PGA Tour changes inevitable, details uncertain

By Doug FergusonFebruary 21, 2012, 8:21 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – No one is quick to embrace change until money is involved.

That’s one reason the Players Advisory Council gave its blessing last week to the concept of the Nationwide Tour being the primary path to the big leagues, PGA Tour cards being awarded in a three-tournament series and a new season starting in October instead of January.

It now goes to the policy board on March 27.

The details – and there are many – remain very much under discussion.

This is not just about making the developmental tour attractive to a new title sponsor. It’s about making the fall tournaments relevant, and the only way to do that is to include them in the FedEx Cup season. Otherwise, the likelihood is they would go away. That equates to as much as $24.3 million in prize money, not to mention the loss in charity money, the backbone of the PGA Tour.

“We’d be the first professional sport to vote down money,” said Joe Ogilvie, part of the 16-member PAC. “That’s what we would be doing if we voted it down. When you put it in those terms, a lot of guys went from, ‘We shouldn’t do this’ to ‘You kind of have to.”’

Change appears inevitable.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem suggested as much last week in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News when he said that while the system is not broken, “we feel there’s a better way to do it.”

Even more telling was what followed.

“We’ve had so much success with the FedEx Cup that we feel it’s important to get everything oriented to the FedEx Cup,” he said.

Change will not be easy.

The original plan was to take the top 75 players from the Nationwide Tour and players who finished from No. 126 to No. 200 on the PGA Tour money list and have them play three tournaments, with the top 50 getting their Tour cards.

The one detail causing the most consternation is how to blend players from two different tours.

As it is, the top 25 from the Nationwide Tour earn their cards. The PGA Tour is trying to make sure that most, if not all, of those 25 players are ranked in a way it would be virtually impossible for them not to earn cards in the three-tournament series.

But how to merge the others?

Did the player who was No. 126 on the PGA Tour money list – competing every week against the top players – have the same season as someone who was No. 26 on the money list while competing in the minor leagues?

“I’ve played the Nationwide Tour twice. I finished second and third on the money list,” Ogilvie said. “I haven’t finished second or third on this money list.”

Ogilvie’s best finish on the PGA Tour was 37th in 2004.

Tom Pernice Jr. has a solution that sadly is not getting much traction from Tour officials. His idea is to give the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour their cards without having to play in the three-tournament series. Everyone else starts from scratch.

Think about it. Under the current model of Q-School, No. 126 on the money list has no advantage over No. 168. It’s not like the higher-ranked player is given a pair of 68s and told he doesn’t have to tee off until the third of six rounds.

“It seems like everyone is a little unsure how to seed the guy who’s 126 on the money list,” said Matt Kuchar, another PAC member. “These are tough decisions. Trying to figure out where everyone fits in this is awkward. I think it’s going to be trial-and-error.”

Unlike the FedEx Cup points system, this is one model the Tour has to get right the first time.

But this is only one piece of the puzzle. There will be several moving parts to a new schedule, just as there was when the FedEx Cup was created five years ago.

One of the components might involve this week.

According to two people apprised of the conversations, one option is to move the Match Play Championship to Harding Park in San Francisco – and move it from late February to October as part of the fall start to the season.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations. Both stressed that the option was in the early stages of consideration.

If that were to happen, it would give the fall start to at least two World Golf Championships (HSBC Champions in China is the other), which would be hard for players to turn down. Also, the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico – held opposite the Match Play this week – is getting its own spot on the calendar, most likely toward the end of the year – again, in the fall start to the season.

However, such a move might create problems for the West Coast Swing, a key stretch in setting the tone for the year. Four of the West Coast events don’t conflict with the NFL, and all of them are prior to March Madness.

When is the offseason? Whenever the players want a break. It’s always been that way. Even in the shorter FedEx Cup season, players were going overseas to play in Asia, Europe and Australia.

Still, if players add tournaments in the fall, some could take time off in the early part of the following year. Kuchar played the Australian Open and the Presidents Cup in Australia, the World Cup in China, and then the Chevron World Challenge in California.

“I like my time off,” Kuchar said. “This year on the West Coast, I’ve just been getting my feet wet. I’ve only played two events. I just didn’t think I had much of an offseason.”

There could be plenty of others like him.

These are the issues that still have to be sorted out. And while the PAC sent the concept of a fall start to the policy board, there’s still a long way to go and much to consider.

But change is coming, and that’s nothing new.

Remember, it was 30 years ago when only the top 60 earned Tour cards. The rest had to Monday qualify, and anyone who made the cut that week got into the next tournament. The next year was the start of the all-exempt Tour.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.