Invest heavily in your short game just like the pros do at Augusta
When you think about the Masters (April 8-11), what comes to mind are the flawless deep green fairways, and slick bentgrass greens set against white sand bunkers, towering Georgia pines, azaleas and dogwoods. You think about players slinging drives around the corner on the par-5 13th, or negotiating Eisenhower's Tree on 17.
But this year, I'm going to pay more attention to possibly the most important skill you must have to win at Augusta National – short game and putting. I can't think of too many places where it might be more critical – from reading and executing perfectly paced putts to impeccable sand play. (See above image of Tiger Woods' incredible chip shot at No. 16 en route to winning in 2005.)
And then, of course, there are those Augusta tight lies that would have most average golfers shaking in their FootJoys and pulling out the Texas wedge (putter) around the greens. To execute a perfect pitch shot from five to 15 yards with almost zero margin for error, you need more than feel; you need perfect fundamentals and great rhythm.
Which brings me to this: If you want to impress your friends, forget the long drives; become a wizard around the greens. But to accomplish that, you're going to need more than practice, especially if you’re like 98 percent of the golfing population. Very few of us have anything that resembles what the pros do around the greens, and reading a tip or two in a magazine, or taking one chipping lesson isn't nearly enough.
I recently had the opportunity to go through one of Dave Pelz' three-day Scoring Schools held at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, just outside of Atlanta, which appropriately is just a couple of hours or so from Augusta.
This isn't just instruction; it's religion. I challenge anyone to go through three days of Pelz' practical, scientific approach and not to come out of it with a new faith. I found myself, for example, in my next round, almost hoping I would miss greens so I could try out my new fundamentals.
Admittedly, the first time out on a golf course – which came at The Landing at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., this week – I still hit a couple of poor pitches as old habits die hard. But the times I executed what I learned was pure euphoria. My chipping, for example, is 100 times better than it used to be. I have every confidence that if I apply the principles and fundamentals I was taught during three intense days of video, drills and close supervision, short game and putting will be strengths, not the biggest part of my handicap.
You should know, of course, that it isn't cheap to attend a three-day school – about $2,400 or so – but think about how much you've probably spent over the years on new drivers and irons, not to mention all the Nassaus you might have lost because you couldn't get it up and down in three, much less two.
Pelz also offers more economical options, such as a two-day short-game school, which doesn't include putting, and there are also one-day clinics held throughout the country and the UK. The full-blown three-day schools, by the way, are also offered in Michigan, California and Florida as well as Ireland. You can go to pelzgolf.com for more information.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
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
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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.