Notes TOUR Ballots Mailed Out for Awards

By Associated PressNovember 13, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was half-joking a few months ago when he suggested that Steve Stricker would be his pick as comeback player of the year, even though Stricker won the award last year.
 
It could happen.
 
The TOUR award ballots went in the mail last week to players, and Stricker is one of three candidates as comeback player of the year. The other two are Rocco Mediate, who finished 82nd on the money list after starting the season with a minor medical exemption; and Brian Bateman, who earned the final card out of Q-school and won the Buick Open.
 
Stricker won the award last year by starting the 2006 with limited status and finishing 34th on the money list. He followed that by winning The Barclays for his first victory in more than six years, finishing second to Woods in the FedExCup, and moving to No. 4 in the world when his season ended.
 
Woods and Phil Mickelson were the two choices for PGA TOUR player of the year, while the candidates for rookie of the year were Greensboro winner Brandt Snedeker, Las Vegas winner George McNeill, and Anthony Kim, who was 60th on the money list.
 
Players have 30 days to cast their votes, and the winners are expected to be announced on Dec. 11.
 
PLAYING TIME:
The second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school starts this week, while 25 players from the Nationwide Tour already have their cards. As always, the real chore is keeping those cards during the 2008 season.
 
But if one year of the FedExCup was any indication, they'll at least have a fighting chance.
 
One of the concerns about the revamped season was whether Q-school and Nationwide grads would get enough starts. Based on a review of 60 players in that category, they averaged about 25 starts on the PGA TOUR this year. The list does not include Jonathan Kaye or Carl Paulson, who did not play because of injuries.
 
Players in this category are ranked by alternating order from the Nationwide Tour money list and Q-school. The top spot went to George McNeill, who played 30 times and won in Las Vegas. The last spot went to Tom Byrum, who had 20 starts and finished 195th on the money list. Ten players from that category had at least 30 starts.
 
For all the focus on whether Tiger Woods and the big names played more or less under the FedExCup system, what really got the TOUR's attention were the guys on the lower end of the food chain.
 
'It means we were able to improve the strength of fields without affecting the stars of tomorrow,' said Henry Hughes, the TOUR's chief of operations.
 
That's not to suggest guys from the bottom category could play whenever and wherever they wanted. While the Q-school and Nationwide grads averaged 25 starts, the average during the FedExCup season was 20 starts, and 31 of the 60 players wound up playing all seven events after the TOUR Championship.
 
Even so, Hughes was pleased to see that this category was not kept from playing.
 
'We're always focused on the Q-school and Nationwide guys to make sure they have ample opportunity to attain exempt status for next year,' he said. 'And we think we did that.'
 
Financially, it's more attractive to play in the majors and the World Golf Championships, not to mention elite fields like Memorial and Bay Hill. But for the most part, FedExCup points distribution does not discriminate against strength of field. The winner of a WGC event, for example, only received 225 more points than the winner of a regular PGA TOUR event.
 
Two more noteworthy items from that category:
 
Five players won tournaments -- Mark Wilson, Boo Weekley, Brian Bateman, Brandt Snedeker and George McNeill, the Q-school medalist and the only winner whose victory came during the Fall Series. That's up one from the previous year.
 
Nineteen of the 60 finished inside the top 125 on the money list to earn full status for next year, while 11 others earned conditional status by finishing in the top 150.
 
TOUR CUTS:
One policy board decision came two weeks too late for players who languished through a long weekend at Disney, where 89 players made the cut.
 
The board approved a change in 36-hole cuts to avoid such a large field on the weekend. Starting next year, the cut after two rounds will remain the top 70 professionals and ties. But if more than 78 players make the cut, only the closest number to 70 will make it to the weekend, and the others would be paid official, last-place money.
 
The board first discussed this policy in change in May, and two names that came up during the discussion were Brad Faxon and Jose Maria Olazabal. Both have made the cut on the number and went on to win the tournament -- Faxon in 2005 at Hartford, Olazabal in 2002 at Torrey Pines.
 
At Hartford, 77 players made the cut so Faxon would have kept playing on his way to a 65-61 weekend. In Olazabal's case, however, 89 players made the cut. He would have gone home with last-place money instead of shooting 67-65.
 
RANKIN AWARD:
Judy Rankin has been honored with the LPGA Komen Award for her work in preaching the importance of early detection in the battle against breast cancer.
 
It was a testimonial for Rankin, who was diagnosed in April 2006 and was sidelined from her job as a golf analyst for five months.
 
'Women everywhere are very fortunate that the Komen Foundation exists to coordinate all the things involved for their good,' Rankin said. 'So many people raise money and awareness on a daily basis. I only hope my story will make it a little easier for someone else and that we can see an end to this disease in the near future.'
 
POLICY BOARD CHANGES:
Vic Ganzi took over Monday as chairman of the PGA TOUR Policy Board with the retirement of longtime chairman Dick Ferris. Ganzi is president and CEO of Hearst Corp., and the person largely responsible for the tour's retirement plan.
 
Ed Whitacre, chairman emeritus of AT&T, also joined the policy board as an independent director.
 
Brad Faxon and David Toms return to the policy board as player directors, replacing Davis Love III and Joe Durant.
 
DIVOTS:
Fred Couples was entitled to a major medical exemption for 2008, but instead elected to take his one-time exemption for being in the top 25 in career money. Couples is at No. 20, and might not be in the top 25 much longer. ... The Golf Coaches Association of America has selected Arnold Palmer for its Lifetime Achievement Award. Palmer will be only the third non-coach inducted into the GCAA Hall of Fame, joining Karsten Solheim and Byron Nelson. ... The 2011 U.S. Senior Open will be held at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Only one American finished among the top 5 on the Nationwide Tour money list.
 
FINAL WORD:
'Golf to me was just another sport until I was about 19. When I won the National Amateur at 19, I finally said, 'Hmmm, I must be a little better than I think I am.'' -- Jack Nicklaus.
 
Related Links:
  • Playoff Changes for 2008
  • Drug Test to Hit TOUR in 2008
     
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.