That -- Very Important -- Time of the Season
While the passive golf fans now turn their attention to the pennant chases and the beginning of the NFL season, those men who lace up their spikes for a living are going to be hard at work trying to earn a chance to do just that'earn a living by trying to keep their jobs. The chase for the top-125 on the PGA Tour money list is headed for the home stretch. Most of the players that fail arent likely to starve anytime soon, but their last shot at glory is far different than the one pursued last week at Whistling Straits. And while the pressure mounts for those players on the PGA Tours bubble, the same type of pressure starts to build on the Nationwide Tour.
The race for the top-20 is on, and much the same as those fighting to keep their cards on the PGA Tour, these combatants know that this is their best shot at glory. Of course, theres still one last chance at Q-School, but the odds at the fall classic could never serve as collateral for a mortgage.
While the Nationwide Tour will always play somewhat in the shadow of the PGA Tour, that shadow appears to be shrinking significantly.
The stated goal of the powers-that-be in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is to make the Nationwide Tour the second best tour in the world. If the players are to be believed, it could be argued that, from a competitive standpoint, its already there. But thats the subjective part. Other evidence of what the Nationwide Tour is has emerged this year.
The easiest way to quantify the Nationwide Tours success is to look directly at the PGA Tours money list. Its littered with Nationwide Tour Alums. Fifty-seven of the top 125 were previously members of the No. 2 tour. So were 12 of the top 30. Alums have won 15 PGA Tour events this year. Two of those were from last years graduating class'Zach Johnson and Mark Hensby. Only four previous players have gone on to win the year after graduating from the Nationwide Tour: Stewart Cink in 96, Notah Begay III in 98, and Jonathan Byrd and John Rollins in 01. And lest we not forget, five of the 10 players to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup team are Nationwide Tour alums.
Perhaps the most convincing evidence of the Nationwide Tours rapid ascension in stature can be seen simply by seeing a Nationwide Tour event. Every tour'PGA, LPGA, and Champions'holds tournaments that struggle for large crowds, and the Nationwide Tour is no different. But in recent years, and most notably this year on the Nationwide Tour, those sparsely attended events are now the exception and definitely not the rule. There have been record-breaking crowds at just about every event compared to previous years. But most encouraging has been the fan interest at the new tournaments and existing tournaments that have changed venues.
At the inaugural Pete Dye West Virginia Classic, there simply wasnt enough viewing space to accommodate the immense crowds. They were literally lining every inch of ground on which someone could keep their balance. Same goes for the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship that this year moved to the outskirts of Toronto. Nebraska, South Carolina, Missouri, and just about everywhere the Nationwide Tour has traveled this season has witnessed the popularity of the Nationwide Tour as a sporting event that has outgrown its minor-league moniker.
So now that the major season is complete, many golf fans will start to keep an eye on the Nationwide Tour and it wont be a blind eye at that. Six remaining Nationwide Tour events are on The Golf Channel, including four of the last five.
The Nationwide Tour has always been a big part of TGCs programming. In the beginning it was because we needed programming and we needed live tournaments to cover. Thats not so much the case anymore. But like the golf fans we serve, TGC has also realized what the Nationwide Tour has become.
Has it reached its potential? Is this as good as its going to get? Well, theres two ways to answer that.
When I qualified for my first Nationwide Tour event in Wichita, Kan., in 1990, I wouldnt have guessed in a million years that it would grow to its current level. However, having witnessed its growth in purse size, level of competition, and community support, I couldnt imagine in a million years that it would do anything but continue to explode.
My favorite analogy is to pose the following hypothesis: If the Nationwide Tour didnt graduate players to the PGA Tour, it would already be to the point of an AFC vs. NFC in football. The number of stars would be equal to the PGA Tour, and the passion, hunger, and desire of the Nationwide Tour players would be even greater.
But for now, Ill enjoy it for what it is'the second best tour in golf. And Ill also enjoy covering the stories that unfold. Those stories arent second best.
Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.