After Masters, players find safe Harbour at Hilton Head

By Will GrayApril 12, 2017, 9:39 pm

After surviving the pressure cooker of Augusta National Golf Club, even the PGA Tour's best enjoy an opportunity to exhale.

While some will do so within the comfort of their own homes this week, stepping far away from their clubs after the season's first major, many others have opted to get right back to work at the RBC Heritage - where the vibe is decidedly un-Masters like.

Each tournament looks to embrace its particular spot on the Tour's calendar, and if the Shell Houston Open does so by offering conditions as similar as possible to Augusta National, Harbour Town does so by running to the opposite end of the spectrum. Where last week there were high stakes attached to each and every shot, this week offers a low-key, family-friendly vibe with a scenic backdrop.

Those who were patrons a week ago can now return to simply being fans, and they embrace with vigor the opportunity to descend upon the Carolina low country and take in one of the Tour's coziest layouts where the players are never more than a few feet away.

"Certainly I think people let off a sigh of relief coming from Augusta," said Luke Donald. "You just come here to enjoy the tournament, enjoy the golf course, and enjoy that kind of atmosphere of a family atmosphere."

The upcoming Easter holiday means that several players have kids in tow this week for a bit of a working spring break - granted, a far cry from the scene unfolding in Baker's Bay. But it's a refreshing way for players to get in some family time while still vying for a seven-figure check, all while they decompress from one of the toughest events of the year.

"I think it is a really relaxed, laid-back place, maybe not so much on Easter weekend," said Jim Furyk. "But it's a great place. I think folks love bringing their families here, especially young families when the kids aren't in school. So a lot has been made of this nice, relaxing tournament after the Masters."

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But, as Furyk is quick to add, there's another element that lures several top names back into action, year after year, and should not be overlooked: the golf course.

If the vibe is antithetical to last week's scene, so too is Pete Dye's design at Harbour Town Golf Links the polar opposite from what players encountered at Augusta National. Where last week players navigated burly par-4s and expansive, undulating greens, Harbour Town allows them to keep the driver in the bag if they prefer.

It also requires accurate iron play, given that these are the smallest greens players will face all year on Tour. It's no surprise, then, that a player of Donald's caliber would find success here given his ball-striking pedigree, and last year's T-2 finish was his sixth top-3 result in the last eight years.

"It's like a puzzle, this course to me," Donald said. "I think you really have to think your way around it very well. You certainly don't need to overpower this golf course. It's a lot of strategy involved."

Donald is not the only player who enjoys solving the Harbour Town puzzle. Russell Knox tied him for second last year and calls it one of his top Tour stops of the year. Donald's countryman, Matthew Fitzpatrick, lists Harbour Town as his absolute favorite event of the year without hesitation and even sports a headcover from the course.

Bomb-and-gouge players will always have a leg up at a handful of Tour stops, and that list may grow as course yardages drift closer to 8,000 yards. But the precision player still has an advantage at Harbour Town, which barely cracks 7,000 yards and can often strike a claustrophobic chord.

"I think there's a lot of folks on Tour that put this in their top five, top 10 of the golf courses we play, and they mark this tournament early in the year, whether it's after the Masters or not," said Furyk, who won in both 2010 and 2015. "I think it's a great tournament. It's honestly my favorite event."

Whether they flock for the low-key vibe or the tree-lined layout, players are likely to find what they're looking for this week on Hilton Head Island.

Yes, it's not the Masters - but that's entirely the point.


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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.