Notes New Schedule Hurts Team Events

By Associated PressAugust 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
HARRISON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods repeated Tuesday in a monthly newsletter that his body needed a break after winning consecutive weeks at Firestone and Southern Hills, and that he wanted to be sharp for the final three playoff events in the FedExCup.
 
'Plus, I want to be sharp for the Presidents Cup,' he added.
 
That seems to be forgotten in what already is a crammed schedule on the PGA TOUR.
 
All 24 players from the U.S. and International teams are in the PGA TOUR Playoffs, and 11 out of 12 Americans are seeded inside the top 30. That means most players could be in four straight events before one week off, then the Presidents Cup that starts Sept. 27 at Royal Montreal.
 
'Obviously, when the Presidents Cup comes -- or at the end of the FedExCup -- I'm going to be tired,' Woody Austin said. 'Four weeks in a row is a grind for anything.'
 
Worse yet is next year. The Ryder Cup will be played immediately after the four-week playoffs, leading to some speculation that Woods won't be the only player who takes a week off during the playoffs.
 
'I'm disappointed in the schedule,' Jim Furyk said.
 
Someone asked Padraig Harrington if golf was less of a grind when he doesn't have to think about the Ryder Cup, and he immediately thought about next year.
 
'That's five in a row. That will be tough,' he said. 'That will be a big ask, a big take from any player who plays in all five events. The Presidents Cup this year ... is such a big event, or the Ryder Cup is such a big event. It does require effort. Coming in off something as big as this, it's a tough bit of work.'
 
CUP VALUE:
Most people figure Tiger Woods is a lock for PGA TOUR player of the year with his five victories (two World Golf Championships) and a major (PGA Championship), along with having a huge advantage in scoring average.
 
Will the FedExCup change that?
 
Maybe.
 
Jerry Kelly said he would give the winner of the FedExCup equal value -- if not more -- to winning a major when it comes to his vote for player of the year. He cited Zach Johnson as an example.
 
'He won the Masters and one other tournament,' Kelly said. 'If he wins the FedExCup, that means he'll have won another tournament. And then it becomes a race.'
 
Kelly believes winning the FedExCup along with a major would fall under the same scenario as someone winning two majors. The most famous case of that was in 1998, when Mark O'Meara (two majors) beat out David Duval (four victories, money title and Vardon Trophy).
 
ONE SHOT:
The FedExCup didn't have to wait until the playoffs for every shot to count.
 
Just ask Eric Axley.
 
He came to the 18th hole in the final round of the Wyndham Championship in a tie for 27th. He was 110 yards away from the hole in the first cut of rough, yet hit his wedge to some 40 feet and took two putts for a par.
 
Had he made birdie, Axley would have earned enough points to qualify for The Barclays, the first playoff event. Instead, he wound up at No. 145, a mere 23 points behind Jeff Gove.
 
That means Axley cannot play on the PGA TOUR until the playoffs end Sept. 16.
 
RYDER CUP:
Fans have six more weeks to register for 2008 Ryder Cup tickets, and a random drawing will be held in October.
 
Tickets range from daily grounds ($90 a day during the competition) to a weekly season ticket ($435) to the Samuel Ryder Club tickets, which go for $1,600 a day during competition and include admission to a hospitality tent that has reserved seating, breakfast and lunch, parking off site and a shuttle to Valhalla.
 
Or you can sign up for a package from a European-based company called Ryder Cup Travel Services.
 
The cheapest package is $3,000 for five days. That includes a hotel room at the Holiday Inn in Clarksville, Ind., transportation to the golf course, a regular ticket, a shirt and dinner one night at the Muhammad Ali Center.
 
BATTLEFIELD PROMOTION:
Four years after his U.S. Amateur victory, Nick Flanagan is headed for the PGA TOUR.
 
Flanagan came from seven shots behind to win his third Nationwide Tour event of the season, earning him an automatic promotion to the big leagues. But in this 'new era of golf,' the 23-year-old Aussie has to wait one month.
 
The PGA TOUR Playoff gobbled up the next four weeks of the schedule, and Flanagan's first chance to play the Tour as its newest member is Sept. 20 at the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
 
The good news is he should have no problem getting in.
 
Chad Campbell earned a similar promotion in October 2001 but couldn't get in the Disney tournament because it was loaded with guys trying to keep their cards (along with those who wanted to take their kids on Space Mountain).
 
'The good thing about it is that I am set up for next year,' said Flanagan, whose status for 2008 will fall behind those who finish in the top 125 on the PGA TOUR money list. 'I may play the rest of the year for some Christmas money. You're not going to stop me from playing in $4 and $5 million events.'
 
Flanagan won the '03 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont by beating Casey Wittenberg, who also won Sunday on the Hooters Tour.
 
DIVOTS:
It was 102 degrees when the final few groups teed off in the final round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. About the same time one week later, it was 75 degrees. ... Brandt Snedeker became the fifth American in his 20s to win on the PGA TOUR this year. The others were Charles Howell III, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan and Jonathan Byrd. ... This from the Department of Strange Statistics: On the first hole of the JELD-WEN Tradition last week, D.A. Weibring holed out from the fairway for eagle. Peter Jacobsen and Bob Gilder both chipped in for birdie. That means no one in the group had to putt. ... Greg Norman has been chosen for the 2008 Old Tom Morris Award given by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. ... Jerry Kelly had never recorded a top 10 in a major until this year. A tie for fifth in the Masters and a tie for seventh in the U.S. Open was enough to make him eligible for the HSBC World Match Play Championship in England.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Tiger Woods is the only player to successfully defend a title this year on the PGA TOUR or the European Tour.
 
FINAL WORD:
'It's a bit like the TPC. If you win the TPC, it's the fifth major. If you don't win it, it's not the fifth major.' -- Padraig Harrington, comparing the FedExCup with THE PLAYERS Championship.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Barclays
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.