Second City scenarios

By Jason SobelSeptember 17, 2011, 9:10 pm

LEMONT, Ill. –  There are certain days on the annual golf calendar whose mere mention will induce a professional golfer’s fingers to tremble ever so slightly and his heart rate to speed up just a little bit.

The final round of PGA Tour Q-School is one of ‘em. U.S. Open qualifying is another. And now we can add one more to the list: Sunday at the BMW Championship.

Why such white-knuckle conditions at the penultimate event of the regular season, where seemingly a rich-get-richer philosophy permeates the atmosphere? It’s because so much is on the line for so many players entering the final round, from FedEx Cup advancement to Presidents Cup roster spots to Player of the Year votes.

These stories are numerous.

After bombing his drive on the final hole in Saturday’s third round, John Senden stood over his second shot with plenty at stake. He didn’t know it, of course, but a birdie would catapult him into 10th place on the projected FedEx standings; a par would keep him in 24th position and a bogey would leave him at 33rd – outside the number needed to advance to next week’s Tour Championship.

Senden stuck the shot to nine feet and made the ensuing putt to take sole possession of second place with 18 holes to play, but those projections are fleeting. And he knows it.

“I’ll think about not looking at leaderboards, I guess,” said Senden, who entered the week in 55th position. “I think that it’s a good, challenging golf course. I need to do what’s best for me and that’s play my game and not worry about what happens with the other players and just go out there and do my best. Hopefully that’s good enough.”

The Aussie actually has double reason for needing a strong finish, as a victory would also vault him onto the Presidents Cup team for The International side.

That’s a scenario Jim Furyk knows all too well. Currently ninth in the U.S. standings, he finds himself locked in what appears to be a five-man battle for the final three spots, alongside Hunter Mahan, David Toms, Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas.

Meanwhile, the reigning playoff champion came into the week as the No. 35 man on the list, but thanks to his T-7 placement on the leaderboard is now 27th and inside the number.

“As far as getting into The Tour Championship, I know that [Friday] the computer had me projected 31st, so I know that I’ve got to move up on the weekend,” Furyk surmised. “As far as the Presidents Cup, it’s in the back of my mind, it’s weighing on me, I obviously want to make the team. The only thing I can really control is how I play. It’s hard not to look at the leaderboard and see how the guys are doing, but ultimately I can only control how I play.”

Many of the bubble boys are looking to advance in order to simply enjoy one more chance at the spoils that come with playing well at the Tour Championship, most notably the $10 million first-place prize given to the FedEx Cup champion.

For others, though, just reaching the field at East Lake Golf Club will provide an opportunity that otherwise may not present itself anytime soon.

Such is the case for Brandt Jobe. Currently in a share of seventh place, he needs to move into a tie for third in order to continue playing next week. That may be a tall order, considering he needs to make up three strokes on those in that place on the leaderboard right now, but if he does it on Sunday, suddenly Jobe will find himself eligible for each of next year’s first three major championships and the WGC event at Doral – some grandiose consolation prizes for having a strong final round at Cog Hill.

“If you look at it as, I’m trying to get enough points to get into the next one, all that stuff takes care of itself,” Jobe stated. “I’ve played in all those anyway. Would I like to play in them again? Heck yes. But I think more of the grind will be trying to do it if I have a chance.

“After the first round, I told [my caddie], ‘You know what would be nice? To be able to go out on Sunday and say if I shoot 66 or 67, I’ve got a chance. That’s all. … At least, ending the year, if I go out and if I play good, I can do it. That’s all I can ask for.”

So many players will have a chance to seriously enhance their career with a strong round on Sunday. Projections will be tallied in real-time, certain guys falling in and out of desired placements on these lists.

They all have one thing in common, though. As every player in this situation said as he walked off the course after the third round, playing better golf is the lone tonic that can cure any ills.

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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