In U.S. Am, Ghim avenges his most painful defeat

By Ryan LavnerAugust 19, 2017, 10:37 pm

LOS ANGELES – They should have celebrated like this three years ago – with fist pumps and hugs and cries of “Masters! Masters! We’re going to the Masters!”

In the summer of 2014, with his father, Jeff, on the bag, Doug Ghim stood on the final tee with a 1-up lead in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The incoming freshman at Texas was about 400 yards from victory and a spot in the Masters … and then he pumped his tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. He lost to Byron Meth on the first playoff hole.

Ghim’s explanation that day at Sand Creek?

“Nerves,” he said. “I’d just never been in this position before. But next time, I’ll be ready.”

And so here he was Saturday, in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera, with a 4-up lead over Theo Humphrey with five holes to play.

Then Ghim lost the 14th hole with a bogey. Then he lost the 16th, too, after another bogey. And now, after bashing his birdie putt 6 feet past on the par-5 17th, he needed to calm himself down. He patted his chest, hoping to slow down his heart rate, and stared down at the green, taking two deep breaths.

“So many thoughts in your head are going at that moment,” he said. “I’ve got a little bit of demons.”

None worse than his collapse at the Publinx.

The day after blowing the tournament, Doug and his family made the 11-hour drive from Newton, Kan., to Chicago, singing songs and stopping at a rest area for a picnic. “It’s OK,” he told his dad. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

But over the next few months, the loss began to gnaw at him.

Teams that play in Augusta State’s college tournament the week before the Masters receive one-day practice-round tickets, and so all of the Longhorns made their way inside the gates in the spring of 2015.


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They toured the Crow’s Nest, the Masters’ amateur quarters, which could have been Ghim’s home that week.

“I don’t really want to be in here,” he said. 

So he and his teammates ventured out to the eighth tee, to catch up with one of the school’s most famous alums, Jordan Spieth. He was playing with another star, Rory McIlroy. And there was a third player in the group, too.

“Oh, no,” Texas assistant Jean-Paul Hebert said.

Ghim squinted and saw the standard.

Byron Meth.

The player who took advantage of Ghim’s final-hole meltdown at the Publinx.

“This is what I could have been doing,” Ghim said. “This sucks.”

Sensing the awkwardness, Ghim’s teammates steered him to other parts of the course and then toward the range at the end of the day.

The first player they saw there: Meth.

“Don’t worry about it,” one of Ghim’s teammates told him. “You’re going to be back here one day.”

Ghim needed to look no further than Spieth for inspiration.

Four years earlier, Spieth had reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Amateur but kicked away the match late on the back nine. When he made the team’s annual trip to Augusta the next spring, he was miserable.

“Coach,” he said, “this is not the way I envisioned being here the first time. I’m going to try to enjoy it, but this really hurts.”

“Doug experienced the same thing,” Longhorns coach John Fields says now. “To have one foot on Magnolia Lane and to have it taken away from you right there at the end, it was just incredible.”

And the Ghims have been looking for closure ever since.

Earlier this summer, Doug, now a 21-year-old senior at Texas, played a casual round at Sand Creek for the first time since the ’14 APL. The 36-hole leaderboard – Ghim was co-medalist – was still hanging in the clubhouse. 

He shot 65 that day.

Reminders were everywhere Saturday, too. In the semifinals, with a Masters berth on the line, Doug wore a black Augusta National hat. His mom, Susan, sported a white bucket hat – with the Sand Creek logo.

“Some people when they have a bad tournament, they get upset and get rid of it,” Jeff Ghim said. “I wake him up. I said, ‘Look at this. You don’t want to do this again.’”

And so he didn’t. Facing a 6-footer for the victory, for a redemptive trip to Augusta, Doug took his father’s advice – “Wrap it up” – and stroked the winning putt, putting away Humphrey, 2 and 1. Three years of emotion poured out. 

“It was the first thing that popped in my head,” Doug said. “We’re going to the Masters.”

So is his finals opponent, Doc Redman, who needed a 13-for-8 playoff Wednesday morning just to advance to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur. 

The rising sophomore at Clemson is arguably the hottest player in amateur golf. He recorded eight top-10s during his first season with the Tigers and earned two other high finishes in amateur events this summer before taking Norman Xiong to 22 holes in the Western Amateur final.

Playing 145 competitive holes over five days against one of the toughest fields helped convince Redman, 19, that he belonged among the game’s elite. So he didn’t fret earlier this week when it appeared as though his 4-over total might not be good enough to advance. He hung out at the beach. Went to a Dodgers game, too.

“I knew if I could get in match play,” he said, “then it would be a reset button and I would be OK.”

Unlike Ghim, who has played the 18th hole only once this week, Redman has gone down to the wire in four of his five matches.

Saturday’s semifinal against little-known Mark Lawrence Jr. was no different, after Lawrence won the 16th with a par and the par-5 17th with a 20-foot eagle. But Lawrence made a critical error on the home hole, three-putting from just off the back of the 18th green to hand Redman the match.

Was the Masters on his mind?

“Didn’t even think about it,” Redman shrugged.

His reaction was more muted, and perhaps that was to be expected. Afterward, he couldn’t single out an obstacle he’s overcome in his life. He has never suffered a loss as crushing as Ghim’s.

“I’m so happy for Doug,” Fields said, “because there’s been some pain associated with where he’s been.”

There is still so much to play for Sunday – the trophy and the prestige and the exemptions.

But for one family, a dream has already been realized, a painful chapter of their lives now complete.

The Ghims are going to the Masters, together, and it’ll be worth the three-year wait.

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.

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.