Feels Like the First Time

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 7, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Twenty players are competing for the first time this week at Kapaluas Plantation course, the vast majority of whom are making their debut in the Mercedes Championships.
 
There were 18 first-time winners on the PGA Tour in 2002, a single-season record on the circuit by four. It started with Jerry Kelly picking up his first trophy at the years first full-field event, the Sony Open, and continued through to the seasons final full-field event, the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, where rookie Luke Donald was declared champion after a final-round washout.
 
All 18 have made their way to Maui for the seasons tip-off, and some have offered their thoughts on who might don the champions crown for the first time in 2003.
 
Chad Campbell, replied reigning Invensys Classic winner Chris Riley without hesitation. I think hes going to win this year.
 
Campbell was the 2001 Nationwide Tour (formerly known as the Buy.Com Tour) Player of the Year, having won three times that year and earning a promotion to the PGA Tour.
 
In his first full season with the big boys, the 28-year-old Texan used six top-20s to easily keep his card.
 
I think Brett Quigley, said Kiwi Craig Perks, who made the elite Players Championship his first tour title. Hes played a lot of events. I think hes a good enough player to win. Hes put himself in position a few times; its just a matter of closing the door. Hes certainly got the experience, and hes a great player.
 
Quigley has primarily played the PGA Tour over the last six years, but hes only once ended the season inside the top 125 on the money list during that span. That was in 2001, when he finished 56th in earnings by way of six top-10s, including a runner-up finish in the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic.
 
However, he once again slipped outside the realm of full exempt status by ending 2002 140th on the money list. He will have a partial exemption, though, because he maintained a position inside the top 150.
 
A few of last years first-timers threw out the name Pat Perez. The volatile, but talented 26-year-old was twice a runner-up in 02 while finishing 40th on the money list.
 
Perez was a 2001 Q-School graduate. Of the 18 first-timers last year, four came directly from the qualifying tournament, while two were Nationwide Tour graduates.
 
Jonathan Byrd earned his 2002 PGA Tour card by finishing eighth on the developmental tours money list a year prior. He went on to win the Buick Challenge en route to capturing Rookie of the Year honors.
 
All the guys that come from the (Nationwide) Tour can win out here, he said. Aaron Baddeley, guys like Patrick Moore, they already know how to win.
 
Baddeley won back-to-back Australian Open titles, once as an amateur. After some early professional troubles, he made his way to the premier playing ground by finishing 10th on the 2002 Nationwide money list.
 
Moore was the tours Player of the Year after winning three times to earn a PGA Tour promotion.
 
There were other names bantered about: Harrison Frazar, who has finished inside the top 100 on the PGA Tour money list each of the last five seasons; Jay Williamson, who was 125th in earnings a year ago; Peter Lonard, who made 23 of 24 cuts in 2002, and Ben Crane, who was runner-up in the most recent Byron Nelson Classic.
 
But there was one name in particular that was uttered most. One name sauted in respect and unachieved expectation.
 
Steve Flesch, said 2002 Pebble Beach champion Matt Gogel. More than anybody I think hes due to win.
 
Flesch has been a regular on the PGA Tour since 1998. During that span, hes never finished worse than 75th on the money list. He made over $2 million in 2000 alone. In fact, he's the tour's career leading money earner without a victory ($5.76M).
 
The 35-year-old left-handed Kentuckian has averaged one top 10 for every four cuts he made in his career. He even won the 1997 Nationwide Tour Championship.
 
But for all his skill and potential, Flesch has yet to step into the winners circle on the PGA Tour, a fact thats puzzling to even established tour players.
 
Ive played with him a number of times and hes got the game, said 20-year PGA Tour veteran and six-time winner Jeff Sluman.
 
Hes got a ton of talent, hes just got to put it together.
 
Hes the guy I pick (to break through) every year, and Im picking him again.
 
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  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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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.