Phil has made strides, but lipped putt will sting

By Will GrayFebruary 15, 2016, 1:10 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Fifteen minutes after watching his title hopes carom off the left edge of the final hole he faced at Pebble Beach, Phil Mickelson could only smile and shake his head.

This was where the drought was supposed to end. Hallowed ground, familiar territory, a place he knew and loved against a leaderboard that didn’t seem to pack much of a punch. In the end, it turned into just the latest piece of scar tissue lining the psyche of a five-time major champ.

Mickelson began the day two shots clear at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, seemingly set for a coronation that would lead to his fifth tournament title and first win in nearly three years. Instead, he faltered almost right out of the gates and watched helplessly as Vaughn Taylor caught and passed him.

A birdie on the penultimate hole set the stage for a dramatic Mickelson rally, but that scene ended with him in a state of shock after his final birdie putt – one that would have forced a playoff with Taylor – caught the edge and turned away.

The longest victory drought of his professional career, dating all the way back to the 2013 Open Championship, will extend at least a little while longer.

“Disappointing not to have finished it off today,” Mickelson said. “It’s disappointing not to play a little bit more mistake-free on a final round with the lead. There were a lot of opportunities, easy up-and-downs that I didn’t capitalize on to keep the round going. I let a lot of shots slide there.”

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Mickelson opened with a trio of unsteady pars and began to leak oil with bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5. While he regained the lead by the time he made the turn, Mickelson wasn’t under par at any point of his final round and seemed to spend the entire day in chase mode despite his starting position.

“I played a bit tighter throughout the round than I wanted to,” he said. “I was trying to kind of free it up, but I didn’t salvage pars on some holes that I needed to salvage pars.”

Equipped with hindsight, there were certainly a few clues that a clunker was within reach for Mickelson despite three straight rounds this week of 68 or better. He continued to tinker with his equipment throughout the tournament, and even after a third-round 66 he opted for a swing session with new coach Andrew Getson.

While Mickelson professed that his overnight consult with Getson was productive, the end result was an even-par 72, six shots higher than the day prior, and ultimately one shot too many.

“We came out, had a nice session in the morning,” he said. “I made some good swings. A good drive on (No.) 2, which told me that I was on the right track. I thought I hit it OK today.”

But the cozy confines of Pebble Beach can accentuate even the smallest flaws. After successfully scraping it around Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula, Mickelson found only 18 of 36 greens in regulation over the weekend at the host course, including nine of 18 on Sunday.

Even for a player blessed with perhaps the best short game of all time, it was simply too much scrambling to manage.

Given a few moments to reflect, Mickelson opted to highlight the positives from this four-week stretch to open a new season. He has finished T-11 or better three times in that span, including a pair of top-three results.

Another close call only whetted his appetite and heightened his sense of determination, a term that he continued to circle back to during post-round comments. After a week off, he said, he’ll head with vigor to Honda, and Doral after that.

But make no mistake, this one hurt. Mickelson carried a 54-hole lead into a tournament for the first time since the 2013 U.S. Open, and while this particular dose of heartbreak isn’t quite on the same scale as Merion, Mickelson’s comments belied a man already racked with regret.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in that position, it’s been a while since I’ve led a tournament, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like I was playing this well, where my expectations were a lot higher,” he said.

Taylor will be characterized as a deserving champion with a rich backstory of his own, but this round – this tournament – has been about Mickelson. It has been the culmination of a month-long stretch, a decorated champion showing fans and peers alike that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

But Mickelson’s defining moment from this tournament won’t be any of the birdies he made, or the drives he striped, or the cheers he received. It will be that final putt, the final stroke that drifted just off-line and left him wondering once again what could have possibly gone wrong.

The momentum he conjured here may help down the line, but it will do little to blunt the sting from the sobering fact that this will go down as yet another trophy that got away.

“It makes me more determined to get back to work and get this thing right, because I know that I’m on the right track,” he said. “I know that I’m close to being where I want to be. But if I was there, I would have been able to finish it off.”

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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.