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Notes: Money a bonus for JT; Jack wants 19th major

By Doug FergusonDecember 20, 2017, 3:28 am

Justin Thomas has earned about $25 million in his three years on the PGA Tour. That includes his bonus from winning the FedEx Cup this year. It does not include endorsement money from the likes of Titleist, Citi and Polo.

He has a better grasp of his percentage making putts inside 10 feet than the size of his bank account.

Thomas appreciates the money as a measure of success. The 24-year-old just doesn't see it as much more than that.

''I've never been one to say, 'Wow, I have all this' or 'Wow, I could buy this or that.' Never in my mind have I been like, 'OK, I'm playing golf to win all this money,''' Thomas said.

''I'm truly playing because I want to win a lot - a lot - of golf tournaments and majors and hopefully have a Hall of Fame-type career. The money really is just a bonus. I'm sure a lot of people honestly don't believe me, but I don't know. I've never once thought about the money.''

It's only a problem this time of the year - not for him, but those trying to buy Christmas presents for him.

''My parents and girlfriend get so mad because they say it's so hard to get something for someone who already has everything,'' Thomas said. ''I told them, 'I don't care, I don't need anything, I don't want anything.' I told them I can always use more stuff for my house, but they don't think that's a very good Christmas present.''

It wasn't always like that.

As a teenager, Thomas said his parents used to save one big present that they hid until he was done unwrapping his other presents. One year, he spotted a golf club box under the sofa. It was a Scotty Cameron putter. He still has it.

''That was a pretty cool gift,'' he said.

Note to parents: He has plenty of putters.

Thomas couldn't think of the last time, even as a kid, that he was motivated by money so he could buy something. He did buy a house in Jupiter, Florida. Then again, he was always going to get a house.

''It just was either going to be a little more expensive or less expensive than I thought,'' he said.

THAI'S CHOICE: Kiradech Aphibarnrat probably doesn't know much about Ted Williams, and the similarities are thin. Even so, the Thai golfer faces a situation where playing the final event of the year could determine whether he gets into the Masters.

Williams played the final three games of the 1941 baseball season, going 6-for-8 in a doubleheader on the last day for a .406 batting average. No one has hit .400 in the majors since.

Kiradech, currently at No. 51 in the world, is projected to finish the year at No. 49 in the world - the top 50 are assured invitations to the Masters.

However, he won the Thongchai Jaidee Invitational a few weeks ago on the Asian Development Tour, and that made him eligible for the Boonchu Ruangki Championship. Out of respect to Boonchu, an esteemed figure in Thai golf, Kiradech is in the field for the final event of the year on Asia's satellite tour.

The field is so weak that only 10 points are awarded to the winner (PGA Tour events have a minimum 24 points to the winner).

By adding an event, Kiradech will lose points from his tie for 18th in the Dell Match Play in 2016, and he would stay outside the top 50. The only way to compensate for the loss of points would be to earn them back. Only the top 12 places earn points in the ADT event.

A world ranking specialist, who goes by ''Nosferatu'' on Twitter, projects that Kiradech would have to finish in the top 10 to move into the top 50.

A few things are working in his favor. Kiradech has finished in the top 10 in his past four starts, including the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Even if he has an off week, the Masters takes the top 50 in the world ranking published March 25. And because Kiradech is not a PGA Tour member, he would be a strong candidate to receive a special international invitation from Augusta National.

JACK & TIGER: Justin Thomas faced six consecutive questions about Tiger Woods in a news conference in the Bahamas. That's nothing. Jack Nicklaus has been getting Tiger questions for 20 years.

It's usually the same question. He usually gives the same answer.

But he got a different variety and gave a playful answer a few weeks ago at the PGA Tour's annual tournament meetings attended by tournament staff and tour board members.

Nicklaus made an appearance. Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations, was the host and offered up a mix of golf and football. Nicklaus' grandson, Nick O'Leary, is a tight end for the Buffalo Bills.

''Would you rather have a 19th major championship or see Nick catch the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl?'' Pazder asked him.

Nicklaus brought the house down with his reply.

''Uh, right now I'd rather have a 19th major,'' he said. ''Tiger is back playing again.''

JACKETS AND JUGS: Jordan Spieth didn't realize that winning the British Open would turn him into a father.

The child's name: Claret Jug.

Spieth said he and his longtime girlfriend, Anne Verret, have joked about how they treat golf's oldest trophy.

''Seems like we have a child. She's said that a few times,'' Spieth said. ''Especially the first few months, it went everywhere with me.''

Spieth wanted everyone on his team to be able to share in the achievement, so he sent the jug out to Michael Greller in the Seattle area. Verret delivered it personally, taking it with her on the plane.

''It's awesome to share it like that,'' he said. ''The jacket never happened like that. I'm able to share this trophy.''

That would be one difference between the claret jug and that green jacket he won at the Masters in 2015.

''It was always in my hands,'' he said. ''I never let anybody have control of that without me knowing.''

Greller, meanwhile, took the jug with him to Chambers Bay, where he used to caddie when the course opened and where Spieth won the U.S. Open. Greller said he took a picture of the jug on every tee.

DIVOTS: Give an award for consistency to Paul Casey. He earned gained 188.78 and lost 185.77 world ranking points this year. He started the year at No. 14. He ends the year at No. 14. ... Kevin Chappell tested new equipment through the fall and wound up with his Nike irons. He is working closely with Miura Golf, which has a spare set of his irons as it tries to provide something that works for him. ''If I were to go anywhere, that's probably where I'd go,'' Chappell said. ... U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is tweaking his West Coast swing next year. He plans to play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am instead of the Genesis Open at Riviera.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Rose finished the year with 10 consecutive top 10s, including three victories.

FINAL WORD: ''I hope that's my first tournament of the year for the rest of my career.'' - Justin Thomas on going to the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.