Dangling the Same Carrot
Everyone wants the year only Tiger Woods seems to be able to put together. And the great thing about the PGA Tour is that every card-carrying member has the same opportunity that Tiger has. In fact, some would argue that with Woods playing a significantly fewer number of events than others, the true 'iron men' have the chance to dwarf Woods' money total at year's end.
Of course, they have to play like Tiger to do it. And that's not easy to do. Still I always find it funny that some players find a way to see the deck stacked against them instead of looking at just how high the deck is stacked with opportunity.
Earn your way to the PGA Tour and you can set yourself up for life with a couple of good weeks. Heck, the way the Tour is right now with purses approaching unheard-of millions, you might lose your card but still find a way into a bigger house with a new boat to boot.
And so, as the New Year dawns with the first full-field event of the year taking place this week in Honolulu (the Sony Open), you can once again root for the likes of Sergio Garcia, David Toms or Davis Love III. All of them are scheduled to compete and try to chase down Woods atop the money list while holding off the surging superstar Charles Howell, who figures to make a bigger impact in 2002.
But also think about what it might be like to be Australian John Senden or Australian Buy.Com grad Rod Pampling. They've come to the United States in search of the world's best competition and now have a chance to reach next year's Mercedes Championships just like Tiger can do by winning a tournament.
So who might be a player to watch if you like rooting for the new breed? How about starting with 27-year-old Chad Campbell. All he's done since turning pro is win at every level. He made more than $800,000 in a few years on the Hooters Tour, and then jumped ahead to the Buy.Com Tour to win three times in his rookie season. Now he's at golf's grandest stage and you can expect the consistent success to continue. A win wouldn't be a shock.
Everybody knows about Matt Kuchar, the humble man with the megawatt smile and the solid game. He earned his way with sponsor invites and has the game to capitalize on the moment. But keep an eye on a pair of Q-School grads from Northwestern University. Englishman Luke Donald is more well known than his former All-America teammate, Jess Daley. But both could have big weeks with the big boys. They each had rounds of 65 at the Q-School finals, and neither man shot higher than 71 that week. While Donald won the NCAA individual title as a Wildcat, Daley was an All-America in only his senior season. But Daley is a big, powerful swinger with a good sense of the game and a lot of maturity.
All 15 of the Buy.Com Tour's graduates are set to play in the Sony. Aside from Campbell, watch out for young gun Jonathan Byrd. The Clemson University grad won early on the Buy.Com Tour in 2001 and heads to the next level with a huge work ethic. I've always liked Virginian John Rollins. He's been to the Tour before and fared fairly well. This is his second crack at it. He's coming off a very successful season on the Buy.Com Tour, and will stare down almost anybody. He's not afraid to win.
Thirty of the 36 who earned cards at Q-School are set to play the Sony. That number will grow as alternates get the call. But Boo Weekley is inand you'd be wise to take note. If nothing else, the laid back self-proclaimed Pensacola, Fla., 'good ol' boy' is entertaining. Playing in rain pants because of a skin condition and sneakers because golf shoes hurt his feet, the 28-year-old is more mild-mannered than Clark Kent and more well-mannered than Forrest Gump. Listen to him and you'll know why people have taken notice and want the best for him.
Remember that everybody has a chance to win a tournament, make the big money and hit the celebrity jackpot. It's not just about getting the card to play on tour - it's what you do with it once you get there.
Just imagine - the Mercedes Championships in January of 2003 WITHOUT Tiger Woods. It could happen. Because on the PGA Tour, it doesn't matter if you've come from Q-School or high school, the opportunity is the same and that carrot that's dangling in front of the pros is bigger than ever.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x