Reifers, Nitties highlight drama

By Ryan LavnerAugust 25, 2014, 12:57 am

The final round of the Tour’s Portland Open had a distinctly Q-school feel. 

Rookie Carlos Ortiz won for the third time to become fully exempt on the PGA Tour next season, but a more intriguing race played out further down the leaderboard.

This was the last regular-season event on the developmental circuit, and the top 25 players on the money list after Sunday received their PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. Perhaps even more important, the top 75 on the money list (along with Nos. 126-200 in FedEx Cup points) are exempt into the Tour Finals, the four-tournament series that begins next week and will dole out another 25 cards. 

Kyle Reifers had a starring role in the drama Sunday at Pumpkin Ridge. Beginning the week No. 28 on the money list, he was inside the top 10 through 54 holes in Portland and in ideal position to secure his playing privileges for next season. But in the final round, he made five bogeys through 16 holes before stuffing a wedge to kick-in range on 17. Going for the par-5 18th in two shots, he blocked his long iron way right, into the trees, but it somehow kicked out into the middle of the fairway. From there, he safely found the green and two-putted for par to sit 25th – by about $1,500 - over No. 26 Sebastian Cappelen, who went 68-78 to miss the 36-hole cut.

Reifers was the only player to move inside the top 25 during the final regular-season event.

James Nitties, meanwhile, needed a good finish just to give himself a chance to play the Tour next season. Entering the week 97th in earnings, Nitties finished in a tie for fifth after a 12-foot par putt on the final hole. That was enough to move him to No. 70 on the money list.

The top 25 on the money list earn their cards and, new this year, will carry their earnings into the finals – a reward for their season-long play. An additional 25 cards (and priority ranking) will be determined during the Finals.

The Tour Finals begin next week in Fort Wayne, Ind., and wrap up at the Sept. 18-21 Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass.  

Here are the 25 players who have already secured their 2014-15 PGA Tour cards:

• Carlos Ortiz

• Andrew Putnam

• Zack Sucher

• Adam Hadwin

• Justin Thomas

• Alex Cejka

• Blayne Barber

• Tony Finau

• Jason Gore

• Steven Alker

•Andres Gonzales

• Jon Curran

• Derek Fathauer

• Cameron Percy

• Daniel Berger

• Jonathan Randolph

• Max Homa

• Mark Hubbard

• Steve Wheatcroft

• Ryan Armour

• Byron Smith

• Bill Lunde

• Fabian Gomez

• Roger Sloan

• Kyle Reifers

Getty Images

McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

Getty Images

Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.