'Dream come true' for Stroud at PGA Championship

By Will GrayAugust 13, 2017, 12:37 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chris Stroud still remembers what it felt like to contemplate walking away from the game he loves.

It was less than a year ago when Stroud headed into the season-ending Wyndham Championship with his card on the line. A tie for 68th didn’t do the trick, relegating him to conditional status. After an unsuccessful run through Web.com Tour Finals he started asking himself some pointed questions.

“I was really let down. I was depressed, I was upset. I didn’t know what to do,” Stroud said. “Maybe I wasn’t good anymore. I really said that to myself.”

It’s a sobering tale with which many Tour pros can empathize. Guys can spend years seemingly on the verge of a breakthrough, only to suddenly tumble miles into the abyss.

Given where he stood last August, it’s all the more remarkable to see Stroud one shot off the lead and in the final pairing heading into the conclusion of the PGA Championship. It’s even surprising just to see him here at all.

After grinding through 289 career starts without a win, Stroud finally tasted victory last week in a playoff at the opposite-field Barracuda Championship. The 35-year-old had expected to spend this week at home in Texas with his wife and two daughters, but instead he snagged the final spot in the field by virtue of his breakthrough win and raced across the country.

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He hasn’t slowed down since, and now sits on the cusp of a career-defining achievement, tied for second with Hideki Matsuyama and one behind Kevin Kisner.

“I’ve dreamed about this for years, so it’s in there,” Stroud said. “I know all these guys are going to be super nervous. I’m sure I will be, too. But last week just gave me an unbelievable sense of calm. I’ve never felt so relaxed on the golf course, and I think it’s a lot of the reason why I’m playing so well.”

Stroud was a two-time All-American at Lamar University, and after turning pro in 2004 he harbored ambition of beating the best the game had to offer, even someday becoming world No. 1. What resulted was a solid but unspectacular career.

At his home gym in Texas, Stroud assembled a “vision board” that included pictures of players hoisting a variety of trophies, with their faces cut out and replaced by his own. That belief never wavered as he logged season after season, usually good enough to keep his card but never good enough to win – until Sunday.

“I’ve never appreciated things more than I do now,” Stroud said. “All I know is I’m very grateful for where I’m at.”

While the win in Reno was a monumental achievement, the opportunity that lies ahead of him dwarfs it completely. Stroud has never appeared out of his element at Quail Hollow despite making just his ninth major start and first in three years. He carded the only bogey-free round Thursday, and he grabbed a brief share of the lead Saturday before closing his even-par 71 with back-to-back bogeys.

“I didn’t do anything great today. I just hung in there,” Stroud said. “Made some great pars early. Wish I would have snuck away with a couple pars the last two holes, but I’ve got a chance tomorrow.”

At this time last week, Stroud was entering the final round at Montreux with the goal of simply staying inside the top 150 in the season-long points race to maintain his conditional status. The win granted him the first two-year exemption of his career, and now he sits 18 holes away from potentially adding his own picture to the vision board – no cutouts required.

“It’s a dream come true to be here, to be up here, talking to you guys at the PGA Championship, one of the greatest tournaments in the world,” Stroud said. “You know, I’ve been waiting on this a long time. I didn’t think it was going to take me this long, but I’m glad I’m here.”

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.