CIMB goes deep into FedEx list to fill field

By Doug FergusonOctober 22, 2014, 12:05 am

Nicholas Thompson missed qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs by one point last year. He finished at No. 125 on the PGA Tour money list by $725 and only kept his full card for this season because the tour used the top 125 from the money list for the last time.

So what does that get him?

A trip to Kuala Lumpur next week for a $7 million tournament with no cut for the 78-man field.

The CIMB Classic, the first part of the two-event Asian swing, is for the top available players from the final FedEx Cup standings last year, the top 10 from Asian Tour Order of Merit and eight sponsor exempts. And if needed, the field is filled by additional players from the FedEx Cup.

Exactly why the tournament had to go so deep into the FedEx Cup is not entirely clear, although there are a few theories, starting with the schedule. A year ago, the Asian swing was the third event on the schedule after two tournaments on the West Coast. Now the McGladrey Classic is the third event, preceding Malaysia.

There also is another tournament from which players can choose. The Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi, which previously was held opposite the British Open, now is the same week as the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. That option wasn't available last year.

It's worth nothing that CIMB used to offer players two business-class tickets on Air Malaysia - typically one for the player, one for his caddie - and that perk has been reduced to one ticket this year.

Among those going to Malaysia is Kevin Chappell, who would have made the field easily at No. 55.

''It worked well with my schedule,'' Chappell said from Sea Island. ''My goal was to play in the fall, but not play too many in a row. And obviously, the perks are good. They run a great golf tournament. You get police escorts to and from the golf course. It's a first-class event. Yes, it's a long way to go, but I really do like it.''

Carlos Ortiz of Mexico decided to play Malaysia primarily because with a short field he is guaranteed points.

Tim Wilkinson (No. 119), Brice Garnett (121) and James Hahn (123) also are in the field.

The CIMB Classic next season will go back to being held after the opening two events on the West Coast, and perhaps the tour won't have to go so deep in the standings to fill the field. Or maybe it will.

''I think the wraparound season is a little bit more known now,'' Chappell said. ''Guys might feel comfortable taking time off and not playing an event.''


ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR: Yang Gunn is the U.S. Amateur champion from South Korea who plays at San Diego State. And he figures to have a home-field advantage when the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship gets underway at Royal Melbourne.

Yang spent his teenage years on the fabled sand belt courses in Melbourne.

''This is one of the best tournaments in the world,'' Yang said. ''I'm really excited about being here and kind of competing on my home soil. I grew up here, and I really love the way they play golf here on the sand belt. It's like links golf.''

It's the first time the 72-hole tournament has been held outside Asia since it began in 2009.

Others in the field include 2012 champion Guan Tianlang of China. The winner gets a spot in the Masters next year and is exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the British Open. Yang already is exempt into both as the U.S. Amateur champion.

The real home-course advantage belongs to 16-year-old Ryan Ruffels, the Australian junior champion and a member at Royal Melbourne. And he is well aware of the spoils that go to the victor this week.

''All week I've been holing putts out on the 18th green pretending that it's the putt to get into the Masters,'' Ruffels said. ''It's something we're all aware of, whether we say we're thinking about it or not.''


GOLF BEER: First there were the Golf Boys. Maybe this group should be called the Beer Boys.

Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson are in the beer business, launching their own label of craft beers through Lakeland, Florida-based Beer Hub. The name of their company is GolfBeer Brewing Co.

Jacobson's Scandinavian Style Blonde Ale is brewed with Crystal malt and a variety of European hops. Bradley's New England Style Lager is made with two-row barley and North American hops. The other is G-Mac's Celtic Style Pale Ale, with a floral hope aroma and a snappy finish.

Each golfer contributed to the design of the packaging that features their name, signature and silhouette.

GolfBeer initially will be available on draft and in 12-ounce cans at select golf courses and restaurants in Florida, with plans to expand to grocery stores and bars next year. Among the restaurants that will carry the craft beer is McDowell's restaurant in Orlando called Nona Blue.

McDowell said as a golfer and a restaurant owner, the beer company brings together ''two of my favorite things.''


LPGA SPONSOR: The LPGA Tour has a new sponsor for one of its best events, along with a new location.

Underwriters Laboratories, based in Northbrook, Illinois, will be the title sponsor of the UL International Crown for 2016 and 2018. The tournament among eight qualifying countries will be held at Rich Harvest Farms in the Chicago suburbs in 2016. The LPGA announced it would be played in South Korea in 2018.

Spain won the inaugural event this year at Caves Valley.

''When we came up with the idea for the International Crown, our goal was to launch a truly global event for women's golf,'' LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said. ''We were looking for a partner to help grow it globally and I can think of no better partner than UL, whose business aligns perfectly with the LPGA.''

UL was an ambassador sponsor for the inaugural event.

The location of the 2018 tournament has not been announced.


DIVOTS: Adam Scott tied for 38th in the Japan Open last week, his 52nd consecutive tournament worldwide that he has made the cut. He also began his search for a new caddie, using Eddie Gardino in Japan. Gardino was on Angel Cabrera's bag for his 2007 U.S. Open victory at Oakmont. ... Ian Poulter said Tuesday on Twitter that he will be a full Titleist staff player next season. He previously was with Cobra-Puma Golf. ... PGA Tour rookie Tony Finau has made 43 birdies in his first two events.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Stacy Lewis remains No. 1 in the women's world ranking by six-thousandths of a point over Inbee Park.


FINAL WORD: ''My staff back in Florida has informed me that we've already set a record for the most picture tweets of any resort in 24 hours in LPGA history.'' - LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan on this week's tournament at the Blue Bay Resort on Hainan island in China.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.