In the end, Luke Donald became the second rookie to win on the PGA Tour in 2002, and his victory came one week following the first rookie to win, Jonathan Byrd. The victory and its importance wasnt lost on Donald, who moved up to 58th on the year-end money list, but it was the tournament within the tournament that provided the widest grins.
Jay Williamson finished in a tie for fifth, earned $85,150, and jumped from 134th in earnings to 125th, thus grabbing that coveted final exempt spot on the 2003 PGA Tour. He was almost giddy when interviewed by Curt Byrum. Even though he had a legitimate chance to win his first PGA Tour event, Jay use a football analogy akin to taking points off the board. He then added, Id be lying if I told you I was disappointed in the outcome.
Deane Pappas and Brad Elder also made huge jumps up the money list. Pappas second-place finish vaulted him from 170th to 129th, and Elders third-place finish resulted in a climb to 147th. Ultimately, these were probably the biggest two changes. Finishing inside the top 150 guarantees, at the very minimum, some status on the PGA Tour next year and it also includes an exemption through the preliminary stages of Q-School. Outside the top 150 only carries the benefit of being a conditional member of the Nationwide Tour for 2003.
My mother always said that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, said Pappas in responding to the question about whether he was disappointed not to have a chance to play the final round and win the tournament. In truth, his professional outlook just got much brighter due to the dark clouds. This is the biggest check, by far, of my career and itll help pay for that new house. But my world is now much better than it was when I got here, said a smiling Pappas. I certainly didnt want to play in these conditions.
As is always the case at the final tournament, there were a few disappointed players. Most notably was David Frost who missed the cut and ultimately fell out of the top 125. Short of a successful Q-School, Frost will still have a full schedule, but it wont always be at his choosing. Hell be relegated to sponsors exemptions and entry into some of the smaller tournaments.
One of the stories that didnt get much publicity but certainly provided some heartache was the plight of Bryce Molder. This story is a bit more complicated to explain because Molder isnt a member of the PGA Tour. Well, sort of.
Earlier this season, Bryce earned enough money to equal the top 150 from the 200 money list. This feat earned Molder a special temporary member designation and allowed him to receive unlimited sponsors exemptions. Entering the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, Bryce was just inside the top 150. Well, sort of. He was listed on the non-members money list. This list was created so that the WGC tournaments didnt skew the PGA Tour money list by including players who didnt otherwise compete on the PGA Tour. Now this is where it gets a little confusing.
Had Bryce Molder earned enough money to finish inside this years top-150, his name still wouldnt be included on the official money list, but he would have received an exemption into the finals of Q-School. However, he still wouldnt have received the same conditional status that is guaranteed to both Pappas and Elder on next years PGA Tour. Well, he missed the cut and fell just outside the top 150.
Now if Molder were a PGA Tour member and finished in that same position, he would have been included in the top 151-200 category. This category is guaranteed conditional status on the Nationwide Tour and is granted access ahead of most of the other conditional categories. As it stands for Bryce, he earned nothing of the kind by his PGA Tour performance this year. He did, however, earn conditional status on the Nationwide Tour based on his play on that tour this year in limited starts.
What all this means is that if he doesnt have a successful Q-School, Molder is basically starting from scratch in 2003. When he was explaining all this to my puzzled face on Friday afternoon, he said, I dont really understand it either. I didnt make the rules, but those same confusing rules are what allowed me to play 22 events on the PGA Tour this season. He seemed grateful. The kid has a great attitude, and his eventual success is all but a given. Hopefully, it wont take him long to earn his permanent place on the PGA Tour.
Included were a record 18 first-time winners on the PGA Tour including back to back rookies to end the year; two veterans, Sauers and Forsman, resurrecting their careers with victories; a surprise name change on the Senior Tour; one of the greatest seasons in the history of the LPGA Tour authored by Annika Sorenstam; a high school junior contracting mono and getting a medical exemption for next year; and a technicality mandated the rain-shortened Buy.Com Tour Championship all combined to make this one of the most unusual seasons ever.
I cant wait to do it all again next year.
Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''