Herman's journey ends with SHO win, Masters invite

By Will GrayApril 4, 2016, 1:50 am

HUMBLE, Texas – The term journeyman gets thrown around a lot in golf parlance. It can be applied to players of varying ability, sometimes attached simply to those without name-brand recognition.

For Jim Herman, though, it’s an appropriate tag. At 38 years old, his journey has been a meandering one, filled with far more valleys than peaks.

But after a self-described whirlwind final round at the Shell Houston Open, Herman’s journey has now taken him to the rarified air of PGA Tour champion. It also will include an extra destination: Augusta National.

Starting the day with a share of the lead, Herman held off a packed leaderboard that included Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson for a one-shot victory. It was a performance that elicited tears of joy from Herman shortly after sinking the winning putt, a stroke that earned him the final spot in the Masters.

“This is crazy,” Herman said. “I’ve dreamt of this for so long, and now it’s here. So I’m going to enjoy it.”

Crazy, indeed, for a guy who once was content with the prospect of forging a career as a club pro. Herman struggled to get his playing career off the ground in the early 2000s, trying his hand at various Florida mini-tours just to pay the bills. It took him seven cracks to simply get past the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School – a barrier he finally cleared at TPC Woodlands, a short drive from the Golf Club of Houston.

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“I think Houston has been pretty good to me,” he joked.

In between those failed attempts, though, he worked for years as a club pro, first in south Florida and then at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey.

“I love this game of golf,” Herman said. “I always knew I had the talent to get out here, but when you don’t get out here, what else are you going to do? No one is going to let you come out here.”

Herman finally made it to the PGA Tour in 2011, but he spent the next few years bouncing back and forth between the big leagues and the developmental Web.com Tour. The tears he shed in victory flowed for a far different reason two years ago, when Herman said he reached a low point after losing his card and returning to the Web.com Tour Finals.

For Herman, the battle has been uphill seemingly from the start, and it made his final-round performance all the more remarkable. He had never even sniffed the lead on the PGA Tour before, and he had only five top-10 finishes in 105 starts entering the week.

He had strung together three good rounds, but the crucible of the final round would surely be his undoing. Faced with the pressures of leading for the first time, he was expected to fold and make way for one of the stars behind him to rise up and take the trophy.

And the rallies from the chase pack did come, as expected: first from Jordan Spieth, then Rickie Fowler, then Johnson and finally Stenson. But through it all, Herman remained calm and committed to a game plan that he and caddie Matt Achatz had crafted.

“We wanted to hit shots that he could 100 percent commit to, and that he was comfortable, and he could see it with his eye,” Achatz said. “We didn’t want to force him to hit anything that his brain couldn’t see.”

Herman’s recent results didn’t indicate that a winning performance might be on the horizon, but he said that he saw his short game turning around last month at Bay Hill. He had been putting in some extra work with short-game coach Bill Davis, a man whom he credited for turning his game around over the last two years.

It was Davis’ advice that Herman had echoing in his ears on the par-3 16th hole just before authoring the tournament’s defining shot.

Clinging to a share of the lead, he let a “wheelhouse 6-iron” drift left into the rough on the upslope of a bunker. Rather than get it up-and-down, Herman holed the pitch to grab a one-shot lead that he would not relinquish.

“That’s the deciding shot,” he said. “That’s just like Bill said, ‘You’re going to have a chip shot to win your tournament or a pitch shot or a putt, and you’re going to keep your head down and execute.’”

With one hole standing between Herman and a career-defining victory, he faced an obstacle that has taken out numerous players before: a wait on the 72nd tee.

Herman had to wait six minutes for the group ahead of him to clear the fairway, left with nothing but time to ponder what was at stake. He paced, he checked the leaderboard, and he paced some more.

When the wait was over, though, he uncorked the drive of his life – a 316-yard missile that split the fairway and set up an easy par.

“It’s easy to let your mind wander,” Herman admitted. “But we’ve been through a lot, and it’s great to be able to execute when you need to.”

“I tried to make it fun,” Achatz said. “When you have a one-shot lead, I don’t care what hole it is, I don’t care what’s in front of you, you should be having the best time of your life because you have an opportunity to win on the PGA Tour. We didn’t look at anything that could happen. It was just, ‘Enjoy the moment.’”

Only minutes after closing out the win, Herman began to take stock of everything his victory had earned him. The Masters, he said, was never something he saw as a realistic goal.

But now he’s not only hopping the next flight to Augusta National, he’s also playing the PGA Championship in July, booking a room for Kapalua in January, and assured of a card through the 2017-18 season.

Herman withstood the biggest pressure he has ever faced in a tournament, and he’ll now be taking the trophy home. Not bad for a journeyman.

“I was not given the tournament, I know that. I played really well, 9 under on the weekend, 4 under today,” he said. “Pretty proud of myself to, you know, get up there, first time I was in the final group, and bring it home.”

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.