Tour moves closer to designating must-play events
In an effort to bolster tournaments that typically get weak fields, the concept is to designate a small number of events and demand players choose one to play. The policy board approved the idea at a meeting last week in West Virginia, which was the first step.
“Because it’s a tournament regulation, it has to be passed twice,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It was preliminarily approved in concept. Now we go back to the PAC (Players Advisory Council) and work through the details, get some player input and bring it back to the fall meeting.”
Finchem said he was “positively inclined” that it ultimately would be adopted.
What remains are the details, starting with how many tournaments would be designated and which players would be required to play. The tour could use the FedEx Cup standings, money list or even the world ranking from a previous year to determine who it affects.
It would be the closest thing the tour has had to mandatory participation, although it falls short of the “1-in-4” concept of the LPGA in which players must compete in every tournament at least once over a four-year span.
Finchem has said he would want the policy adopted by around September, which would give the tour the rest of the year to explain and educate players on the plan.
Another proposal that appears to have stalled – at least for now – is expanding the field at the season-opening SBS Championship at Kapalua, traditionally reserved only for winners from the previous season. The PAC has discussed giving a two-year exemption to Kapalua for PGA Tour winners.
Finchem supports the idea, but the tour is looking for another title sponsor (although SBS is under contract through 2019). The commissioner said he wants to see if another sponsor emerges before making changes, to be sure a new sponsor agrees with the change.
AMERICAN DROUGHT: Anthony Kim put his Ryder Cup hopes in jeopardy when he had left thumb surgery in May, which forced him to miss two majors over three months. He was No. 2 in the standings, but movement is volatile during a Ryder Cup year.
Kim returns this week at the Bridgestone Invitational and has fallen all the way … to No. 5.
That speaks to the lack of American success on the PGA Tour over the last three months. In the 14 tournaments since Kim had surgery, the only American winners were Zach Johnson at Colonial, Bubba Watson at the Travelers Championship, Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic and Matt Bettencourt, who won an opposite-field event in Reno the week of St. Andrews.
Americans finished second in only eight of those events, a list that includes the Ryder Cup captain (Corey Pavin) and one of his assistant captains (Paul Goydos). About the only player who consistently contended was Jeff Overton, who has been rewarded by moving up to No. 4 in the standings.
That doesn’t make Overton – or Kim, for that matter – a lock to finish in the top eight and make the team.
Only about $645,000 separates Jim Furyk at No. 2 from Tiger Woods at No. 9, with two events remaining with combined prize money of about $16 million.
PATIENT PADRAIG: Padraig Harrington is playing the kind of consistent golf that usually leads to winning.
He’s just not winning.
The Irishman is approaching the two-year anniversary of his last official victory – the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. And he concedes that his patience is being tested, although Harrington finds his expectations at odds with everyone else.
He had 10 finishes in the top 10 last year, more than he had in either 2008 or 2007, and his runner-up finish in the Irish Open was his sixth top 10 of this season.
“I don’t normally use as a guideline how many top-10s because I think it’s not a great thing to focus on,” he said. “But I’ve had more top-10s in the last year than I’ve ever had in my career. So going on a guideline that most people use, I’ve actually had the best year of my career. Glaringly obvious, I haven’t won. But my form has been solid enough.”
Harrington posed a question last week about which should be considered a better player – someone who won and did nothing else the rest of the year, or contended a majority of the time without ever winning?
“Obviously, a win would make life a lot easier,” he said. “But I can tell, as much as I need a win, I’m quite happy that the form is there.”
TOP COURSES: Despite hosting its sixth major championship, Pebble Beach failed to beat out Pacific Dunes on Golf Magazine’s list of “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.” Pacific Dunes, designed by Tom Doak in Bandon, Ore., was voted No. 1 by the magazine’s panel.
Bandon had four courses in the top 15, including Old Macdonald, which was among seven new courses on the list.
California had the most courses in the top 100 with 10, while 67 of the golf courses could be played for under $100.
LANGER IN WALES?: Bernhard Langer won senior majors in consecutive weeks, eight time zones apart, and there are some wondering whether he merits consideration as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
Don’t count Darren Clarke among them. In between Langer winning the Senior British Open and the U.S. Senior Open, Clarke was asked if he thought the 52-year-old German had played himself into contention for the team.
“Which team?” Clarke replied.
The Ryder Cup.
“What year?” he asked.
“Have you been drinking?” came the latest reply.
Langer has not played in the Ryder Cup since 2002, and he was the European captain in 2004. Could he be a player again?
“I couldn’t see that, no,” Clarke said last week at the Irish Open. “I think Bernhard is a great player, has been a great player. I think he’s obviously played great winning the British Seniors Open, but it’s a different field you’re competing in.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin and Tiger Woods each have played seven times on the PGA Tour this year. Pavin is No. 96 in the FedEx Cup standings, while Woods is No. 111.
FINAL WORD: “If the fairways are 15 yards wide and you didn’t have to hit it 330 (yards) to compete, maybe I wouldn’t do that.” – Jeff Overton on the swing he uses to create power.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.
The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.
There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18