Chrysler Championship Last Stop to 125

By Mercer BaggsOctober 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Chrysler ChampionshipThe man worthwhile is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat.
Judge Smails said it. Billy Andrade applied it.
Andrade had every reason to project an uncomfortable, agitated look last week at the Funai Classic ' the look of a man whose shorts were way, way too tight in the seat. But he didnt.
He said he relished the situation. He thought it was fun.
It was optimism, not masochism, which allowed Andrade to produce such a positive outlook. And come last Sunday, he still had that smile on his face ' but for reasons far more comprehensible.
Andrade shot 66 in the final round at Disney. That moved him from a tie for 36th as the day began into a finishing tie for 16th. That netted him $57,015. That moved him from 126th to 121st on the money list. That didnt fully assure him of keeping his PGA Tour card for next season, but it gave him a little margin for error.
A handful of players have proved their worth ' and theyre worthwhile ' over the last couple of weeks. Brent Geiberger, Michael Allen, Chris Smith, Cameron Beckman and Mark Calcavecchia have all locked up exempt status for 2005 thanks to a quintet of clutch performances.
Other players who have been treading water for an entire year now have one last chance to make some progress, before they drown in their own mediocrity.
The 2004 PGA Tour season doesnt officially come to an end this Sunday, but for those fighting for their professional livelihoods, this is it. It all comes down to the Chrysler Championship, the final full-field event of the year.
The number to beat is $597,034. Thats the amount accrued thus far by Olin Browne, who currently resides in the No. 125 position on the money list.
(Inflation alert: Esteban Toledo was 125th last year with $487,495.)
To finish in the (top) 125 means everything, said Browne.
Thats because it assures you of fully exempt status on tour for the following season. It allows you to play, for the most part, whenever and wherever you desire (save for special events such as majors, and WGC and invitational tournaments.).
Simply put: you get to make your own schedule.
Andrade, as mentioned, started last weeks event in the cold, just outside the warmth of that monetary barrier. Still, he had some security. Andrade is a past champion on tour and was already safely inside the top 150 in earnings, which offers some status next season (well get to that shortly).
So Andrade had the opportunity of viewing his situation more of a challenge than a burden, one in which all is not lost if he loses.
Others, like Kent Jones, are not only unable to think of this in positive terms, theyre trying not to think about it at all ' trying.
You cant really think about it, said Jones, who is No. 124. You have to put it out of your mind, go out and play the best that you can, and see what happens. Let the chips fall where they may.
Can you really do that?
Not really.
Its their own little Tell-Tale Heart; it echoes in their head: 125125125125.
The number is like the Boogieman. For some it simply doesnt exist. For others, it exists alright ' theyve seen it many times. Its taken up residence under their bed and wont go away when the light comes on.
Such is the case for Jones. Hes been struggling to stay on tour since his rookie campaign seven years ago, and has only once, last season, cracked the top 125 in earnings.
I dont know if its a good thing, but I have experience in this situation, he said. Hopefully, that will help.
This week is more than just the last stop for players to get onto the train that leaves at 125 and will take them into all-exempt territory. Its an opportunity for players to improve their chances of getting into the U.S. Open and British Open (top 20 on the money list); and the last chance for them to get into the Tour Championship (top 30), the Masters (top 40) and invitational events like Bay Hill, Colonial and the Memorial (top 70).
And then theres one of the most important ' and most overlooked ' numbers on tour: 150.
I think the real race is the 150, said Beckman.
The thing about finishing between 126 and 150 (on the money list) is that you still maintain some PGA Tour status, explained veteran Danny Briggs. Youre not going to get into the Invitationals and some of the tournaments, but youre still going to get into 15-20 events, which is still good. And youre still going to have some endorsement contract deals. And you still have the opportunity to play out here.
Players who finish 126-150 attain partial status on tour for the following season ' so theyre not forced to play full time on the Nationwide Tour. But they are still prioritized behind those in the top 125, as well as Nationwide Tour and Q-school graduates when it comes to getting into events. That means they dont have the luxury of competing at their leisure; they are told when they can play.
Take Mark and Dean Wilson (no relation), for example. They are each averaging about $16,000 per start this season, but while Mark is 166th on the money list, Dean is 133rd.
Thats because Dean finished inside the top 125 last year and Mark didnt; therefore, Dean has been allowed to compete in 14 more tournaments.
The Chrysler will mark Deans 33rd start of the season, and his 11th in a row. Hes played straight through the last two months because he knows that while there is a measure of security inside the top 150, there is also plenty of uncertainty.
Thats good, but thats not where I want to be, Wilson said of being guaranteed to finish inside the top 150. You dont get to pick your own schedule; you dont know when youre going to get to play. You really have to take it one week at a time, and thats tough.
Wilsons point is well illustrated this week.
The Chrysler features the likes of Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, defending champion Retief Goosen and 19 other tour winners from this season.
However, only 27 of the 51 players between 120 and 170 on the money list are in the field. Its not due to lack of interest; its due to lack of acceptance.
The Chrysler is only open to 132 players this year (it was 156 a year ago). And that lessened number is a noose around the necks of many of the players trying to secure some form of playing status for next season.
Most of the players whose playing status this year is based on graduation from Q-school or the Nationwide Tour werent able to make the field. And none of the players ' unless they received a special invitation ' from the 150 category qualified to compete at Innisbrook.
On the other hand, all of the players who finished in the top 125 a year ago had the opportunity to enter.
Briggs is 156th in earnings. And he wont be able to improve upon that position this week. A Q-school grad, he didnt make the field.
It's back to Q-school and hope for another shot next year.
Thats why 125 is the primary target number for about 20 percent of the field this week. It wipes away the worries ' until they reemerge next season. If not, then 150 will be some consolation.
Of that population, few will share the outward excitement of one Billy Andrade. But, if their ship should come in at Tampa Bay, it will certainly make it easier to grin.
Related Links:
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”