Notes Stableford Scoring Lefty Back to School
For those who think the FedEx Cup competition that starts next year is a mathematical nightmare, consider the reaction 20 years ago when it was announced that a new PGA TOUR event in Colorado was going to use a modified Stableford scoring system.
Safe to say, it took time for players to embrace it.
'I don't understand it,' Andy Bean said in 1986, arms flailing in frustration. 'I don't know what to think about it. It isn't stroke play and it isn't match play. It's not golf. It's just ... playing games.'
Twenty years later, the International has created its own niche with the strange scoring system and a world-class stable of winners, from Phil Mickelson to Ernie Els, from Vijay Singh to Greg Norman.
Brad Faxon won in 1992 but is skipping this year because he is eligible for the World Golf Championship at Firestone, giving him four straight tournaments. Even so, he loves the modified Stableford and wonders why more recreational players don't use some form of it.
'When the great courses were built in America at the turn of the century, a lot of them were built to be match play or a Stableford system,' Faxon said. 'You played it as a game, not to shoot the lowest score. It was a match.'
The modified Stableford at the International awards two points for a birdie, five for an eagle and eight for a double eagle. One point is subtracted for a bogey, three points for a double bogey or worse.
The real Stableford system is much more friendly to average players.
It was developed by Frank Stableford, a member of Wallasey Golf Club in England who was frustrated at his inability to reach the green on the second hole. It now measures 458 yards from the members' tee, a dogleg to the right with a pot bunker at 260 yards into strong gusts from the Irish Sea.
'I was practicing on the second fairway at Wallasey Golf Club one day in the latter part of 1931 when the thought ran through my mind that many players in competitions got very little fun since they tore up their cards after playing on a few holes,' Stableford once said. 'And I wondered if anything could be done about it.'
The first Stableford competition was held at Wallasey on May 16, 1932.
It awards one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie, four for an eagle and five for a double eagle, with no points deducted no matter what the score. John Daly, no doubt, would thrive under the pure Stableford format.
Players of all skill level get strokes depending on the handicap and the hole, and it keeps the game competitive.
It leads to fireworks at the International. And for those amateurs playing on the weekend, it's more fun than match play.
BACK TO SCHOOL
For the second straight year, Phil Mickelson and his wife hosted a $250,000 shopping spree in San Diego County to provide needy children with clothes and supplies for elementary school.
It's part of their foundation's 'Start Smart' program.
'Our goal is to give these kids some of the advantages enjoyed by more fortunate young people, to improve their self-esteem and encourage them to work hard in school this year,' Mickelson said. 'The look on the faces of these kids and their parents make it worth the months of planning and logistics. When you're young, it's amazing the self esteem new school clothes can give you.'
EVERY PUTT COUNTS
In another example of how much every shot counts in the weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup, Scott Verplank came up 10 feet short and into the water while going for the green on the par-5 13th at the Buick Open.
That two-shot difference left him in a three-way tie for fourth instead of a two-way tie for second, the difference of 50 points, meaning he moved up to 18th in the Ryder Cup standings instead of 13th place.
Then there's Vaughn Taylor.
By making a 40-foot par putt on the 18th hole, he tied for fourth and earned 120 points to move from 11th to seventh place. Had he missed the putt, he would have finished in a five-way tie for sixth, earned 60 points and moved up one spot to 10th.
Of those in the top 20 in Ryder Cup standings who haven't already locked up a spot on the U.S. team, the only players not at the International are Vaughn Taylor (No. 7), Brett Wetterich (No. 10), Jerry Kelly (No. 12), Tim Herron (No. 16) and Scott Verplank (No. 18). Kelly and Herron are the only players who also skipped the Buick Open last week. ... Sherri Steinhauer's victory in the Women's British Open ended a record eight consecutive LPGA majors won by international players. ... Michelle Wie did not break par in any round of the Women's British Open, the first time she failed to do that on the LPGA Tour since she missed the cut at the 2003 Kroger Classic (73-72) as a 13-year-old.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods had the highest percentage in driving accuracy (85.7) of any PGA Tour winner this year at the British Open. Two weeks later at the Buick Open, he had the longest average in driving distance (316 yards) of any winner this year.
'I think if she was Tiger, she'd be treated like Tiger. Because if she was a man, she'd be Tiger.' -- Laura Davies on the dominance of Annika Sorenstam.
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Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.
At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.
Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.
In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.
Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.
Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.
Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.
''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.
''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''
Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.
''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.
''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''
Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.
Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.
''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''
Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.
Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.
''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''
The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''
The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.
''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'
Joel Dahmen had a 64.
''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.
''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.
''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.
''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.
Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.
''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.
Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.
Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.
Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence
NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.
Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.
Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.
“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”
Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.
With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.
“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.
Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.
Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season.
“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.
Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.
Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.
Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.
Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.
Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.
Nobody has ever swept all those awards.
There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.
“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”
Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.
The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.