Notes: Wraparound schedule gets underway at Frys

By Doug FergusonOctober 8, 2013, 3:50 pm

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – The PGA Tour season gets underway this week at the Frys.com Open, the first time the Tour has gone to a wraparound season. And while the field might not look that strong on paper, odds are that will change.

The tournament has three players from the Presidents Cup (Hideki Matsuyama, Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman – along with assistant captain Davis Love III). It has two from the top 50 in the world (Matsuyama at No. 30 and defending champion Jonas Blixt at No. 34), and one player who was at the Tour Championship (Billy Horschel).

How might that change?

A year ago, eight PGA Tour members took part in an exhibition in Turkey called the World Golf Finals, held the same week as the Frys.com Open. In exchange for a release from the Tour, they agreed to play the Frys.com Open at least once over the next three years.

Those players were Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar.

Frys.com Open president Duke Butler recalls a similar situation nearly 30 years ago. The PGA Tour granted releases to four players to play the Australian Skins Game in 1985 when it was held the same week as the Houston Open. The players agreed to play Houston at least once over the next few years.

Those players could be called headliners – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.

The next year, the Houston Open included Nicklaus in his first start since winning the Masters for his sixth green jacket, one of the most popular wins in golf.


DUF & VIJAY: For all the attention on Phil Mickelson and his money games to get young players prepared for big moments, Jason Dufner had his own tutor when he was just starting out on the PGA Tour. He went about it quietly, and it was a learning experience.

Dufner secured his PGA Tour card for the first time in 2003 through the Nationwide Tour money list. He was at the TPC Sawgrass preparing for his rookie season when he saw Vijay Singh on the back of the practice range.

''I just went up to him. I said, 'Hey, my name is Jason Dufner, I'm going to be playing the Tour next year, and if I could play some practice rounds with you, that would be great. And if not, I understand,''' Dufner said last week at the Presidents Cup. ''I was there for four or five days, pretty much practicing the same schedule he was,'' Dufner added. ''So maybe he took notice and respected that I was working and trying to get better.''

They played plenty of practice rounds in 2004, and it turned into a banner year for the Fijian. Singh won nine times and $10.9 million.

''Every event that he won, except for the PGA, I played a practice round with him that year,'' Dufner said. ''So I got a lot of valuable experience. A little lighter on the wallet from all of that – I took my lumps. But I'd like to think that some of the things he shared with me and some of the knowledge he gave me helped me to where I am now.''

Dufner didn't fare so well as a rookie, returning to the minor leagues for two years before he went back to the PGA Tour for good. Now he is a three-time winner, a major champion and has a 6-2 record in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

Dufner recalls beating Singh out of some money just one time during that 2004 season. He shot a 63 at the old 84 Lumber Classic. Singh shot 64.

''I had nine birdies, no bogeys. He had eight birdies, no bogeys,'' Dufner said. ''He was playing pretty good on Tuesdays that year, too.''


PRESIDENT CUP FIXES: Nick Price wants to see the Presidents Cup follow the Ryder Cup format by playing only 28 matches instead of 34, which would allow teams to disguise weaknesses and at least increase the odds of the matches being close going into singles.

Just because the International team keeps getting smoked is not an indication that there are too many matches. Remember, the current format of 34 matches was introduced in 2003 in South Africa. The Internationals had a three-point lead going into Sunday. Thirteen of the 22 team matches reached the 17th hole. The Presidents Cup ended in a tie. So maybe it's not the format.

Have six matches Thursday and Friday (fourballs and foursomes). Have one session of six matches on Saturday with three matches for each format. The captains will have to decide which three teams play foursomes and which three play fourballs. That's 18 matches going into singles, for a total of 30 points.

That doesn't mean it can't be changed to make it better.


HALL OF FAME: The World Golf Hall of Fame is taking a year off from inducting anyone to review its selection process.

One of the longtime sticking points of the Hall of Fame is inducting players still in the prime of their careers. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson each won major championships after they were inducted. Vijay Singh won the FedEx Cup two years after his induction.

Currently, male players are eligible for the ballot when they turn 40. The LPGA Tour has its own criteria based on points. Se Ri Pak was inducted at age 30.

The Hall of Fame said the ''strategic review'' has been going on since the 2013 induction ceremony during The Players Championship in May. Because the election (PGA Tour, International ballots) and selection (Veteran's Category, Lifetime Achievement) takes several months and involves other golf organizations, the Hall of Fame has chosen to skip the 2014 induction ceremony.

The next ceremony is planned for May 4, 2015, on the Monday of The Players Championship.

The Hall of Fame said its review was expected to be completed early next year.

Tiger Woods is eligible to be on the ballot at the end of the 2015 season. If the age limit is pushed back to 50, he would not be eligible until 2025.


DIVOTS: Ernie Dunlevie, one of the founding fathers of the 1960 Palm Springs Golf Classic now known as the Humana Challenge, died Sunday of cancer at 96. Dunlevie was the last surviving founding board member. ... Bill Haas on playing the Presidents Cup twice with his father, Jay, as an assistant captain: Evidence of the new season could be found on the range at CordeValle. Carl Pettersson, who has been with Nike most of his career, has switched to TaylorMade clubs and the Titleist golf ball. He said he could have renewed but it was time for a change. ... Michael Antolini, who was director of business development for the PGA Tour, has been appointed director of the Deutsche Bank Championship.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Henrik Stenson of Sweden was chosen as the Race to Dubai golfer of the month for September on the European Tour based on his two wins in America.


FINAL WORD: ''It's one of the few times that I'm treated as a peer by my dad and not his son.'' - Bill Haas, on playing the Presidents Cup with his father, Jay, as an assistant captain.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x