Cabrera to offer preview of Masters dinner

By Doug FergusonMarch 3, 2010, 2:00 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Defending Masters champion Angel Cabrera plans to give 100 friends who can’t attend the Champions Dinner a preview taste of what they will be missing.

Cabrera is hosting a “preview dinner” on March 29 at the Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Houston that will feature the menu– yes, plenty of meat from the Argentine– that former Masters champions will be sampling a week later at Augusta National.

“There’s not a golfer in the world who wouldn’t want to attend that dinner,” said Charlie Epps, his Houston-based swing coach.

It started with Cabrera wanting to raise money for his foundation, which he created two months before his 2007 U.S. Open victory at Oakmont. The foundation helps improve the quality for needy people in his hometown of Cordoba, including the welfare of caddies, and helps fund the local hospital.

“There’s so many fundraisers that we needed a new idea to get people excited,” Epps said.

Epps invited 100 associates who are paying $1,000 each to get a night with Cabrera, capped off with a dinner like no other. Ping, his longtime equipment sponsor, plans to bring its tour van so guests can test equipment (and receive a putter). Cabrera will conduct a clinic, give everyone an autographed Masters flag, and then the dinner bell rings.

On a conference call Tuesday, Cabrera was asked if he had given any thought to his menu at the Masters.

“There’s not a lot to think about,” he replied through a translator. “A good Argentine ‘asado.’ Some good beef.”

Epps said asado is a popular Argentine barbecue, and the menu will feature a five-meat course, including filets, short ribs and sausages, including one known as “morcilla.”

“There won’t be a lot of carbohydrates at this dinner,” said Epps, who grew up in Argentina.

There will be salad and bread to dip in a sauce that Cabrera will make himself, along with plenty of Argentine wine and music.

CAP AND GOWN: Ryo Ishikawa has shown poise and polish beyond his years in winning four times last year, along with his performance in the Match Play Championship. A reminder of his youth comes next week at Doral, which the 18-year-old Japanese golfer won’t play.

But the “bashful prince” has a good excuse: He’s graduating from high school.

Ishikawa, who won his first Japan Golf Tour event as a 15-year-old amateur, will go through his graduation ceremony from Suginami Gakuin on March 8, the Monday of the World Golf Championship.

BARTLETT AWARD: Ernie Els has been selected to receive the Charlie Bartlett Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for unselfish contributions to society.

The three-time major champion for more than a decade has been helping South African children from families of limited means get access to education and golf opportunities. Those kids include Louis Oosthuizen and James Kamte, each of whom played in majors last year.

Els has received more notoriety of late with the Els for Autism Foundation and the Els Center for Excellence. He has become a passionate advocate for autism since his 7-year-old son, Ben, was diagnosed as a toddler. He and his wife, Leizl, are trying to raise $30 million for the center in West Palm Beach, Fla., which will combine education, therapy and research for autistic children.

Els will be honored April 7 in Augusta, Ga., at the GWAA annual awards dinner.

RICKIE ON THE RISE: Rickie Fowler earned $875,431 on the West Coast Swing and achieved the first goal of his rookie season by securing his PGA Tour card for next year.

The next step is getting into a World Golf Championship. Fowler, who is playing the Honda Classic this week, is No. 13 in the FedEx Cup standings and would need to finish no worse than ninth to crack the top 10 in the standings and get into Doral.

His first trip to Augusta National is a little tougher. Fowler’s only chance at the Masters would be to win a PGA Tour event or to get into the top 50 in the world ranking after the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Fowler is at No. 77, but his divisor will remain at the minimum 40 tournaments. He is assured of getting into Bay Hill because of the FedEx Cup standings.

RESHUFFLE: PGA Tour rookie Brian Stuard is in the Honda Classic. Jay Williamson is not. Both can attribute that to the West Coast Swing, in which Stuard did enough right to move up from No. 39 to No. 5 in the priority list of Q-School and Nationwide grads.

The list was reshuffled heading to the Florida Swing, with Rickie Fowler leading the list. He is followed by Alex Prugh, who had three consecutive top-10s to move up from No. 30.

The reshuffle gives those players better chances of getting into tournaments at the Honda Classic, Transitions Championship at Innisbrook and the Houston Open before the next reshuffle.

Williamson started out at No. 21 and fell 13 spots, leaving him as the second alternate at the Honda Classic.

LPGA GROWING: The LPGA now has 25 official tournaments on its 2010 schedule, up from 23 at the start of the year. The latest addition is the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, to be held Oct. 22-24 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

The Malaysian event ideally kicks off the fall version of its Far East swing. It will be held one week before the LPGA China, with the Mizuno Classic in Japan a week later. The China tournament still doesn’t have a sponsor or a golf course and was not held a year ago.

The LPGA Malaysia will be a 60-player field (50 from the LPGA money list) with no cut over 54 holes. That means both tournaments added this year– the other is the Match Play Championship in New Jersey– have limited fields.

FINAL WORD: “Obviously, I want Tiger to be there. He’s the best. When he’s there, he makes tournaments special.”– Masters champion Angel Cabrera when asked if he would like to see Tiger Woods at Augusta National this year.

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Els: Tiger playing well validates his generation

By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Tiger Woods has come close to looking like the player who ruled golf for the better part of 15 years, and Ernie Els is happy to see it.

Never mind that Els was on the losing end to Woods more than any other player.

He speaks for his generation of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and others. Els keeps hearing about the depth of talent being greater than ever, and he has seen it. But he gets weary listening to suggestions that Woods might not have 79 PGA Tour victories if he had to face this group.

''I'm just glad he's playing like I know he can play to validate me – validate me, Phil and Vijay,'' Els said. ''We weren't bad players. This guy was a special player. To see him back, playing special stuff again ... is great for the game.''

Generational debates are nothing new.

Every generation was better than the next one. Then again, Jack Nicklaus used to lament that Woods was lacking competition from players who had more experience winning majors, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

Mickelson, Els and Singh combined to win 12 majors. Els says Woods won 14 on his own because he was that much better.

Does it get under his skin to hear fans rave about this generation's players?

''It doesn't (tick) me off. Can you imagine how it must (tick) Tiger off?'' he said. ''He was leaps and bounds the best player. People forget very quickly, and then you see special players like we have now, the younger generation. But I know what I played against. You can't take anything away from anybody.''

Doug Ferguson is a golf writer for The Associated Press

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.