Roll Call for the Class of 05

By Jerry FoltzNovember 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
As the sun set on Prattville, Ala., on the first day after daylight savings time expired, the final chapter was written on the 2005 Nationwide Tour season. The early darkness of Sunday evening was obscured by the beaming smiles of the 20 graduates and their families as the celebrations continued well into the night.
While the future had already been decided for the top 15 or 16 heading into the Nationwide Tour Championship, there were still a few spots left to be decided. In the end, the finality of having their PGA Tour card in hand gave all the graduates time to relish the recognition of their achievements.
David Branshaw
David Branshaw earned a trip to the PGA Tour thanks to his Nationwide Tour Championship victory.
Only two spots changed hands at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill. Former PGA Tour winner Tom Scherrer fell from 19th to 22nd at the season finale, and PGA Tour star-in-waiting Bill Haas will have to wait for another chance at the PGA Tour. He entered the week 21st on the money list (effectively 20th due to a late-season regulation change known as the Jason Gore Rule), but fell to 23rd on the heels of a disappointing final-round 75 on the Senator course.
It's an even split amongst the 20 graduates ' 10 rookies and 10 returning former members of the PGA Tour. After witnessing a year's worth of their accomplishments, it's hard to imagine that they won't all stay on the PGA Tour for many, many years; however, the statistics don't lie, and right now the statistics from the past two seasons only add to the confusion.
The class of 2003 has enjoyed unprecedented success the past two seasons with eight of the 20 members of that class now having earned PGA Tour victories ' five last year and three this year. But the class of 2004, to the surprise of many, has yet to earn a single win. Only three of last year's graduates currently reside within the top-125 on the money list.
For the next two months, the 20 members of the class of 2005 will prepare themselves for the opportunity of a lifetime. Thoughts of stardom, success, and the spoils of achievement at the highest level will certainly cross their minds. Their goals and dreams may vary for next year, but one constant will remain, and that is to not come back to the Nationwide Tour.
Here's a quick rundown of the top-21 from my perspective:
21. Bubba Watson
Although winless in three years on the Nationwide Tour, Bubba's incredible length will be a huge asset wherever he plays. His somewhat reckless-abandon approach will be a source of both frustration and notoriety for Bubba, but a hot streak or two could take care of business. And as he matures as a player, he'll learn to reign it in and focus more on the scoring clubs.
20. Jeff Gove
At 34-years-old, Jeff has been at this for a while. He's got more degrees than a thermometer ' he's now a three-time graduate of the Nationwide Tour. He's an extremely accurate ball-striker, and the success that has eluded him on the PGA Tour is hard to define, except to say that Jeff always seems to play his best late in the year, and it's tough to fight from behind down the stretch on the PGA Tour.
19. Charley Hoffman
Charley will be a rookie on the PGA Tour next year and odds are he's going to take his flowing locks with him ' a coif that earned him the nickname of Harry Dunne of Dumb and Dumber fame. Plenty of power, wonderful mechanics, and tremendous heart will help him comb his way through the PGA Tour.
18. Nathan Green
The 30-year-old Australian has shown constant improvement in his three seasons on the Nationwide Tour. This year, he had one of the quietest seasons in history. It didn't seem as though he contended very often, but he was always lurking within striking distance of the lead. That kind of consistency is greatly rewarded on the PGA Tour.
17. Vance Veazey
With three career wins on the Nationwide Tour, including the season-opening BellSouth Panama Championship this year, Vance's talent has never been in doubt. He's an extremely nice person which may be to his detriment on tour. He never says no to a request, and he doesn't want to stomp his opponents as passionately as many others. It would be great to see Vance prove that nice guys can finish first.
16. Eric Axley
Eric seems to possess that which can't be taught ' belief in oneself. He started the season with no status. What that means is that he basically had no place to play that could advance his career. Making the cut is difficult enough as a qualifier, but he did the only thing that could change his career in one week ' he won at the Rex Hospital Open early in the year. Then he entered the final event of the season 27th on the money list needing at least a second-place finish to complete the storybook season. Guess what? He finished runner-up at the Nationwide Tour Championship.
15. Jason Schultz
Also a rookie next year, Jason celebrated a great season by earning his PGA Tour card. He was presented that card five days after his wife presented him with their first child ' a daughter born Tuesday. Life certainly does come at you fast. Jason is an extremely tough competitor who will do whatever is necessary to bring out the best in himself. He could be the sleeper pick of the crop this year.
14. Greg Chalmers
Greg has long been considered a world-class player, but the 32-year-old Aussie left-hander had never won in six years on the PGA Tour. He lost his PGA Tour card in '04 and wasted no time in getting it back, and along with it, came the confidence that got him there in the first place.
13. Camilo Villegas
The ultra-fit, ultra-talented Columbian also started the year with no status, but stardom seemed to be his destiny from the first day he teed it up on the Nationwide Tour. I think he's probably the purest natural ball-striker ever to come through the Nationwide Tour. He works every shot as though he's a generation or two past his time (his clothing choices may suggest the same), but he consistently fought a balky putter late in the week.
12. Roger Tambellini
Roger Tambellini
Roger Tambellini will be playing on the PGA Tour for the second time in three years.
This is Roger's second trip to the PGA Tour, having finished 181st on the money list in 2004. He has improved immensely in the seven years I've known him, and I believe his best golf is still ahead of him. He's another one of those soft-spoken nice guys that gives you the feeling that he might be too nice for his own good. But he has a very solid all-around game.
11. David McKenzie
David will be a 38-year-old rookie next year. That may suggest career journeyman status, but his game is anything but mediocre. A technician on the course, David finally broke through this year with his first win after a great many close calls. If he can resist his perfectionist urges next year, he'll do great.
10. Kris Cox
Returning to the PGA Tour for the second time, Kris will continue to do that which he's done since turning pro; he'll attract fans and make friends. His ever-present smile, pleasant demeanor, and outstanding level of talent will make him a popular player. Those who know him best compare him to Bo Van Pelt in terms of the success he should enjoy in the near future.
9. Matthew Goggin
Probably the most misunderstood, or at least misperceived player on the Nationwide Tour. He has a tendency to look downright mad or grumpy on the course, but nothing could be further from the truth. He's a gifted player with the typical self-deprecating Australian sense of humor, and a quick wit. He's inherently shy yet extremely fun to be around. He's also been a world-beater in waiting for some time. When he realizes how good he is, the gloves will be off.
8. Shane Bertsch
The incarnation of Fred Funk. Not blessed with huge power, Shane plays a very impressive game of precision. He's also added length of late. He's known for fighting for every shot on the course and has the short-game prowess to scrap and grind out decent rounds even when the ball isn't going where he's aiming. Side note: best fisherman on tour.
7. David Branshaw
His gritty performance at the Nationwide Tour Championship earned him many fans. Coming in needing a second-place finish to win his card, he did one better ' he won the tournament. Don't worry about him changing if he goes on to big things because he is the genuine article when it comes to character. Hopefully, he won't feel out of place when he gets back out to the PGA Tour next year for his second trip ' he definitely belongs.
6. Jerry Smith
I was surprised when Jerry made it to the tour for the first time, and even more surprised when he finished 85th in earnings in 2001. Then he lost his card and had no Nationwide Tour status. What'd he do? He went to the mini-tours at the age of 40 to work his way back. He led the money list on the Gateway Tour in '04, and returned to the Nationwide Tour this year. He simply knows how to 'play' golf. No guru's, no magic, just plain old posting the best number he can. He's made a believer out of me.
5. Jon Mills
Wow is the only word I can use to describe how far the 27-year-old Canadian has come in a very short time. So far in fact, that many of the Nationwide Tour faithful say he could burst onto the PGA Tour landscape next year in a big way. His game has all the necessary elements ' power, touch and guts. And he also won't make any enemies in the process. Great kid, great talent.
4. Steven Bowditch
One year ago, he lived in a tent and a car. Four months later he'd secured a PGA Tour card for '06 by winning the Jacob's Creek Open in his native Australia and losing a playoff the following week in New Zealand. That put him over the $200K mark faster than anyone in history. He'll likely miss as many cuts as he makes because of his go-for-broke internal chemistry, but he's a blast to watch. And when he's on, he can overpower both the course, and possibly even the competition at ANY level. Oh yea, he's 22.
3. Chris Couch
Streaky, very streaky. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player whose fluctuations in confidence are as drastic as Chris'. Fearless is also his preferred style of play. Consistency is his primary goal, but I'd give him a far greater chance of winning multiple times next year than being consistent ' not that that's a bad thing. He's been down this path (to the PGA Tour) before, and nobody wants to prove that they belong out there permanently more than Chris Couch.
2. Jason Gore
Incredible player. Incredible person. Incredible smile. He'll be a permanent star for many years.
1. Troy Matteson
Disciplined and extremely businesslike in his approach to his craft. The soon-to-be 26-year-old former first-team All-America broke Zach Johnson's single-season earnings record, along with many other records. He was the guy to beat every time he teed off, and it shouldn't take long before he earns a similar level of respect on the PGA Tour. He's wonderful with the media, and when he lets his guard down a bit, you get a glimpse of his witty character. But don't expect to see that too much on the course because when it's time to work, he really works. Next year, and I think for many years to come, his clubs will do plenty of speaking for him.
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.