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Despite Price's hope, a(nother) loss looks unavoidable

By Will GraySeptember 30, 2017, 12:07 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – As Phil Mickelson was busy hammering the latest nail into the International team’s hastily-built coffin, Nick Price stood just off the green with his arms crossed and offered little reaction.

He stared straight ahead, shielded by sunglasses and flanked by his quartet of assistants, before offering three half-hearted claps of acknowledgement. The reluctant applause was directed toward Mickelson, but it may as well have been to the entire American team.

Whatever chance the International squad had to win the 12th edition of the Presidents Cup – or even to make it a competitive affair – flew out the window Friday afternoon during a U.S. rally that turned the fourballs session on its head. What remains is an anticlimactic close to these biennial matches, with the end result hardly in doubt.

And as that realization became more and more apparent, Price could do little more than sift through the rubble for platitudes.

“Tough day for us, again. Another one,” Price said. “I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today, but in all fairness to my guys, I don’t think they played as well as they were capable of. It was just a tough day.”

The scope of the hole Price’s team has dug for itself is rather daunting, and it’s the product of poor play coinciding with an American buzzsaw that seemed fully operational coming down the stretch.

While the home team got out to its traditional lead during the opening foursomes session, the historical record between the two squads in fourballs is much more balanced. This was the session Price’s team used to spark a comeback two years ago in South Korea, and for a while it seemed they might pull off a similar feat while leading three of the five matches for much of the afternoon.

But that advantage turned out to be a mirage, evaporating like the seaside mist over a 90-minute window that transformed the American lead from comfortable to nearly insurmountable.

What was left is the largest advantage ever after two sessions in the 23-year history of this event, and the not-so-farfetched idea that the U.S. could clinch this thing before Sunday.


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“It’s obviously not the best of moods going through right now,” said Adam Hadwin, who teamed with Hideki Matsuyama for a draw against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed that prevented a clean sweep. “It’s obviously going to be a tall task. They are playing well, and they are also some of the best players in the world.”

Price tried to lean on the raw math, noting accurately that two-thirds of the total points are still to be contested. But in need of a rally of historic proportions, it’s difficult to discern where the Internationals go from here.

Consider the facts: their top-ranked player, Matsuyama, basically asked Price to be subbed out for the third session after appearing shaky at best in his first two matches. Their most experienced veteran, Adam Scott, is sitting at 0-2, and the indestructible duo of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen was, well, destroyed by Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

In his third stint as captain, Price was expected to learn from his close call in Korea and the thumping administered by the Americans four years ago at Muirfield Village. Instead, he has appeared flummoxed at every turn while Stricker has displayed a Midas touch from the other side of the table.

Perhaps there was a way for Price to crack the code, to overcome all the advantages the Americans enjoy from depth to camaraderie and home-field advantage. But maybe this was simply a fool’s errand.

“It’s difficult. I don’t know what the recipe is,” Price admitted. “This is my third time around, I’m still trying to figure it out. But we got very close to the right recipe the last time, so hopefully we can remedy that on the weekend.”

Still shy of the halfway point, there’s already plenty of opportunity to second-guess Price’s strategic choices. Rather than save the heavyweight pairing of Grace and Oosthuizen for a match where he could dictate their opponent, Price offered them up in the day’s second match and let Stricker decide their foes. The U.S. skipper met strength with strength, trotting out Fowler and Thomas, who quickly transformed the South African duo’s record together from 5-0 to 5-1.

Any International rally hinged on getting a full point from their most dependable combination, and Thomas described the outcome as earning “more than a point.”

Then there were the equipment issues in the opening foursomes session, where Price explained that two of his four teams unraveled because they struggled to control spin with their teammate’s ball while playing alternate shot amid blustery conditions.

While he’s had months to strategize about variables both small and large, Price said that particular issue never came up during early-week practice sessions in calm winds.

“It went past all of us,” Price said. “So maybe that was an oversight on our behalf.”

Perhaps a point or two could have been salvaged, and Price clung to the notion that the 8-2 deficit was in fact not that far from being a 5-5 split. But optimistic rationalizations only carry so much weight.

The inevitability of this week’s conclusion seemed to hit Price when Mickelson buried that final putt, and whatever hope remains will likely be extinguished in short order.

“These guys are trying their asses off. I’m telling you, they’re trying,” Price said. “But it’s hard when you’re trying so hard and you’re 8-2 down.”

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.