Whos Looking Out for the Little Guys on the PGA Tour
Good golf usually takes care of everything.
But in these turbulent times, it no longer seems that simple. With a revamped schedule for 2007, all anyone knows is which tournaments are part of the FedEx Cup, when they are played and that Johnny Miller will have twice as many chances to say someone gagged over a putt.
Uncertainty is to be expected. Not even tour officials know how the new points system will work, and whenever they figure it out, the players will be the last to know. But during a busy week of announcements -- including a peculiar TV deal that left out ESPN and locked up The Golf Channel for 15 years -- one potential problem emerged.
Good golf starts with getting a chance to play.
Olin Browne is exempt through 2007 because he won the Deutsche Bank Championship. He spent the past two seasons living off sponsor exemptions, and hopeful that his status as a past champion who finished just outside the top 125 on the money list could get him enough starts for a fair fight.
Sitting in front of his locker at Waialae, he glanced at the FedEx Cup portion of the 2007 schedule -- 35 tournaments to qualify for a series of four tournaments that culminates with the Tour Championship in September. One reason for a shorter season is to get more top players to compete together.
But what happens to the little guy?
'I hope that everybody gets a chance to play right away,' Browne said. 'If you squeeze everyone into a nine-month period, I would think everyone is going to play. That's going to create a little friction with guys out of Q-school.'
Most tournaments have room for 144 players until more daylight allows for 156-man fields. Among active players, 211 are fully exempt this year, a list that starts with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and ends with Will MacKenzie and Jeff Gove, who made it to the big leagues through Q-school and the Nationwide Tour.
Do the math.
There is a pecking order for getting into tournaments, and if more of the stars are competing, that might leave limited opportunities for someone who could turn out to be the next Sean O'Hair or Lucas Glover.
Not that you'll hear any complaints.
'I'm just happy to be playing a full schedule,' 23-year-old rookie Bill Haas said. 'And I'll be just as happy to play a full schedule next year.'
Roger Tambellini is back for his second stint on the PGA Tour, and did well enough on the Nationwide Tour that he starts this year a little higher on the totem pole. By Love's definition, he's a guy you can find on the range. Tambellini spends more time working on his swing than analyzing schedules.
'I just looked over it last night and don't know enough about it to comment,' he said. 'The only thing I'd be worried about is if I don't break through and win this year, am I going to get into all this?'
The answer, as always, is to play hard.
Still, as Tambellini went down the list, he didn't find a lot of tournaments that might have room for players who have yet to establish themselves. Not many from Q-school or the Nationwide Tour get into Phoenix and Torrey Pines, and even fewer get into the Bob Hope Classic. The Florida swing has two events that are restricted -- the Bay Hill Invitational and Doral, which will be a World Golf Championship in 2007.
Bubba Watson lives a pitching wedge away (with his length, that's three blocks) from tour veteran Ben Bates and shared a worse-case scenario.
'He told me it was great that I made it to '06, because if you don't get top 125 for '07, you might not get in the first 30 events,' Watson said. 'Nobody knows if Tiger is going to play every week. Nobody knows if Phil is going to play every week. They're probably not. But until they start taking off, you're not going to get in.'
Another rookie is Troy Matteson, who got the top spot on the money list from the Nationwide Tour and is ranked ahead of everyone out of the Q-school and the Nationwide. He is playing the Hope this week, and plans to play every chance he gets on the West Coast.
Matteson is happy to be playing. But he could understand someone lower on the list being concerned.
'You'd have more pressure to play good right away,' he said. 'And what happens if you don't play good? The most important thing is that guys from the Nationwide ... have a reasonable chance to prove they can play out here.'
It's not just rookies.
Todd Fischer is 36, and every year has been a grind to keep his card. What caught his attention was the six or seven events after the Tour Championship that aren't even on the schedule, although PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem assures they will be there.
'You'd hate that a Sean O'Hair type of guy doesn't really get started until September or October,' Fischer said. 'But you know, some guys always have to yap about something rather than being appreciative of a job. I want to play golf and be happy with that's out there. Whether this new deal benefits everybody, I don't know.'
Fischer had just shot 69 at the Sony Open and was headed to the range. He stopped and smiled.
'I'm surprised I even got this question,' he said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.
Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. –
Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.
Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.
''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''
Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.
''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''
Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.
Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.
''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''
Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.
''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''
The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.
''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''
Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.
''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.
The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.
''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.
He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.
Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.
''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''
Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.
''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.
Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back
All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.
“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.
“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”
Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.
“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.
Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.