Season-long points race culminates at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2017, 4:24 pm

For many players in the field at the Wyndham Championship, a trip to Sedgefield Country Club represents one more start to fine-tune their game before embarking on a playoff run. For a select few, though, one hand will be on a club and the other on a calculator.

The pressures of the season-long points race reach their peak this week in Greensboro, N.C., site of the final event of the 2016-17 regular season. The PGA Tour has conducted 42 tournaments over the last 10 months, but several notable names enter No. 43 with their status at stake.

First, a primer on the various break points in the Tour's points ladder. The top 125 in FedExCup points after this week will qualify for The Northern Trust, thereby earning full status for the 2017-18 season. Nos. 126-150 will retain conditional status which will likely net them 12-14 starts next season, while Nos. 126-200 will all head to the four-event Tour Finals, where approximately 125 players will fight for 25 available PGA Tour cards.

Granted, not everyone near the bubble is sweating it out this week in the Carolina heat. Vaughn Taylor (119th in points), Billy Hurley III (129th), Graeme McDowell (131st), Aaron Baddeley (133rd), Smylie Kaufman (135th), Brian Stuard (142nd) and Shane Lowry (145th) are all exempt next season by virtue of their tournament wins over the last two years.

PGA Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But former U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy has no such luxury. The Aussie burned his one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the Tour's all-time money list this season, and he enters the week squarely on the bubble at No. 125. While he'll still leave Sedgefield with conditional status at worst, Ogilvy knows the power of making the playoffs since in 2014 he started outside the top 100 but still made it to East Lake.

"I'm not trying to finish 125th; the goal is to get as far up as I can and make it to at least Boston, where I've played well," Ogilvy told the AAP. "You never know what could happen after that."

Daniel Summerhays had a chance to move up from No. 124 at last week's PGA Championship, but weekend rounds of 77-76 left him right where he started and in need of one more solid week. Sam Saunders enters the last event on the wrong side of the bubble at No. 127, as does veteran Ryan Palmer (128th) who missed several weeks early in the season as his wife battled breast cancer.

Harold Varner III (139th) likely needs at least a top-20 finish to keep his card, while Alex Cejka (146th) and Troy Merritt (153rd) need to do even better as their exemptions for wins in 2015 come to a close. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk is 156th, but he's not playing Wyndham and still has a pair of career money exemptions at his disposal.

While the top-125 bubble gets most of the attention, the cutoff at No. 200 can be even more impactful for those who miss it. Stay in the top 200 and you're guaranteed a spot in Web Finals, and at least a Tour card for next year. But finish at No. 201 and you're exempt no further than the second stage of Q-School.

One notable player to watch on the latter bubble is Hunter Mahan, who enters the week 197th in points. Once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, Mahan's game has been on a steady decline in recent years and he has made only nine cuts in 25 starts this season.

Mahan has six wins on Tour, but his exemption for his most recent win at The Barclays in 2014 ends this week. While he's unlikely to make the playoffs, Mahan will need to hang on simply to keep a spot in the Finals and a chance to regain his card. Otherwise, he will have to play next season off of past champion status or consider burning his one-time career money list exemption at age 35.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

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.