 8:03 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Every PGA Tour player is looking for a spark.

It’s why some change putters.

And why others change perspective.

And why a few even change caddies.

That’s the common thread among a few of the early contenders here at the weather-delayed Zurich Classic. Brian Stuard, Derek Ernst and J.J. Henry haven’t played well this season, but they all made a slight tweak entering this week, hoping it would change their fortunes.

And they all shot 67 or better Thursday.

Start with Stuard, who leads after a bogey-free 64 at TPC Louisiana. With only conditional status on Tour, he’s played just six events this calendar year. It hasn’t gone well – he had five consecutive missed cuts before a tie for 55th last week in San Antonio.

But Tuesday of Texas Open week, he grabbed a different Odyssey putter next to the practice green, stroked a few putts and put it in his bag. In the opening round here, he took a career-best 21 putts and holed 176 feet worth of putts, with six makes over 10 feet.

When asked how his putter heated up, Stuard shrugged.

“I wish I knew,” he said.

After finishing last season at No. 128 in FedEx Cup points, Stuard’s schedule has been unpredictable. That he’s played poorly when he actually did get a chance has only hurt his priority ranking.

“It’s definitely tough, not sure what your schedule is going to be even next week,” he said. “But you’ve just got to deal with it.”

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Ernst hasn’t been getting many reps, either – the Zurich is just his sixth start this season, after graduating from the Tour Finals last fall.

Next week is the three-year anniversary of his victory at Quail Hollow, which remains one of the most surprising wins in recent memory. Then a 22-year-old rookie, Ernst was the fourth alternate that week who prevailed in a playoff.

Since then, he has recorded only four top-25s with 46 missed cuts.

“I’ve learned,” said Ernst, who opened with 67. “It’s not frustrating if you’re learning. I’ve got a free ride. I won a golf tournament. Instead of being in mini-tour stuff, I’m on the PGA Tour. I haven’t played any other Tour than the PGA Tour. I’ve gotten a free ticket to learn from all the best guys in the world.”

That includes time management and how to “be smart about everything.” Soon, the 25-year-old can pick his peers’ brains about being a father, as his wife is expecting the couple’s first child, a girl, in July.

“It puts golf in perspective,” he said, “where golf isn’t really anything at all. Who cares about golf? My wife and my new baby are going to be the most important thing to me.”

Henry, in his 16th season on Tour, has been through that phase and knows all about weathering the inevitable peaks and valleys of a pro career.

Since winning the opposite-field Barracuda Championship last August, he has gone 16 events without a top-30. For Henry, 41, his spark perhaps came from bringing in longtime friend and coach Justin Poynter as his caddie this week.

“It’s nice to have another set of eyes on you as opposed to just talking to him about what’s going on,” Henry said. “He can actually see it.”

And it all looked good Thursday, with Henry matching his best round of the season (67).

Though he’s still cashing a check most weeks, he hasn’t finished better than 63rd in his last seven appearances.

“It can wear on you,” he said. “You feel like you’re doing something right, but for whatever reason it doesn’t go as planned on the weekend. And I always say, it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish out here. Every week a guy scrapes along, barely makes the cut, gets hot on the weekend and posts a top-five or a top-10. I just haven’t been able to do that.”

Which is why, for this trio at least, the excitement of seeing an improved score is tempered by the reality that this form could be fleeting; that on Friday, or this weekend, they could revert to their season-long norm. This season, after all, they have accounted for zero top-40 finishes in 20 combined starts.

“I know what to expect with all of the time I’ve been out here,” Henry said, “and it’s just that one round or that one week to get the momentum and you ride it for a long time.”

That’s the hope, anyway.

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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.