A Travelin Fool

By Jon LevyApril 27, 2011, 3:33 pm

With his head half buried into an enormous Philly cheese steak, gingerly lounging in the back of a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, it hits Benoit Beisser like a two-ton truck.

It doesn’t get much better than traveling and playing golf.

Sure, the pragmatic Arizonan has seen the country from his time in the junior ranks – plenty away from the game to boot. And he’s said how much he loves his life at home in Scottsdale. But his professional life has centered around a non-traveling tour there since he’s turned pro, so he’s not yet fully tasted the travel-play-travel lifestyle common to the top levels of professional golf.

That finally changed a couple weeks ago at the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express qualifier, which, oddly, for a player of his experience, was his first attempt at a Nationwide ‘Monday.'

“I think it excited me more to go get it done and just see what it’s like to do the travel and play thing in the middle of my schedule, than anything else,” explains Beisser of removing the proverbial monkey off his back. “I just haven’t done that as a pro, so I wanted that experience and I also wanted to see where I’m at with what’s out there, and whether that’s something I may want to do a lot more in the future.”

Beisser had just arrived to town – 4 p.m. on the Saturday before his Monday start – when that internal light flickered inside the restaurant so aptly named, The Philadelphia Steak Shop.

Amid all the success Beisser’s seen on the Gateway Pro Tour, he realized his love for traveling had been shirked off to the side; saved away for another place, another time.

But, with mom/caddie, Deanna, by his side – as always – deep in the hills of the Golden State, it donned on Wah he has the ability to encompass the best of both worlds. Right here. Right now.

“I’ve always loved to travel. I just love exploring,” Beisser says. “That’s half the fun. I love exploring little towns; finding cool, little places to eat and playing new courses. Anytime you can play a new course, as a player, that’s something cool. It’s a new experience and you’re able to test yourself with something you've never done before.”

Beisser finishes his epiphany-laden sandwich – for such a lean, yoga-enhanced health nut, the guy can put food down with the best of ‘em – before he heads out to the site of the qualifier for a little chipping and putting, and to get an overall feel for the place.

Off to bed early that night, he hits it first thing Sunday morning – a 6:30 a.m. practice round – with a few fellow Gateway buddies also set to tee it in the qualifier.

Two of his three partners had played the course before, making for a great measuring stick of how it might play and what score could light up the magic number.

“I’ve said it before about a lot of the guys I play with (on the Gateway Pro Tour) . . . we’re all buddies and we all support each other with our careers,” says Beisser. “It was great to play the practice round with those guys because I was able to listen to what they had to say (about the course) and we were all able to bounce ideas off of each other about how to go about it.”

Most professional golfers approach practice rounds in a scientific way. They map out a strategy and plan based on possible pin placements, weather/course conditions and different scenarios they might face while in the tournament – always living with the philosophy that the more prepared, the better.

Beisser squeezes every last drop out of this one, priming himself for a perfect Monday run to the finish line.

“It was great. Those guys walked me through (the round) perfectly and we all decided that probably four or five under would be the number,” he surmises. “I knew I could get to three of the four par 5s in two, so my plan was to stay aggressive on those, do what I could on the par 4s and try to get by on the par 3s.

“Most of the time in tournament golf it’s the par 3s that can be killers, so you take your medicine on those and do what you can on the other holes.”

As with everything else in his life, Beisser’s philosophical about his go-time plan.

“I guess you could call it trying to be ‘smart aggressive,’” he says. “You don’t want to be overly aggressive because you can shoot yourself out of it pretty quickly, but you still have to look at almost every hole like a birdie hole, because there’s no second or third round to make up ground if you’re not taking advantage on every hole.”

At 29, Beisser's a seasoned tournament veteran who has played plenty of one-day qualifiers. PGA Tour; U.S. Open; state Opens; other, smaller mini-tour events – just never a Nationwide Tour Qualifer. So, his plan's filled with qualified knowledge.

It's also filled with a twist of his personality.

“You always know what you want to do,” Beisser states, “and when you get out there, if it goes your way, it goes. But sometimes you may need to adjust and be more aggressive if it's not, and at that point you push it as much as you can and just go for it.'

The bell rings Monday and Beisser posts 2 under on his first nine – carrying out the plan to a T. A lipped out birdie effort on the ninth hole would’ve even put him ahead of the game.

But, then playing Nos. 10-15 in even-par and – exactly to his point – Beisser sees he’s running out of holes.

“I just couldn't get anything to drop,” he explains. “I knew I needed to press it on the way in.'

A par at the 16th results in going for a tough pin on the par-3 17th, which results in a missed green and bogey. He pars the last, signs for a 1-under 71 and, just as he predicted, 4 under gets into the event.

Nevertheless, Beisser takes away what he needs and, as always, remains optimistic about his game.

'This just showed me that I'm super close to where I need to be and motivated me to come back and work harder,' he says. 'Guess you could say it kind of lit my fire to go do these on more of a regular basis.'

Beisser will finish out the Gateway Pro Tour Arizona Series in its entirety – six more events – before trying his hand at more Nationwide Tour qualifiers in July, preceding his summer trip back to the Golden State to play the tour's California Series.

He hopes to improve on his maiden effort, and also hopes to improve on the overall flow of traveling and being ready – and energized – to tee it in the middle of a hectic schedule.

Beisser missed his second cut of the year on the GPT after returning from his trip, starting the event just a day after he got back.

'I had played the course plenty of times, so I was prepared for it that way,' he explains, 'and I held my own that first day (with a 4-under 67), but I think (the travel) caught up with me that second day. I had a hard time staying focused.'

Beisser posted a 3-over 74 – his second highest round of the year – in Round 2 to miss the cut by four. 

He rebounded last week in his next event, however, finishing tied for fifth with a closing round of 5-under 67.

His game's been there all year.

'It's going alright, right now,' Beisser says. 'I really want to win one before the (GPT Arizona Series) is done and then go do some more of those qualifiers this summer and see how far I can get.'

There's an old Mongolian proverb that says, 'A traveling fool is better than a sitting wise person.'

Beisser understands this now. He understands he can get pretty far with those qualifiers, too.

And he's no fool to think it doesn't get much better than traveling and playing golf.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

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.