Most surprising player outside top 125?

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 13, 2012, 1:10 pm

The 2012 PGA Tour season has concluded and not everyone is happy to see it end. With the top 125 players on the money list earning Tour cards for next year, many outside that number are faced with Q-School or burning lifetime exemptions for status next year. Some still have their cards for 2013, but it doesn't make this season any less disappointing. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the most surprising players to finish outside the top 125.

By RYAN LAVNER

Gary Woodland isn’t headed to Q-School finals next month for finishing 134th on the money list. His underachieving 2012 season was still plenty surprising, however.

It was natural to expect big things from the powerful Woodland, who earned a two-year exemption by virtue of his victory at the 2011 Transitions Championship. He possessed awesome power, he made birdies by the dozen, and he was the modern golfer who also looked like he was built to play fullback.

But after a breakout 2011, Woodland endured a turbulent off-season during which he dumped his agent, Blake Smith, who just so happened to be his swing coach Randy Smith’s son, so he lost him, too.

Woodland began working with Butch Harmon – necessitating a complete overhaul, because the 28-year-old wanted to be able to move the ball both ways – but their progress was derailed by a left-wrist injury that lingered for most of the year.

Give the guy a full season, a year with no health concerns, and it would surprise little if he is back inside the top 20 on the money list by next November.


By JASON SOBEL

Call me predictable, but I’m always somewhat surprised when something happens that has never happened before. Especially when 'before' amounts to 16 years.

That’s how long Jerry Kelly has finished inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list – and really, he’s never been close to missing. He started the streak by comfortably placing 59th in his rookie season of 1996, then followed at 103rd in ’97. Since then? The native of Wisconsin hasn’t been below 87th, easily cruising his way to further status every season.

Until now.

Kelly concluded his 2012 campaign with just one top-10 in 26 starts – and the one happened to come at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, where he was T-9. While those stats left him in 126th place, just $1,709 from the magic number, he was far from unhappy.

That’s because the result netted him enough cash to remain in the top 25 on the all-time money list, which comes with a one-time get-out-of-jail-free card, meaning Kelly will once again have full status on the PGA Tour in 2013.

Consider it a surprise if he finishes outside the top 125 once again next year.


By REX HOGGARD

Of the litany of players who found themselves on the wrong side of the season-ending money crunch Chez Reavie was the biggest surprise to be headed to the final stage of Q-School later this month.

OK, Reavie has finished inside the top 125 just twice in his career and he’s four years removed from his last PGA Tour victory. But 2012 was supposed to be different. This was Reavie’s best opportunity to avoid mediocrity.

As a result of a spirited playoff run in 2011 Reavie advanced to the Tour Championship for the first time last season, elevating his status and opening doors across the schedule.

Thanks to his finish in the top 30 in FedEx Cup points in ’11 Reavie qualified to play in the Masters and the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and he played almost all of the year’s invitationals (Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Crowne Plaza Invitational and AT&T National).

All told Reavie played 26 of the Tour’s best events this season and failed to post a single top-10 finish, missed almost as many cuts (11) as he made (15) and finished the season 135th on the money list.

More often than not, success on the Tour is all about opportunity and in 2012 Reavie had plenty of that, which is why he’s the biggest surprise in the Q-School field.


By RANDALL MELL

Camilo Villegas is the biggest surprise here.

That’s because while Villegas never had the picture-perfect swing, he seemed to radiate with something more important as a rising young star. He practically glowed with confidence and determination. That’s what gave him his edge.

With a pair of large FedEx Cup titles in ’08, Villegas finished seventh on the PGA Tour money list. With his third title coming in ’10, he finished 16th on the money list. This was a player who looked like he was ascending, and yet with a fall to 77th in money last year and 144th this year, he is in rapid descent. It’s puzzling in that there have been no real injuries taking him off course. He actually finished fourth in greens in regulation this year, a drastic improvement from 163rd last year. He’s 60th in total driving this year, up from 129th last year. His putting remains problematic. He ranked 164th in strokes gained putting this year.

At 31, Villegas has been humbled by the game, but he knows he can turn his fortunes around with a good run. In the end, the struggles may make him a stronger player. Look at what Steve Stricker did after a couple of slumps. Villegas needs his edge back. He needs his confidence back.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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