Byrd Nicklaus Crane and Toms
'I remember looking at the board when I finished 1 under,' Byrd said. 'I was eight out of the lead at the time. I was thinking, 'If I can just make the cut, there's a chance. It's so packed, you just never know.''
A record number of first-time winners on the PGA Tour last year (18) illustrated the depth and strength of fields. Another indication is how many players still have a chance to win on the weekend, even when they narrowly make the cut.
The Ford Championship at Doral was only the latest example.
Dating to the start of last season, there have been 29 tournaments where only 10 strokes separated the leaders from those who made the cut on the number. Eight guys who barely made it to the weekend wound up with top-10 finishes.
Ian Leggatt made the cut by one stroke in Tucson last year and won the tournament. Steve Elkington went from last place on Friday to a playoff in the British Open.
'I had one year where I made about five cuts on the number, and in three or four of those events I finished in the top 10,' Jim Furyk said.
Major moves on the weekend are rare on the West Coast because of early starts to accommodate television, leading to two-tee starts.
Players who make the cut on the number get late tee times (starting on No. 10) and face the same conditions as the leaders.
Tiger Woods was the exception last year. He made the cut on the number at Torrey Pines, and finished in a tie for fifth, three strokes out of the lead.
'This tour has more depth than we've ever had,' Billy Mayfair said. 'It's my 15th year out here, and these guys have gotten better and better.'
NO TIME TO PLAY: Jack Nicklaus is so excited about his health that he would like to play more tournaments, especially as he tries to decide whether to play the Masters.
One problem: He doesn't have time.
'Six months ago, I didn't think I'd be able to play golf at all,' the 63-year-old Nicklaus said. 'Like an idiot, I totally booked up my schedule between now and Augusta because I had no intention to play any golf.'
He played back-to-back weeks on the Champions Tour, took a week off and then played at Doral. He would have liked to play this week at the Honda Classic.
Instead, he has to travel to Phoenix to accept an award. Also on the itinerary is a trip to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion, a birthday present for his wife.
The only opening might be next week on the Champions Tour in California -- although he has a commitment in Ohio on Wednesday, and another in New York on Sunday night. The only other break is the members-only Jamboree at Augusta National at the end of March, which Nicklaus doesn't want to miss.
Nicklaus might not make up his mind about the Masters until the week before.
'I'm not going up there just to be part of the field,' he said. 'I don't expect to win, but if I play well, I think I can finish in the top 10.'
PICKING UP THE PACE: Ask just about any PGA Tour player or rules official to identify the biggest culprit in slow play, and Ben Crane's name would top every list.
Crane heard the whispers and is trying to do something about it.
'I would love for you to write that it hasn't been a problem,' Crane said. 'But it was a problem last year. I've worked extremely hard and gotten a lot better. The officials are seeing a change. It's just a matter of time.'
Crane is one of the most polite players on tour -- which might have been the problem. He said he would step to the side as his playing partners hit their shots, then go to his ball and start figuring out the yardage and which club to hit.
A couple of players told him last year he needed to pick up the pace, but what really got Crane's attention was being paired with guys slower than him.
'I was like, 'Wow. When I'm slow ... that must be terrible,'' Crane said. 'I want to get this off my back. In order to be the best I can be, this shouldn't be an issue. It's a matter of getting your homework done before it's your turn to play.'
ROYAL ST. HOCH: Scott Hoch already has set a personal record by playing in two consecutive British Opens. Will he make it three in a row?
'That's yet to be decided,' Hoch said last week at Doral.
Hoch doesn't care for the British weather -- usually cold, windy and rainy -- although he has said the only course he doesn't like is St. Andrews. Turns out there might be others.
'I have a tough time with 'Saint' courses over there,' he said. 'Anything with a 'Saint' has been tough on me.'
This year's Open is at Royal St. George.
Hoch has played the British Open five times. His best finish was a tie for eighth last year at Muirfield. He also has played Royal Birkdale (missed cut), Royal Lytham & St. Annes (missed cut) and twice at St. Andrews (missed cut in '90, tied for 68th in '95).
DIVOTS: The Royal Bank of Scotland, trying to raise its profile in the United States, continued to build a golf team this week by announcing endorsement deals with Charles Howell III and Luke Donald. The world's fifth largest bank already has a partnership with Jack Nicklaus. All three players will appear in print and television ads in the United States and around the world. ... Annika Sorenstam has added to her collection of logos by signing a two-year deal with Kraft. She will wear the logo on the upper left collar of her shirt and the upper part of her golf bag. ... Chris Smith had a wide range of numbers on his scorecard Friday at Doral -- 2-3-4-5-6-7-8, although not in that order.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Jim Furyk had four eagles last week at Doral. He made only two in 85 rounds last year.
FINAL WORD: 'You're going to have people who aren't golfers know who I am. They might wish they knew my wife, but at least they'll know my name.' -- David Toms, pictured with wife Sonya in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open
Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.
Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.
Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.
The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.