Bubble Boys Try to Keep Cards

By Associated PressOctober 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Per-Ulrik Johansson has won five times on the European Tour, played in the final singles match against Phil Mickelson in the 1995 Ryder Cup and had three straight finishes in the top 24 in the Masters.
He is accustomed to success.
He can do without the stress he faces this week in the Chrysler Championship.
The final, full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour is one last chance for players to finish in the top 125 on the money list to keep their cards for next year.
Johannson is at No. 125 by a mere $654.
'The plan when I first came over was to not fight for my card,' he said. '(It) was to get to the next level. When I played in Europe, I was playing in the majors and World (Golf) Championship tournaments.
'All of a sudden, here I am fighting for my card,' he said. 'It wasn't by plan, but here I am. And I have to deal with it.'
Johansson is not alone.
Vijay Singh has a chance to clinch the PGA Tour money title and end Tiger Woods' four-year reign with a victory this week. A dozen others are trying to get into the $6 million Tour Championship next week in Houston.
Still, most of the focus is on those just trying to keep their jobs.
Instead of cutting up with each other on the practice range, players quietly went about their business, desperate to find a swing that will pay off in their final at bat.
Otherwise, it's back to Q-school or they are saddled with conditional status, meaning they get the leftovers - the weaker tournaments that top players avoid, which usually amounts to about 20 starts.
Aaron Barber had one of the most amazing weeks of his career at the Colonial, when he played the first two rounds with Annika Sorenstam. But as the season comes to a conclusion, he is No. 140 on the money list and needs to finish in the top 15 at the Chrysler Championship to keep his card.
He was in a similar position a few years ago on the Canadian Tour, but made a birdie on the last hole of the last tournament and kept his card by about $20.
'That wasn't quite as big a deal as this,' Barber said. 'This is my 32nd tournament. In a perfect world, I wouldn't play that many. But as a rookie, you don't know the courses, you know what taking a week off is.
'Looking back, I wish I had paced myself,' he said. 'Hopefully, I'll get another chance.'
Each shot could be the difference between a PGA Tour card and a trip to Q-school. One player moving up the leaderboard means another player is falling behind.
It's a good week to be a mathematician. Every dollar counts.
Rocco Mediate tried to give the bubble boys reason for optimism.
'I would look at it this way,' Mediate said. 'If you are 125th or 126th or whatever, you obviously haven't played really well this year yet. So, I feel like I would be due for something good.
'I don't ever want to be in that position.'
Mediate is on his own bubble.
He is No. 30 on the money list and trying to protect his position so he can play get into the Tour Championship. All but two players from No. 26 (Retief Goosen) to No. 51 (Tim Clark) on the money list are playing in the Chrysler Championship.
Fred Couples (No. 32), who was only about $12,000 behind Mediate, withdrew Wednesday after his back went out during the pro-am.
Mediate had no reason to believe he could qualify for the Tour Championship until a recent surge in his play.
He was second in Boston, tied for fifth in Pennsylvania and tied for ninth last week in the Funai Classic at Disney. In between, he withdrew twice because of back problems. He feels much better now.
'In September, I was 60th or 70th,' he said. 'So to have this opportunity is good. I just need to take advantage of it. I'm beat up a little bit, but I'm ready to go.'
John Huston is also injured (neck), but he can't afford to miss the final tournament of the year. Huston is 40th on the money list, and Augusta National invites the top 40 players to the Masters.
Jeff Brehaut is No. 99 on the money list, courtesy of a tie for fifth two weeks ago in Greensboro that finally put him over the hump. It's the first time in four tries that he will finish in the top 125, meaning he can determine his own schedule.
Looking at the bubble boys on both sides of him, he could relate to the tension.
'If they're not talking about it, they're thinking about it,' he said. 'It comes down to playing good golf. What everyone is trying to do is have the one week that gets them over the top, so they can be in the spot I am now.'
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

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    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry