Notes: Perry remembers shot that changed his life

By Doug FergusonJune 9, 2015, 9:53 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – One more putt would have given Kenny Perry two extra days on the PGA Tour, though it wouldn't have changed a thing.

He wanted the Memorial to be his final PGA Tour event, and whether that ended on Friday or Sunday was irrelevant.

The Memorial was the first of his 14 career victories in 1991, and it proved that he belonged among the best players. Even so, he never imagined playing nearly 30 years without ever losing his card until he was on the Champions Tour.

He had two close calls in the majors. He won a Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky. And he ended his PGA Tour career at age 54 with just over $32 million in earnings.

The money is worth mentioning because Perry didn't have the $5,000 to pay for Q-school.

He was 26, married with two children, and already had failed Q-school twice. That's when Ronnie Ferguson, an elder at his church, agreed to pay his entry fee on one condition. If he failed, there was no need for Perry to repay him. If he made it, he asked Perry to give back 5 percent of his earnings. Perry set up a scholarship fund at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where Ferguson once played college golf.

''I always told my dad if I could win just one time, I've made it,'' Perry said. ''To be able to survive 30 years out here competitively and not lose my card, I'm very proud of that. I'm a slow learner. I had some great moments really late in my career.''

He won 11 times in his 40s, and in the year before he turned 50, he finished at No. 5 on the money list.

Of all the highlights, one that stood out came in his rookie season in 1987. In the Panasonic Las Vegas Invitational, his seventh event of the season, he hit a 4-iron to a foot on the final hole for a tap-in eagle.

''I remember Lee Trevino was announcing at the time, and that gave me enough money to solidify my card my rookie year,'' Perry said. ''It was a lot of money for me. That one shot I'll never forget. I still feel it to this day. Magical shot, you know?''

Las Vegas had more prize money than all four majors and was only topped by a new tournament on the schedule now called the Tour Championship. That eagle gave Perry a tie for fourth and he earned $55,000, which was just over half his money for the year. He wound up with $107,239 to finish 93rd on the money list.

Perry, meanwhile, never put his name on the scholarship fund. It's still known as the Simpson County (Ky.) Scholarship Fund. And it's still growing. Perry already has won over $6 million since joining the Champions Tour.

MILLER TIME: Johnny Miller will be at the U.S. Open for a 21st consecutive year. You just won't hear him, and probably won't see him.

Miller said he would be at Chambers Bay on Saturday and Sunday as part of a corporate function with Lexus.

''It's going to be weird being there and not working, I can tell you that,'' Miller said Monday from Omaha, Nebraska, where he was doing a Lexus outing to raise money for a Catholic high school. ''It is what it is. I can say for me to cover a U.S. Open at Chambers Bay would have been a little different, anyway.''

During the 20 years that NBC Sports televised the U.S. Open, Miller had played majors at most of the venues (he didn't play Bethpage Black of Congressional, to name a few exceptions). Chambers Bay only opened eight years ago.

''Maybe it will be a good championship,'' Miller said.

OPEN TIDBITS: Maybe this U.S. Open could be called amateur hour.

After the final stage of qualifying on Monday, 17 amateurs are part of the field at Chambers Bay. Three were previously exempt through amateur criteria, and 14 made it through qualifying. The USGA said it was the highest number of amateurs since 1981.

Meanwhile, nine players made it to the U.S. Open by qualifying for the second straight year - four from the qualifier in England, four from the United States and Liang Wenchong in the Asia qualifier.

There's still a chance for players in the FedEx St. Jude Classic to move (or stay) in the top 60 in the world and get to Chambers Bay. Andy Sullivan of England is No. 56 and Kevin Kisner is at No. 57. Neither are playing this week. Kisner tweaked his back on his first shot he took on the range Thursday at the Memorial, though he said it felt better by Sunday. He withdrew from the qualifier and said if he falls out of the top 60, he probably could use a week off, anyway.

Steven Bowditch (No. 64) and Harris English (No. 68) also are playing the St. Jude Classic.

JACK & JOHNNY: Johnny Miller has been selected to be honored next year at the Memorial. Tournament host Jack Nicklaus also said that two-time Masters champion Horton Smith and two-time PGA champion Leo Diegel would be honored posthumously.

Miller, known in this generation for his blunt talk in the NBC Sports tower, is a two-time major champion and a fierce rival to Nicklaus in the 1970s. They spend more time fishing these days than playing golf.

''Johnny was very thrilled,'' Nicklaus said. ''He says, 'You've got to be kidding.' I said, 'If you hadn't caught that fish when we were together, we probably wouldn't have done it.' In case you don't understand that, I take Johnny fishing occasionally.''

Miller, 68, attributed it to age.

''They've run out of the good players,'' he said with a laugh. ''Now they're down to Johnny Miller.''

RODGERS & OUT: Patrick Rodgers had more margin for error than he realized at the time, but his finish was no less impressive. Leaking oil on the back nine at the Memorial, and needing only nine FedEx Cup points for special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, he birdied the last two holes to make it easily.

Rodgers, from the same high school class that produced Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas (he and Thomas are roommates in Florida), was already set for his PGA Tour card next year. He still is No. 6 on the Tour money list, and the top 25 are assured cards. But anything can happen in Q-school, as Kevin Tway found out a few years ago when he plunged down the priority list.

Getting his temporary membership at Memorial was big.

Not only does Rodgers get unlimited exemptions - he is in the St. Jude Classic this week and the Travelers the week after the U.S. Open - he can secure a card by finishing the equivalent of 125th or higher in either the FedEx Cup or the money list. That would give him priority over the Tour graduates, and he could bank on full status for the entire season.

DIVOTS: Morgan Pressel and Suzann Pettersen round out the 20-player field for the CVS Charity Classic on June 29-30. The event hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade has raised more than $18 million for New England charities. ... Ridgewood Country Club, part of the rotation that hosts The Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs, will host the U.S. Girls Junior in 2016. ... Sunday was a big week for Idaho. Boise natives Tyler Aldridge won on the Tour and Madeleine Sheils on the Symetra Tour.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Only twice in the past 10 years has a player won a PGA Tour event without making a birdie in the final round. Both happened at the St. Jude Classic (Justin Leonard in 2005, Ben Crane in 2014).

FINAL WORD: ''I look at it this way. It's about getting reps. I got a lot of reps this weekend.'' - Tiger Woods, on his 85-74 weekend at the Memorial to finish in last place for the first time in his career.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)