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.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.<
DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.
“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.”
Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.
Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace).
“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi
What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.
Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.
McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.
He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.
McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65).
Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds.
“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder
Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.
Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.
Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:
Filling in tomorrow for Corey Pavin that WD today @cbgolfchallenge I do things like this a lot to help events and asking for sponsors exemptions here but didn't get any help.— Ken Duke (@DukePGA) January 18, 2018
Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.
Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.