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.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
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
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.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
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
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.