Clock for FedExCup Change Ticking

By Brian HewittSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
Let the tweaking begin.
Up until now, the needed adjustments to the FedExCup have been like the proverbial clich about the weather. Everybodys talked about them. But nobodys done anything.
Thing is, the 2008 season is less than four months away. And the PGA TOUR is acutely aware that it must research, develop and implement changes in a window of time that is closing as we speak.
The TOUR isnt talking publicly about the tweaks under consideration. Commissioner Tim Finchem is in Montreal for the Presidents Cup and wont turn his full attention to the 2008 FedExCup until he returns to the TOURs Florida headquarters next week.
But what Im hearing is that an important date on the timetable will be the final 2007 Policy Board meeting scheduled for Nov. 12-13 at Ponte Vedra Beach.
Tiger Woods, who always commands the TOURs attention when he speaks on any issue, recently talked about the need for more breathing room in the FedExCup Playoffs schedule.
Im told we can expect that subject to come up, front and center, when the Policy Board convenes. Specifically we can expect there will be discussion about the 2008 scheduling logjam that has the Ryder Cup matches beginning just five days after the conclusion of the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.
American Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger already is on record as wishing for different dates. I would like to think that the TOUR would have had a week off between the four or five events in a row that the guys have to play and the Ryder Cup, Azinger said not long ago. But they (the TOUR) didnt ask. Its just one of those things.
One tournament director told me the PGA of America, which owns and operates the Ryder Cup, was white hot when it first saw the 2008 schedule and the proximity of the Ryder Cup to the TOUR Championship.
But there has been a slight cooling off period. For starters, Azinger can take some solace from the fact that most, if not all, of his team will be in the field at East Lake in Atlanta for the TOUR Championship. That means his players wont be showing up for the Ryder Cup Matches in nearby Kentucky coming off a long layoff.
I think it could end up being very positive, Azinger said. Our guys will be playing their way right in.
One thing Finchem cant do'barring a last minute sleight of scheduling hand that would make David Copperfield blush'is put more space in the 2008 schedule between the TOUR Championship and the Ryder Cup. Too many title sponsors already have the dates on their calendars. And then theres the matter of the Ryder Cup not being a TOUR run event.
Meanwhile Henry Hughes, the TOURs point man on player relations, will be actively involved in outreaching to the players between now and the end of the year. Its interesting to note any point system tweaks will have to be in place by Jan. 1. But changes to the four-week playoff system could, if approved, be implemented after the 2008 season begins but before The Playoffs start.
Meanwhile, the UKs Observer is reporting that European Tour boss George OGrady is already talking about an answer to the FedExCup Playoffs.
It would involve a bonus points system. It would be lucrative. And it would require Europes top players to invest more of their time on that tour to be eligible for the financial carrot at the end of the stick.
In money terms, the PGA TOUR in America remains the Holy Grail for the pro golfer, OGrady told The Observer. But while there are always people going over there to try their luck there is also a steady stream of players coming back here.
The bonus system, as currently envisioned, would not include a bonus system per se. But it would incent players to play European Tour events in October, November and December at a time when they would be competing with the post-FedExCup Fall Series events in the U.S.
The system could be in place as early as 2009. And the weather problems could be solved by concentrating the venues in the Far East, especially China where golf continues to boom. The European Tour has never been bashful about staging big events outside the geographical boundaries of Europe proper.
Actually there was no phone call at all from International team captain Gary Player to inform Australias Aaron Baddeley that he wouldnt be a captains pick for the team that will take on the Americans in Montreal this week. The call came instead from countryman Ian Baker-Finch.
Baddeley probably played himself off of Players short list when he blew to a final-round 80 at the U.S. Open in June after sleeping on the lead Saturday night.
But since then Baddeley has recovered quite nicely. And his current position in the world rankings (No. 20) puts him ahead of three members (Stuart Appleby, Nick OHern and Mike Weir) on Players team.
Aaron never expected anything other than to make the team on the points, said his manager, Jens Beck. In hindsight now, Gary Player probably would have picked him.
Most impressive was the way Baddeley stood up to Woods on the final day of the BMW Championship, shooting a Sunday 66 but finishing second when Woods came up with the goods and a closing 63.
Beck said Baddeley took positives away from Oakmont rather than negatives. Specifically, leading after 54 holes at the U.S. Open told Baddeley he was good enough to compete against big time fields on big time golf courses.
Meanwhile Baddeley, who continues to refine his game under the tutelage of stack and tilt teachers Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, says he fully expects to make the International side for the 2009 Presidents Cup.
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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.