PGA Tour cards up for grabs at Tour Finals

By Will GraySeptember 9, 2015, 5:27 pm

While the FedEx Cup Playoffs take a break, another postseason is set to begin.

The Tour Finals kick off this week with the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., where 133 players will tee off with the hopes of securing one of 50 PGA Tour cards available during the four-event series.

Half of that allotment is already spoken for, as the top 25 players from the season-long Tour money list are guaranteed a promotion next season. That group is headed by Patton Kizzire, who already had the top spot before a pair of late-season victories. It also includes former PGA Tour winners Dicky Pride and Rod Pampling, former U.S. Amateur champ Kelly Kraft and Michael Kim, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur during his career at Cal.

Those players will carry their regular-season earnings into the Finals, and their PGA Tour priority ranking for next season will be based on their total earnings across the entire year.

The remaining field battling for the other 25 cards includes Nos. 26-75 from the Tour money list, as well as Nos. 126-200 from the final FedEx Cup points list. While the former group includes an expected mix of player profiles, pitting veterans like Tommy Gainey and Brad Fritsch against recent collegiate standouts like Trey Mullinax and Cody Gribble, the latter contains plenty of household names.

D.A. Points, Michael Thompson, John Merrick and Derek Ernst all won on the PGA Tour in 2013, and all four are now fighting to maintain status after exhausting the two-year exemption that comes with a victory.

Robert Allenby has played a full PGA Tour schedule since 1999, but the Aussie will need a strong performance in the Finals to keep that streak alive. So too will former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, the lone major champion in the field, and Stuart Appleby, who heads into the Finals equipped with a medical extension.

In a change from previous years, players who are already exempt for next season on the PGA Tour are not allowed to participate in the Finals even if they qualified based on their FedEx Cup standing. That group includes the likes of Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and, of course, Tiger Woods.

But it also includes Patrick Rodgers, who finished 24th on the Tour money list. Because Rodgers wasn't a full PGA Tour member for this season, he was prohibited from playing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs even though he would have qualified on points. But because he already has his card for next season based on that FedEx Cup point accrual, he can't compete in the Finals, either.

The field also features non-members who earned the equivalent amount of points to crack the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. That means a chance at a Tour card for Anirban Lahiri, the lone Presidents Cup member playing in the Finals. Lahiri made 12 PGA Tour starts this season, notably a T-5 finish at the PGA Championship, and will play the first three events before joining the International team in South Korea.

This also serves as an opportunity for 24-year-old Austin Cook to earn his card. Cook began the year with no PGA Tour status, but thanks to a series of successful Monday qualifiers and subsequent top-10 finishes, he racked up $537,648 in non-member earnings.

The events will be played across four consecutive weeks, concluding Oct. 1-4 with the Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Cards will be handed out, and priority ranking determined, based on cumulative earnings across the four tournaments, with the top earner from the Finals receiving a full exemption for next season and a spot in the 2016 Players Championship.

While not all of the card recipients will maintain their status next season, recent results show that graduates can hit the ground running. Four players who participated in last year's Finals - Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Zac Blair - are still competing for the FedEx Cup and will be among the 70-man field next week at the BMW Championship.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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