Final Series could shape European Ryder Cup team

By Doug FergusonOctober 28, 2013, 12:53 pm

SHANGHAI – Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano grew up watching the famed ''Spanish Armada'' team of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, so the Ryder Cup means everything to him. He still recalls the encouragement from Olazabal a year ago.

''Your time will come, and it will come when you're ready,'' Olazabal said to his fellow Spaniard.

There is no better time to be winning than now.

The European Tour just began its richest month of golf, four tournaments called ''The Final Series'' that conclude the Race to Dubai. Every purse is at least $7 million and combined prize money is $30.5 million. Throw out the majors and World Golf Championships, and they are the richest events of the year.

That explains why Fernandez-Castano shot up to the top of the European points list for the Ryder Cup, leading by nearly 300,000 euros.

And it's why European captain Paul McGinley is paying very close attention.

With so much money at stake this time of year – good news for the European Tour, the hotbed of golf at the moment – if a player were to get on a roll this month, he could earn enough money to all but secure a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

Trouble is, the matches are still 10 months away.

''We have to wait to see how it evolves,'' McGinley said at the BMW Masters. ''The one thing that has worked in our favor is that we have a level playing pitch in terms of points are here, and then they spike for the majors. That was it. The worry would be if somebody plays great for four weeks. You can basically make the team these four weeks. Is that a good thing? Probably not.''

McGinley speaks from experience.

He effectively secured a spot on the 2006 team by Christmas, and he found it difficult to keep his form over the next nine months. Thankfully, it didn't matter. Europe had one of its strongest teams for a home game in Ireland, and the Americans had a team that included Brett Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor. McGinley recalls playing his way onto the team in the months leading up to the 2004 Ryder Cup, and he went unbeaten in three matches at Oakland Hills.

Henrik Stenson had such an incredible run in America in September – two FedEx Cup playoff wins – that he leads the world ranking points list by nearly 100.

''I'm not saying it's black or it's white, or it's a bad thing,'' McGinley said. ''If this Final Series were in August, it would be ideal. But it's not. It will be interesting to see where it goes. If a guy plays great for four weeks, who's to say he can't carry it on? But if you were doing it to benefit the Ryder Cup, you'd have the series in August.''

That's what the FedEx Cup has going for it in America.

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the start of the FedEx Cup in 2007 coincides with a resurgence in American performance at the Ryder Cup. They won in 2008. Only the heroics of Graeme McDowell and the unconscious play of Ian Poulter kept the Americans from winning the last three.

The next stop for Europe is the HSBC Champions and its $8.5 million purse, followed by the Turkish Open ($7 million) and the World Tour Championship in Dubai ($8 million).

In some cases, even more Ryder Cup points are available than it seems.

''No doubt, whoever wins is putting themselves in tremendous shape to make the team,'' Padraig Harrington said. ''Paul better hope it's one of his stalwart players. You'd be surprised what one event can mean. Somebody like me, if I had come in and won this week, it puts me in all the world events. Now I'm able to gather money for playing average because I'm in those events. It's really difficult to make the Ryder Cup team if you're not in the top 50 because you gather points more easily.''

Fernandez-Castano went from No. 60 to No. 32. That put him in two World Golf Championships over the next four months, and all but secured a spot in the Masters.

Paul Lawrie doesn't see it as a problem.

Europe is playing for big money. That's a good thing. These four tournaments have about as much prize money as the next 15 regular European Tour events. And if someone were to get hot in November and secure a spot on a Ryder Cup that is played in September?

''That happens every year,'' said Lawrie, who made his first Ryder Cup team by winning the British Open in 1999. ''We want big tournaments. We want big prize money. And that's what we've got.''

When the Ryder Cup was postponed one year to 2002 because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, half of both teams were not in the same form as when they qualified. McGinley made the team easily that year, and he was concerned about how he would perform at The Belfry. It worked out well for him in the end, of course. McGinley became a part of Ryder Cup lore with an 8-foot par putt to win his match and clinch the cup for Europe.

''I'm not being critical,'' McGinley said. ''But it's going to be interesting to see how this evolves. This year we have a massive amount of points at the beginning of qualifying. Having said that, two years ago because the FedEx had so many points, our guys based in America had a great opportunity to earn ranking points.

''And that,'' he added, ''worked out OK.''

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.