Notes Rug pulled out from Paddy Whats a rookie

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)ST. LOUIS ' Padraig Harrington was about the only one not complaining that a double major champion could not qualify for the TOUR Championship, blaming only himself for missing consecutive cuts at the start of the PGA TOUR Playoffs.
 
His biggest letdown? Realizing he couldnt win the Vardon Trophy.
 
Harrington figured he was safe playing the minimum 15 events on the PGA TOUR. But he missed the cut three times, and finished the year with only 52 rounds. Players must complete 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
 
I didnt know that, Harrington said with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. I was trying to win that award. I would consider that a big deal to have the lowest scoring average.
 
At least there will be one compelling race at the end of the year.
 
Going into the TOUR Championship next week, Phil Mickelson leads with a 69.52 scoring average, with Sergio Garcia one-hundredth of a point behind at 69.53. Right behind are Vijay Singh and Anthony Kim, tied at 69.62. Harrington, who was leading until he tied for 55th in the BMW Championship, slipped to fifth place at 69.67, but its a moot point now.
 
Mickelson has never won a major postseason award, and this might be his best chance. So even though Singh has effectively wrapped up the FedExCup, Lefty will have something at stake at the TOUR Championship.
 
Tiger Woods ran into the same problem as Harrington in 2006, when he won two majors then cut his season short after a long year off the course dealing with his fathers death. Woods withdrew from Riviera, missed the cut in the U.S. Open and wound up playing only 59 rounds. The Vardon Trophy went to Jim Furyk.
 
But it raises a question the PGA of America might want to consider.
 
Harrington is among several players who compete around the globe and often play only the minimum on the PGA TOUR. That means they cannot miss a cut and be eligible for the Vardon Trophy.
 
Its been 60 rounds for quite a number of years, said Kerry Haig at the PGA of America. Thats still a good, reasonable number to judge a yearlong competition. Its a fairly stringent, fairly consistent criteria. But when you look at the competition now out there, is it reasonable to make 15 cuts out of 15 tournaments for players to reach the minimum rounds? Well continue to look at it.
 
The PGA TOUR has its own version of the Vardon Trophy ' the Byron Nelson Award ' and it requires only 50 rounds to be eligible.
 
DEFINITION OF A ROOKIE
 
Depending on what happens the final two months of the season, Andres Romero figures to be a lock for PGA TOUR rookie of the year.
 
Romero and Chez Reavie are the only rookies to have won this year ' Romero in New Orleans, Reavie at the Canadian Open ' but the Argentine is among 11 players to have made the cut in all four majors this year, including top 10s in the Masters and the PGA Championship.
 
Reavie only played in one major, a tie for 60th at the PGA Championship.
 
Strangely enough, Romero didnt even become a PGA TOUR rookie until one week ago. The policy board approved a new definition of rookie, and Romero was an example of why the old definition didnt work.
 
Previously, a player was deemed to be a rookie if he finished in the top 125 on the money list or had earnings equivalent to the top 125. Romero played only three times last year ' a tie for fourth in the British Open ($596,414) and a tie for seventh in the Bridgestone Invitational ($202,000). He did not take up membership until this year.
 
The new policy defines rookies as the year they become a PGA TOUR member, play in at least 10 events as a member or finish in the top 125 as a tour member, whichever occurs first.
 
So this is Romeros rookie year ' and its been a good one.
 
FINAL TUNE-UP
 
The PGA TOUR has gone dark this week ' the first time since 1989 that there was a week off during the season ' but that doesnt mean everyone in the Ryder Cup is taking a breather.
 
Four players from Europe are in the field for the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Germany ' Soren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson.
 
Padraig Harrington left St. Louis for his home in Ireland after spending the last six weeks in the United States, five of those playing in tournaments. Sergio Garcia, however, decided to stay in the United States.
 
Im trying to rest, so I didnt want to go all the way back to Spain and then come back only for one week and be in the Ryder Cup, Garcia said. If it was any other tournament, Id probably do it. But I think the Ryder Cup is too important to do that.
 
THE NEXT STEP
 
Martin Laird, the rookie from Scotland, had his playoff end run at St. Louis when he tied for 54th in the BMW Championship. Guaranteed only one start, he competed in three playoff events and earned $235,620 to finish at No. 67 in the final standings.
 
One wrinkle to this volatile new points structure?
 
By finishing in the top 70, Laird now is eligible for tournaments like the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial and AT&T National. But he might not be able to keep his PGA TOUR card.
 
Lairds playoff push put him at No. 115 on the money list with $725,720. The 125th position on the money list last year belonged to Mathias Gronberg, who earned $785,180.
 
Its not clear what the figure will be this year, but Laird might have to play a couple of more times to make sure he has a card next year. Otherwise, hell have to settle for tournaments some card-carrying members cant get in.
 
DIVOTS
 
This is one time Tiger Woods really was beatable as ever. Rory Sabbatini finished at No. 69 in the FedExCup standings, 177 points ahead of Woods at No. 70. Then again, Sabbatini played in three playoff events and made two cuts. Woods has not played at all since the U.S. Open. This will be the first time in his career Woods was not eligible for the TOUR Championship. He still earned $110,000 for finishing 70th in the standings. Eleven players have reached the TOUR Championship both years of the FedExCup'Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Robert Allenby and Ernie Els.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
 
South America (Andres Romero, Camilo Villegas) has produced as many PGA TOUR winners this year as Australia (Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott).
 
FINAL WORD
 
Hopefully more tomorrow than today. ' Camilo Villegas, when asked how many people in Colombia played golf.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”