Quest for the Card Final Chapter
Now, as we look forward to a very promising 2004 Nationwide Tour schedule, many stories from this year will remain in the tours lore for years.
To me, one of the biggest stories of the year from a competition standpoint is the success of so many players who began the year without a home.
Eight players successfully played their way onto the Nationwide Tour after starting the year without any membership status. Of those eight players, five were seen heading home with trophies in the back of their real home'their cars. Of those five tournament winners, three were last spotted donning a cap and gown as they departed Prattville, Ala., en route to the PGA Tour. They are: Jason Bohn, Andre Stolz and Vaughn Taylor.
Although such official records arent kept, nobody can remember more than two players earning membership in any previous year.
One of the brightest aspects of the Nationwide Tour is that its far more viable to play your way onto this tour than it is the PGA Tour. Even as the tour has grown to unprecedented heights, it hasnt lost sight of its original purpose, which is to provide a place for the future stars of the game to earn their stripes. No further evidence of this is necessary after watching Chad Campbell dominate the PGA Tours best at the recent Tour Championship.
If my crystal ball is as clear as it was two years ago when it predicted future greatness for Mr. Campbell, then Zach Johnson will provide similar validation for the Nationwide Tours rightful place near the top of golfs professional ranks. Zachs dominance this year will be tough to match for years to come. Nine top-3 finishes in just 20 events played, including two wins and an all-time record of nearly a half million dollars in earnings, will long be remembered as the stuff of legend.
Tom Carter and Bo Van Pelt both seem primed and ready to make an immediate impact on the PGA Tour after breakout seasons. Carter won three times in a span of nine weeks, and he made it look extremely easy each time. Combine his power with his silent-assassin demeanor, and it looks likely to me that hell quietly find his way onto the first page of the leaderboard many, many times next year.
Van Pelts only missing ingredient has been the self-belief necessary to become a force. To quote his father, Bob, at the Nationwide Tour Championship, Bo was the last person to realize just how good he is. But now he is starting to realize it, and if and when he fully understands it, the world will be at his fingertips.
The feel-good stories of the year surround a few PGA Tour veterans. Blaine McCallister and the always-good-natured Guy Boros are headed back to their former playground. Both players have proven they can win at the highest level in the past, and both are relishing the opportunity to prove it once again.
McCallister summed up the Nationwide Tour best when he said, This has been the best year of my entire career. I didnt even send in my Q-School entry when it was due (not knowing if he would eventually finish in the top-20) because I relished the opportunity to play out here again next year.
Tommy Tolles provided some feel-good of his own, not to mention a great deal of drama, by just hanging onto the final spot in the top-20. His once promising career now looks like it has a chance to blossom again.
As far as surprising stories from the other end of the spectrum, Scott Dunlap finished the year in 82nd position on the money list. Anybody who watched him play on the PGA Tour is left to wonder why were not talking about his return to form.
But, perhaps most surprising is Bryce Molder.
Bryce was only the fourth collegiate player in history to earn first-team All-America honors four times. He joined David Duval, Gary Hallberg, and Phil Michelson in earning a cant miss moniker.
Immediately after college, Bryce nearly won the Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA Tour. He very nearly played his way onto the tour shortly thereafter, but ultimately found himself playing full-time on the junior circuit. I gave him virtual lock status at the beginning of the year.
Bryce played in 18 tournaments and finished 148th on the money list. Explanations at this point become subjective and difficult; however, Bryce committed to some major swing changes last winter and knew that tough times would ensue. But he stuck with them with the belief that the changes were necessary to reach his potential. Whether or not that was a wise decision for such a talented youngster is debatable, but even if those swing modifications take heed, the question now becomes whether or not he can mentally recover from the anguish of playing so poorly for the entire season.
And lastly, what in the world happened to Edward Fryatt? From 77th in earnings on the PGA Tour in 2000, to missing the cut in all 18 events played this year on the Nationwide Tour, Edward painstakingly revealed the reality that each player lives with, but rarely acknowledges. There are no guarantees in professional golf; youre only as good as your next tournament.
The next tournament, and the next year, and all the years to come look very promising for the Nationwide Tour, and no doubt, the stories from the road in 2004 will be as compelling as ever.
They always are. Stay tuned
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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.
Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore
SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.
Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.
Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.
With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.
''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''
Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.
''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.
Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.
Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.
He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.