Cabrera hoping to defend Masters title

By Associated PressApril 7, 2010, 3:40 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The defending Masters champion normally needs to build in an extra 10 or 15 minutes anytime he walks by the crowd of reporters clustered outside the clubhouse.

There’s nothing normal about this year, however.

With reporters on the lookout for Mark O’Meara – better known as Tiger Woods’ playing partner Tuesday – Angel Cabrera was able to stroll right on by not once, but twice.

“The Masters is the Masters,” Cabrera said. “They can talk about anybody, they can talk about Tiger. But the Masters is the Masters, and we have to give that importance to the Masters.”

Cabrera’s victory at Augusta National was his last, and Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo are the only champions to repeat at the Masters. But Cabrera can never be counted out – especially after the way he won last year.

“I have the possibility,” Cabrera said. “Maybe I haven’t had the great results lately, but I do feel the chance is out there, and I feel confident about it.”

Kenny Perry led Cabrera and Chad Campbell by two strokes with two holes to play last year, only to drop shots on both holes and force a playoff. Cabrera seemed to be finished when his tee shot on 18, the first playoff hole, landed behind a tree, and his next shot hit another tree.

But Cabrera somehow managed to thread a sand wedge to 8 feet and made the putt. When Perry’s ball found mud in the fairway on the second hole, Cabrera had only to make a routine par for the green jacket. He was the first Argentine to win the Masters.

“Winning the Masters is the most difficult thing in golf,” said Cabrera, who also won the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. “So anything that comes now is more accessible.”

As a reminder, Cabrera stopped by that tree on 18 to show his son Angel, who is caddying for him here this week, just how bad his shot was.

“Honestly, I’m the one who wanted to go see that shot, but he was a perfect excuse.”

JACK’S BACK: When Jack Nicklaus was still playing the Masters, he had little use for the idea of becoming a ceremonial starter.

After calling it a career five years ago, his stance gradually softened.

Now, Jack’s back – at least for one shot.

Nicklaus will be at Augusta National early Thursday morning to join Arnold Palmer for the ceremonial tee shots that signal the start of the year’s first major tournament.

“We’ll have fun,” the 70-year-old Golden Bear said, “and we’ll both belt it out there about 150 yards.”

Nicklaus decided to take part after getting a call from Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who passed along Palmer’s wish that his longtime rival join him for the opening shot.

“When I was first asked about it, I was still playing. So I didn’t. I had no desire to do that,” Nicklaus said. “But I stopped playing. … And you know, I thought that it would be a nice thing to do. So I’m here. And I’m looking forward to it.”

While willing to come back to Augusta for ceremonial duties, Nicklaus had no desire to talk about Tiger Woods’ sex scandal. The retired golfer turned aside several questions about Woods with polite responses such as “I think I’ll stay away from that.”

When the half-hour news conference appeared to be wrapping up, Nicklaus noticed several reporters with their hands up and said he’d be willing to stay.

With one caveat: “Does anybody got anything other than Tiger?”

THAT’S ALL, FOLKS: Raymond Floyd’s days of tournament golf appear to be over.

Floyd announced Tuesday that he will no longer play the Masters, making last year’s appearance – his 44th – his final one.

“It was something I toyed with pretty much all year, as to whether I would play or not,” Floyd said. “I wanted to leave with really fond memories of the golf course and the way I played the golf course through all of these years, and I’m not competitive there now. I didn’t want to go out there and embarrass myself.”

Asked if he would continue to play on the Champions Tour, Floyd said he is “probably retired” from tournament golf.

Floyd had played in every Masters since 1965. He won in 1976 and was runner-up three times, including 1990, when he lost to Nick Faldo in a playoff after hitting his approach into the water on No. 11, the second playoff hole. But Floyd, 67, hadn’t made the cut in 10 years.

Floyd is the latest in a line of past champions who have decided to stop playing the Masters in recent years, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Floyd still plans to play the Par-3 tournament on Wednesday, joking that he can reach most of those greens off the tee.

“I don’t feel like it’s the end of an era,” he said. “I plan to come back and be part of the golf tournament.”

UNDER THE RADAR: Steve Stricker has a secret to staying out of the limelight: Live in Wisconsin.

The world’s No. 2 golfer lives year-round in his home state, where people either don’t recognize him or have gotten so used to him they don’t consider a sighting anything special. The guy ahead of him on the rankings list, Tiger Woods, should only be so lucky.

Woods, the world’s most famous athlete, has been tabloid fodder since news of his rampant infidelities broke in November, and neither he nor wife Elin can go anywhere without attracting photographers.

“I feel very fortunate to live the kind of life I do,” Stricker said Tuesday. “I can play golf out here for a living and go back to basically obscurity in Wisconsin. And I like it that way. I can go around town and really not too many people know who I am, take my family out and there’s no real cameras following me around.

“It’s nice that way,” Stricker said. “I imagine what Tiger has been going through has been very difficult, not only on him, but his family.”

YOUNG GUN: Matteo Manassero turned on the charm as if he’s been doing this for years.

The 16-year-old from Italy, the youngest to ever play in the Masters, was a delight during his news conference Tuesday, talking about everything from his admiration for Seve Ballesteros to homework to his curfew. He did it all in English, too, without an interpreter in sight.

“No, I can speak English,” Manassero said when asked if he wanted help with translations.

Manassero started golfing at 3, when his parents took him to the driving range in Verona, his hometown. He became the youngest winner in the 124-history of the British Amateur Championship last year, then finished tied for 13th at the British Open at Turnberry.

“It will definitely help me for all my pro life,” said Manassero, who turns 17 on April 19. “I started there to have a lot of crowd and more attention, so that is helping me. And will help me, of course, here.”

Manassero plans to make his professional debut at next month’s Italian Open and hopes to do well enough this year to earn his card. If not, he said he’ll go to qualifying school or play on the Challenge Tour, Europe’s second tier.

But no matter where he’s playing, he’ll be bringing his books.

Manassero currently attends traditional high school and will finish out the year. After that, though, he’ll probably get a tutor or take classes for his last two years.

“We haven’t planned it yet, but it will be something like that,” he said. “I want to finish school.”

AP National Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”