Three Olympians continue momentum at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 18, 2016, 9:11 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Perhaps rest is overrated.

The torrid 2016 schedule has brought with it an increased focus on how players craft their own list of events – when to recharge the batteries, and when to put the pedal down for weeks on end.

With the playoffs and Ryder Cup still to go, there’s still no end in sight to one of golf’s longest summers. But the leaderboard at the Wyndham Championship shows that sometimes the spark from a unique experience can outweigh any globetrotting fatigue.

Sixty men participated last week in golf’s return to the Olympics, and six of them opted to make the nearly 5,000-mile journey from Rio to Greensboro. In the wake of an emotional, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a letdown would certainly be understandable as players return to the daily grind of the PGA Tour.

Instead, three of the six have rolled right from Brazil onto the first page of the early leaderboard at Sedgefield Country Club.

Consider it Riomentum.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The trio is led by Rafael Cabrera Bello, who last week represented Spain alongside Sergio Garcia. Cabrera Bello left Rio Monday night for Miami, arriving on-site at this week’s venue Tuesday morning. Having played here only once before, he grabbed a share of the lead alongside Kevin Na with a 7-under 63 in the opening round.

“Last week was a big adrenaline week. It was the first time I was really playing, not playing for myself, just playing for my country,” he said. “I’ve had a couple days’ rest and today was continuation of the good feelings of last week.”

As a special temporary member on the PGA Tour, Cabrera Bello would only qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a win this week. But he sought a sponsor invite months ago from tournament director Mark Brazil with an eye on a different prize: securing a spot on his first European Ryder Cup team.

Cabrera Bello is currently sixth on the World Points list, with the top nine players on Aug. 28 earning automatic berths. Rather than rest on his laurels, he decided to add an Olympic follow-up and is still considering playing on the European Tour next week at the Made in Denmark.

“The decision was because I’ve been all year pretty much inside the Ryder Cup team, European team. So I wanted to keep fighting for it,” he said. “There was a chance of me not making it through the (European Tour) money list but making it through the world ranking points list. That’s where I wanted to focus.”

A hectic schedule is nothing new for Danny Lee, who was the Tour’s ironman while making 36 starts last season. The 26-year-old was running on fumes this summer after a stretch that included three majors and a WGC event in a five-start stretch from the U.S. Open to the PGA Championship, and he viewed the Olympics as a welcome break from the daily grind.

“Going to Rio and stuff like that, it was a big refresh for me,” Lee said. “I was trying to do my best to get a medal, but it was more for the experience. Kind of went over there as like a half-holiday, and it was great.”

Lee got a short rest at home in Texas before flying to Sedgefield, where he promptly opened with a 5-under 65. That left him two shots off the lead, but one clear of a group that included fellow Olympian Patrick Reed.

For Reed, there’s plenty of incentive this week. He returns to the site of his first Tour win precariously positioned on the Ryder Cup bubble, likely needing to play well over the next two events to secure his spot at Hazeltine.

It also marks the halfway point of an especially busy stretch for Reed, who will play seven straight weeks from the PGA through the BMW Championship and 12 out of 13 weeks dating back to the U.S. Open.

But don’t expect to hear any complaints from Reed, who just four years ago was trying to break onto the Tour one Monday qualifier at a time.

“I’m always that kind of grinder. I love to compete, love to play,” Reed said. “Anytime you can get me in the trenches to go play some golf, I’m down for it. That’s why it was pretty easy for me to come back and just kind of keep on going.”

All three players agreed that the north-south travel logistics made the return from Rio a bit easier to handle, a trip that spanned only one time zone instead of the five or six that accompany a trip to Europe.

And while three rounds still remain, it’s clearly in the early going that the Olympic spirit which fueled golfers last week – and which is still driving a field of 60 women down in Brazil – can also produce some positive lingering effects for those that made the journey.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

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.