Cards, status on the line at finale

By Will GraySeptember 17, 2014, 11:46 am

While the FedEx Cup may be stashed away in Billy Horschel's trophy case, there is still plenty to play for this week at the Tour Championship.

The Dye Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass plays host to the fourth and final event of the Tour Finals, which will conclude Sunday with 50 players moving on to the PGA Tour for the 2014-15 season.

The Finals pit Nos. 1-75 from the season-long Tour money list against Nos. 126-200 from the final FedEx Cup standings, with 25 cards going to the players who earn the most money from the month-long series. The top 25 earners from the regular-season money list are playing with the security that their PGA Tour cards are already assured for next season, though their priority ranking among the Finals graduates won't be determined until after this week's event.

The player wearing the largest target this week is Patrick Rodgers, who holds the 50th and final spot in the rankings through three events, $703 ahead of Tag Ridings. The summer hasn't gone as planned for Rodgers, who turned pro after an incredible college career at Stanford with the hopes of parlaying a handful of sponsor invites into a PGA Tour card, as Jordan Spieth did in 2013. Tour Championship tee times Tour Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Instead, Rodgers battled an oblique injury and failed to notch a top-25 finish, barely earning enough FedEx Cup points to qualify for the Finals. The injury then forced the 21-year-old out of the first postseason event, though his T-8 finish at last week's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational netted him $30,000 and moved him inside the bubble with one event to play.

Ridings is currently the odd man out, but he's not alone in needing a strong showing in Ponte Vedra Beach to have a chance at the PGA Tour next season. The list of names currently outside the top 50 includes several former PGA Tour winners: Eric Axley (52nd), Chad Campbell (64th), Heath Slocum (71st), Kyle Stanley (72nd), Johnson Wagner (78th), Y.E. Yang (91st), John Rollins (98th), Tim Herron (T-112) and Trevor Immelman (T-112).

Those outside the number can take inspiration from Brad Fritsch and Andrew Loupe, who both missed the cut at each of the first three Finals events in 2013. Fritsch tied for second at the Tour Championship, while Loupe shared sixth place, and both went from zero to a PGA Tour card in the span of four days. Both men are now back in the Finals and once again outside the number, and will need a similar finish in order to return to the main circuit next season.

The race near the top also comes with its own reward, as the highest earner from the four-event series will join the top earner for the entire year (regular season plus Finals) in being fully-exempt for the 2014-15 season and earning spots in the 2015 Players Championship.

The season-long winner is currently projected to be Carlos Ortiz, who topped the regular-season money list after winning three times, while the best player thus far in the Finals has been Adam Hadwin. The Canadian, who finished fourth in regular-season money, won the Chiquita Classic two weeks ago and followed that with a T-10 finish last week in Columbus.

While having a PGA Tour card is nice, being able to use it is even better. As a result, players will be montoring their projected priority ranking this week, a number from 1-50 that will indicate where in the pecking order they will begin the new season. While last year those rankings were based solely on money earned during the four-event Finals, this year the top earners from the regular season were able to carry their earnings into the Finals, placing a greater emphasis on regular-season performance.

Last season, starts for Finals graduates became a growing concern, as players near the bottom of the priority rankings often had to rely upon sponsor invites or Monday qualifiers to try to crack PGA Tour fields. The difference was sizeable between those at the top of the priority list and those at the bottom, and it continued to grow as the season progressed. While six of the top 10 kept their PGA Tour cards, none from Nos. 41-50 were able to play well enough in the starts they received to stay on the circuit for next season. At No. 38, Tim Wilkinson was the lowest-ranked player from the Finals priority rankings to keep his card for 2014-15.

For some, this week is a chance to build momentum toward a PGA Tour debut. For others, it's an opportunity to move up the priority list and give themselves a better chance for success next season. While for many in the field it's one last chance to try to play their way into the big leagues. Regardless of category, everyone has something to play for this week as the Finals conclude at TPC Sawgrass.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry