Coming Down to the Wire

By Jerry FoltzOctober 21, 2003, 4:00 pm
The looks run the gamut. From the confident gleaming eyes of a player destined for greatness, to the ghostly blank, emotionally vacant stare of a player wondering if his days are numbered. Those are the stories that are told with just a glance.
 
At this time of year on The Nationwide Tour, with the final chapter about to be written, a simple look into a players eyes reveal just how desperate things might be. On the other hand, that same glance can show the powerful confidence of youth in a rising star on the verge of accomplishing his lifelong dream and venturing ahead with excitement, having outgrown apprehension of the unknown.
 
The eyes are the window to the soul. One look in that window and it's obvious that 'crunch time' is upon The Nationwide Tour.
 
The big story every year is obviously those who will graduate directly to next year's PGA Tour; however, the subplots might be even more compelling--players trying to finish in one of the categories that improve their lot for next year and make Q-School less arduous.
 
  • Top 20 graduate to the PGA Tour.
     
  • Top 35 advance directly in the final stage of Q-School.
     
  • Top 55 qualify for the Nationwide Tour Championship where the limited-field and enlarged purse means that the winner is a sure thing to graduate as well. And each of the 55 is fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour in '04.
     
  • Top 70 advance directly into second stage of Q-School.
     
  • Top 100 retain conditional membership for next season.
     
  • Outside the top 100 and return to the starting gate--the first stage of Q-School with no real success to draw upon from this season.
     
    There's been some shuffling in recent weeks as those who play best with their backs against the wall can definitely feel the texture of concrete rubbing their microfibers.
     
    At the Monterey Peninsula Classic, Scott Gutschewski solidified his title of 'best player to come from oblivion to prominence in less than half a season' and continued to perform in an awe-inspiring manner. He won the tournament and moved to 23rd on the money list. He is now back at 23rd two weeks later.
     
    Lucas Glover won the Gila River Golf Classic to solidify his place amongst the rookies on next year's PGA Tour. Considered by many, myself included, to be the player from the class of 2003 to have the best chance to someday win a major, Lucas made it suspenseful by not locking it down until the last minute. Nonetheless, Glover is a star in the making that isn't likely to be intimidated next year on the PGA Tour. He's my early front-runner for Rookie of the Year in 2004. The excitement around him, and some of the younger players of similar ability, is that they dont know how good they can be'the skys the limit.
     
    Tommy Tolles finally moved into the top-20, albeit the tenuous position of 19th, and now looks poised to finally get back to exempt status on the PGA Tour. Tommy has some of the better credentials of those players that utilize the Nationwide Tour to reignite that fire within and earn their way back. Hes also the one player that I find myself pulling for in a biased manner just because of the person he is'a generous, genuine, kind soul.
     
    And then, last week, D.J. Brigman conquered the odds and rewrote his story of the year. Entering the Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic, D.J. was in 85th position on the money list and mentally preparing himself for the prospect of starting over at the first stage of Q-School. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he crafted a masterpiece on Sunday, a bogey-free 66, and grabbed his first Nationwide Tour title. Now at 31st in earnings, he has an outside chance at the top-20, but more importantly, he now knows that hes good enough to win at this level and, at the very least, will have another year of fully exempt status to prove that he can make it to the next level.
     
    Most of those players with blank looks in their eyes wont be at this weeks final full-field event'the Miccosukee Championship. Thats because Q-School starts this week. Some will play anyway, hoping beyond hope for that one magical week that has eluded them all year. Anything short of last minute heroics and theyll tee it up at one of a select few first stage sites that begin next Tuesday. The rest will be in Miami, and then in Prattville, Alabama, for the Nationwide Tour Championship trying their hearts out for a shot at a dream come true'a spot on next years PGA Tour.
     
    For the next two weeks, the drama will play out and the stories will tell themselves. The final chapter will be written, and the epilogue will then take place at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament finals. Everyone will then go home for the holidays and get ready for what I think is the true beauty of professional golf. It will all begin anew next year.
     
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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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    Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

    Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

    Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

    The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

    In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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    Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

    By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

    Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

    But here's one that deserves distinction.

    Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.

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    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.