Els and Others Happy to be Here

By Associated PressNovember 1, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- For all the talk of a black cloud hanging over a TOUR Championship missing the PGA TOUR's two biggest stars, Ernie Els saw nothing but sunshine as he worked quietly on the practice green late Wednesday afternoon.
 
Not many were happier to be at East Lake for the season-ending event for the top 30 on the money list. Els squeaked in three days ago by saving par from 50 yards short of the 18th green, giving him one last chance to salvage his year with a victory.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els competes in Wednesday's pro-am at East Lake Country Club.
And that's when the light came on.
 
'At least I've got a chance,' he said. 'And it's a lot better when you only have to beat 26 guys.'
 
He doesn't have to beat Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world who decided to end his PGA TOUR season a month ago by skipping the tour's version of the All-Star game for the first time. He doesn't have to worry about Phil Mickelson, who stuck to his strategy of calling it quits after the majors.
 
Also missing is Stephen Ames, winner of The Players Championship, who is nursing a sore back.
 
Reaction from the 27 players at East Lake competing for $6.5 million in prize money has been mixed. Some believe that Woods and Mickelson owe it to the PGA TOUR to show up at theTOUR Championship.
 
'I think the biggest players have a responsibility to the tour to play in these,' Arron Oberholser said. 'Tiger might not want to hear that, and Phil might not want to hear that, but they don't write my paycheck, so I don't care. I think it's about having a responsibility to your place in the game.'
 
On the other hand, Woods indirectly writes plenty of paychecks. It is his star power in the game that has caused exponential growth in prize money over the last three years. When Woods first played in the TOUR Championship, the purse was $3 million. This year, the winner gets $1.17 million.
 
'You could say Tiger and Phil are hurting the tour by not coming to the TOUR Championship,' U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. 'But where would the TOUR be without Tiger and Phil? We'd be playing for $2.5 million this week. We'd have 20 tournaments. And no one would be watching on TV. We'd be back where we were 15 years ago.'
 
One way or the other, their absence has drawn more attention than the tournament. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said he was disappointed by they were not at East Lake, although his thoughts were geared more toward next year at the FedExCup competition, which will end in September when the leaves are still green.
 
'I think players have an obligation to support the TOUR,' Finchem said. 'But after this many years on the job, I think in the long term. I don't get hung up on one week.'
 
Woods cited fatigue for missing the TOUR Championship for the first time. Returning from a nine-week absence after his father died, then missing the cut for the first time in a major, he won six of eight tournaments he played, lost the Ryder Cup and made a two-day trip to Ireland beforehand for practice.
 
Mickelson pours so much into the majors that he is exhauted by August. He stopped playing after the American Express Championship last year. This time, he stopped after the Ryder Cup.
 
'Phil was not a surprise to me,' Finchem said. 'Now that I know the details of Tiger's thing from last week, I understand how he came to his conclusion. It doesn't make me less disappointed, but I understand how he got there.'
 
That leaves Jim Furyk as the No. 1 player at East Lake, even though he is No. 2 in the world and No. 2 on the money list. He can't catch Woods for the money title, although a solid week should be enough for Furyk to win the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
 
Then again, he could have stayed home this week and still won the Vardon.
 
So what was he doing on the practice range, warming up with wedge shots over a pond to a green about 100 yards away?
 
'I like the golf course. I like the tournament,' he said between shots. 'And I kind of want to win the TOUR Championship.'
 
For others, there is plenty at stake.
 
Eight players have failed to win this year, and three are in the top 10 in the world ranking -- Els, Retief Goosen and Adam Scott.
 
Guys like Dean Wilson, who is No. 20 on the money list, also are grinding. If the Hawaii's best player can stay in the top 20, he will be exempt for the British Open next year and see some incentives kick in on endorsement deals.
 
Eleven players are at the TOUR Championship for the first time, such as Brett Quigley.
 
'It's like a Christmas present come early,' said Quigley, the only player in the 27-man field without a PGA TOUR victory. 'A win this week would be the ultimate.'
 
For Woods and Mickelson, it's a week off.
 
Davis Love III almost missed the TOUR Championship until winning in Greensboro, and he was looking forward to one more big tournament. Then again, maybe that's the problem with the TOUR Championship.
 
It used to be one of the big tournaments of the year, but now has lost some importance with so many other big events over the last 10 months. Including the majors, the PGA TOUR had 13 tournaments with total prize money of at least $6 million this year.
 
'What I tell Tim and the staff all the time is they're a victim of their own success,' Love said. 'The more big tournaments you get with big money, the more opportunities there are for guys to skip.'
 
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  • Monday Scramble: For money and love

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

    It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.

    She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.

    She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.

    Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.

    “It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”

    But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.

    What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak. 


    1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.

    In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.

    Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?

    2. Some of the other awards ...

    Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?

    Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.

    No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green … 



    3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.

    Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.

    Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.

    4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.

    She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.



    5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.

    Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

    Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.

    6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.

    Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time. 

    7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.

    He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.

    Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.



    8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.

    After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.

    He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.  

    “I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said. 

    9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.

    Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:

    Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.

    10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.

    The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.

    This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).

    Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.” 

    Um, has this ever happened before?

    I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71. 

    This week's award winners ... 


    Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.  

    Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s. 

    Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.  

    Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign. 


    All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.” 

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh. 

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”