McGirt making most of Ohio opportunity

By Will GrayJune 30, 2016, 10:24 pm

AKRON, Ohio – When William McGirt laid out his 2016 playing schedule, he saw an opening.

While the game’s upper echelon would be cramming in one high-profile event after another during a seemingly endless summer, McGirt eyed a break: a five-week stretch where he could pull the plug, unwind a bit and recharge before heading into the season’s final stanza.

Funny how plans can change.

In the midst of what McGirt thought would be the third leg of that five-week hiatus, he is instead part of an elite field at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He also happens to be atop the leaderboard after a hot putter led him to an opening 6-under 64.

The season’s quartet of WGC events, with no cut and no shortage of world ranking points, can become old hat for many of best in the world. They’re even so commonplace that guys like Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia opted to skip a potential money grab in Akron rather than get caught up in a scheduling squabble between the PGA Tour and European Tour.

For McGirt, though, simply showing up this week is a prize in and of itself.

He qualified for this event by virtue of his breakthrough win this month at the Memorial Tournament, some 125 miles down the road in Dublin, Ohio. The victory was the first of his professional career, and at age 37 he is making his first career start in a WGC event.

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A player who embodies an old-school approach to the game, he couldn’t help but smile once he got a look at the time-tested layout of Firestone’s South Course upon arrival on Sunday.

“I fell in love with the place,” McGirt said. “I love it because you can’t stand up there and just hit it as hard as you want, go find it and hack it on the green. It’s an old, traditional style golf course, which I absolutely love.”

That passion was apparent in McGirt’s opening round, a bogey-free effort where he needed only 24 putts. It was his work on the greens that moved him to the top of the standings, and it’s the same club that has led to a career-best run of results this summer.

A few new putting drills during the RBC Heritage in April yielded immense results, as McGirt stated that the last three months have been the longest stretch of confident putting in his 12-year-career. It’s a trend that continued in Thursday’s opener.

“It’s just one of those days where it seemed like the farther I got from the hole, the bigger it looked,” he said.

McGirt admits that things still haven’t returned to normal since his win at Muirfield Village. He remains in the midst of trying to send a note of thanks to everyone who texted, tweeted or emailed him a note of congratulations following the win – a process he expects could take five weeks.

“If somebody took the time to send me something, I want to take the time to send them a personal note back,” he said. “I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to sit there and type out a message and hit cut and paste 500 times. That’s just not me.”

His life inside the ropes also remains an adjustment. The U.S. Open, he said, was a bit of a blur as friends and peers alike offered their praise of his playoff win. But as the weeks go on, he’s becoming more accustomed to the fact that he is now a PGA Tour winner, and equipped with a three-year exemption.

It’s a confidence boost that he has put to work this week, where a star-studded field of entries didn’t deter his sense of self-belief.

“I think the biggest thing I took away from Memorial is the confidence in the fact that I know that I can do it now,” he said.

This week’s event has, in many ways, gotten lost in the shuffle – stuck in between a hectic run of three major championships, and in recent days overshadowed by Olympic roster changes. But none of that lessens the fact that for a rank-and-file player like McGirt, this tournament offers a variety of opportunities.

It’s a shot at money and points, yes. But it’s also a chance to show that his win, in his words, “wasn’t a fluke” – to turn one trophy into two. It’s a chance to join a list of players to win the Memorial and the Bridgestone in the same year that currently includes exactly one name: Tiger Woods.

It’s a chance that McGirt didn’t expect to have when he laid out his schedule at the start of the year, but it’s one he’s ready to embrace with open arms now that he’s here.

“I was dreaming about these opportunities, and now they’re here,” he said. “I’ve got to take advantage of them.”

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.

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.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.