Tour Championship a Mixed Bag of Tricks and Treats
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is close to announcing a massive change in the schedule that would make the heart of the season shorter and the Tour Championship more meaningful.
Mickelson showed how little it means now.
Lefty decided to skip the tour's version of the All-Star game -- only the top 30 on the money list are eligible -- so he could spend Halloween with his kids. At least that was the reason making the rounds on the practice range Tuesday, and confirmed later by a tour official.
Yes, but did he wear a costume?
No one should be terribly surprised that Mickelson is a no-show at East Lake, even though the Tour Championship is one of only two tournaments he has won after the majors have ended.
``It's not the first time,'' Tiger Woods said with a shrug as he headed upstairs to the locker room. ``We all know he doesn't play a lot at the end of the season. Go look at his record. He doesn't play much after Firestone.''
Mickelson marches to his own beat, and this indeed is a familiar path.
He thought he had an outside chance to win the money title or perhaps even player of the year if he finished 2001 with a flourish, but when that didn't materialize -- and with the impending birth of his second daughter -- he didn't play another event the final two months of the season.
Mickelson made it clear in late February that the Tour Championship wasn't a priority, adding that a chance to win top awards, such as the money title, would be ``things that need to be considered.''
But toward the end of the interview at La Costa Resort, he spoke volumes about the Tour Championship.
``It's late in the year,'' he said that day. ``It's anticlimactic.''
But that are other issues at work here.
On the surface, Mickelson appears to be the first player in history to let a night of trick-or-treat get in the way of a $6.5 million tournament featuring only the very best players of the year.
Lefty won't say this publicly, but what annoys him is the PGA Tour's policy that players must take part in the pro-am to play in the tournament. He already cited that as the reason he didn't play at the Memorial, which also has a Tuesday pro-am. Mickelson had plans to be at Pinehurst No. 2 to prepare for the U.S. Open that week.
The pro-am for the Tour Championship was Tuesday, a good reason for him to pull out. Mickelson reasoned that he couldn't possibly get from San Diego to Atlanta for the pro-am after such a big night for the kids.
Of course, that didn't stop Scott Verplank.
``I can't say I agree with the rule, but I got to my hotel at 1 a.m.,'' Verplank said. ``I went trick-or-treating, left Oklahoma City at 9 p.m. But I wanted to play in this tournament.''
Defending champion Retief Goosen considers the Tour Championship a notch below the majors and a notch above the World Golf Championships. He's not sure why Mickelson doesn't feel the same way, but figures that's his business.
``He's got to have some sort of excuse not to play,'' Goosen said. ``I mean, serious excuse.''
Goosen didn't celebrate Halloween. Then again, this guy doesn't say boo.
But he knows about the pro-ams all too well. He wasn't allowed to play the Nissan Open at Riviera in February because he overslept and missed his pro-am tee time by 10 minutes.
``I think this pro-am thing is being revisited,'' Goosen.
Mickelson's absence has minor ripples. Lucas Glover, the last guy to qualify, will have to play alone in the first round. The tournament lost a fair chunk of change from the pro-am considering it cost nearly $40,000 for each three-man team of amateurs, and one team didn't have a pro.
But these guys set their own schedules. They have their own priorities. The phrase the tour throws around is that its players are independent contractors.
Halloween was a convenient excuse for Mickelson not making it to the pro-am. But ultimately, the pro-am was a convenient reason for what's truly behind Lefty skipping the Tour Championship.
Maybe he just doesn't want to play.
Mickelson made that clear earlier in the year, when he talked about pouring all his effort into winning the four majors and still having enough gas left for the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. He won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, his second year with a major. And while he was a flop at the '04 Ryder Cup, he managed to have enough game left to go 3-0-2 in the Presidents Cup.
As for the rest of the year?
Mickelson tied for 29th at the American Express Championship, then missed the cut at Las Vegas. He probably won't show up again until the Bob Hope Classic, the third event of 2006.
When the Tour Championship ends in September, only five weeks after the majors, maybe Mickelson will be interested in playing. But his absence this week should make tour officials realize that a shorter, stronger schedule won't solve everything.
Golf will always be about the majors.
``This is a great tournament,'' Verplank said. ``But it's not ever going to get more important than the four majors. That's the fundamental problem.''
It's not a big problem.
There are 29 other guys at East Lake this week, and one of them will get $1.17 million.
Mickelson doesn't need the money.
Full Coverage - The Tour Championship
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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18