Palmer's aura will make Sunday special for winner

By Ryan Reiterman March 18, 2017, 11:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – In a lot of ways, Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational will be just like all the previous Sundays since 1979 at this event, when the Florida Citrus Open moved from nearby Rio Pinar Country Club to Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

An enthusiastic crowd will surround the 18th green, a deserving champion will be crowned, a big paycheck will be sent to his bank account, lots of money will have been raised for charities and the sun will set on another successful PGA Tour event.

But when the champion walks up the hill from the final green, it will be yet another reminder that every Sunday from now on at the API will be different. The King will not be waiting at the top of the hill to greet the winner with his customary firm handshake and megawatt smile. There won’t be a celebratory drink in the clubhouse and a personal letter signed with Palmer’s legible autograph won’t arrive a few weeks later in the mail.

Palmer’s death last September at age 87 left a void that will never be replaced. His tournament was one of the many incredible legacies he left behind, and many worried that after Palmer was gone this event would lose some luster.

That clearly hasn’t been the case.

For the players in contention, they know that even without Palmer waiting behind the 18th green to congratulate them on a well-played tournament, a win on Sunday will still be incredibly special.

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Especially this year, the first without the King.

“It’s very different not having him around,” said Rickie Fowler, who is wearing custom shoes this week with a collage of Palmer pictures. “It’s just going to continue to get bigger, and this could potentially be the biggest week I think they could have here, just with the excitement of the tournament and kind of the celebration of Arnie’s life.”

That celebration started a week ago when a 13-foot bronze statue of Palmer was unveiled behind the first tee at Bay Hill. It continued throughout the week with various tributes. There was a driving range salute that was a capped off with a flyover by a Coast Guard helicopter. (Palmer served three years in the Coast Guard). A stretch of a local highway was named the “Arnold Palmer Expressway.” Several players are sporting Palmer’s umbrella logo on their clothes and golf bags.

Now the attention has shifted to where Palmer would have wanted it – on the tournament.

Fowler and Rory McIlroy may not win the tournament this year, but they ignited the crowds Saturday with a pair of 7-under 65s. Perhaps one of the young superstars will give Palmer another fitting tribute and author a thrilling Sunday charge.

Charley Hoffman, who shares the 54-hole lead with Kevin Kisner (68), gave the third round a stunning conclusion. Kisner appeared to be heading into the final round with a comfy lead, but Hoffman birdied the last three holes, including a 71-foot putt on 18, to grab a share of the lead with a 1-under 71.

At 11 under, Hoffman and Kisner are three strokes clear of Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Marc Leishman.

The contenders will be solely focused on winning tomorrow, but there’s no doubt that  even without Palmer here to watch the drama unfold, his tournament still has a special aura that will never leave.

“To be in position [to win] at Arnie’s event is a special spot,” Hoffman said. “It’s right up there with competing in a major championship, there’s no question. Mr. Palmer was the King, there’s a reason why he had the name … To keep his legacy going and win this event would be something special.”

Kisner joked he’s just trying to avoid a playoff Sunday (he’s 0-3 in his career), but a win at Bay Hill would no doubt be the highlight of his six years on the PGA Tour.

“If I did win I sure wish he was here to have a drink with him afterwards, that’s for sure,” Kisner said of Palmer. “It would be a pretty unbelievable thing to have on my  résumé and add that trophy to my trophy case.”

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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.